Can the “Mutelated” Subaltern be Free? Reading Friday’s Subversion in J. M. Coetzee’s Foe

Hemangi Bhagwat, University of Mumbai, India
Tanya D’souza, University of Mumbai, India
Published: July 29, 2022

Citation: Bhagwat, H., & D'souza, T. (2022). Can the “Mutelated” Subaltern be Free? Reading Friday’s Subversion in J. M. Coetzee’s Foe. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 9(1).


J. M. Coetzee’s 1986 novel Foe tells the story of Susan Barton, who has boarded a ship bound for Lisbon in her search for her kidnapped daughter. After a mutiny on the ship she is set adrift, washing ashore on the island inhabited by “Cruso” and Friday and intruding into their ongoing adventure. Her account is then inserted into the original Robinson Crusoe story line, which is redrawn following Susan Barton’s perspective. The original text’s recontextualization illustrates the effort by Coetzee to render the story in categories that are relevant to a contemporary cultural context. Like Robinson Crusoe, it is a frame story, developed while Barton is in England attempting to convince writer Daniel Foe to help transform her tale into popular fiction. Friday is a character whose marginality – as it first appears in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe – is carried forward in J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, as this new version of Friday is that of a more disempowered and dysfunctional subject, one doubly mutilated – orally and sexually. This paper aims to study Friday’s subversive subalternity in Coetzee’s work by using postcolonial methodology with a view to uncover his unique, rebellious behaviour and his capacity to define his own modes of freedom.


freedom, imperial, master-slave dialectic, mutilation, subaltern, subjectivity