The feminist and postmodern critical discussions that revolve around J. M. Coetzee’s Foe often focus on the importance of narrative voice. His retelling of Robinson Crusoe comes to us from the point of view of a female castaway who, many critics claim, represents the silencing of feminine perspective. There are others, however, who see Susan Barton not as a woman overrun by dominant male perspectives, but rather, as a storyteller caught in a battle with a story-receiver for authorial control. Such critics label Susan as a confessor who only desires that Cruso hear the truth in her story; they sentence Foe to the role of an oppressor who disregards the castaway’s true story in favor of a fictionalized account of a shipwreck tale. Some critics see Susan as the reluctant subjugator of a muted Friday. These criticisms, however, do not fully explain the mysterious fourth section of the novel or the appearance of Susan’s unrecognizable daughter. Rather, they skirt around these issues, chalking them up to authorial quirkiness, an assumption that deflects a careful consideration of certain sections of the text and leaves gray areas, which critics can conveniently mold to fit their theories. It is my contention that Coetzee does not intend to place Susan in the realm of confessor, nor does she merely represent a feminine perspective on a male text. Instead, she is a reified character beyond Foe’s control. To put it simply: Susan Barton is not a woman whose story is stolen or misinterpreted; she is the physical manifestation of Foe’s own ideas and she represents the battle between author and character for absolute narrative control; she is a muse who takes on a life of her own.
"Foe vs Foe: The Battle for Narrative Voice in Coetzee’s Foe,"
Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 2
, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarship.rollins.edu/rurj/vol2/iss1/7