His-Story and Her-Story: A Comparative Study of Robinson Crusoe and Foe
Dr. Shakira Khatoon, Prof. M. Asim Siddiqui, Prof. Nazia Hasan

History is often said to be his-story owing to it being exclusively written by men about men. It consists of heroic as well as tragic tales of men, heroic and tragic both terms being exploited by Aristotle in the context of men again. Literature of any nation or language is also History per se as it reflects the ethos of the time in which it is created, and can also be called His-story because of dominant presence of male voices on the literary horizon for centuries. It is only after the surge of movements and theories like Feminism and Postcolonialism, that Her-story started to surface up in literary works. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (first published in 1719) and Foe by J. M. Coetzee (rewriting of Robinson Crusoe, first published in 1986) are the two works showcasing this transition in focus from His-story to Her-story. Whereas one tells the story of a male castaway Robinson Crusoe who turns out to be a powerful, colonial patriarch, completely avoiding the existence of woman; the other tells the story of Susan Barton, a female castaway introduced by Coetzee into the world of Crusoe (Cruso here). Coetzee has not altogether done away, however, with the centuries long suppression of female voice as he introduces the fictional character of Foe (modelled on the writer Daniel Defoe) whom Susan wants to pen the story of her stay on „Cruso‟s island‟. Novel for a major part revolves around Susan‟s efforts to get her story written and published the way she wants it to, with Foe insisting on giving it a new direction and plot disregarding Susan‟s concern for the story of Friday (Cruso‟s black manservant on the island whom Susan brings with her to the mainland, Cruso having died on the ship). Susan wants to tell the (hi)story of Friday‟s silencing (his tongue having cut off) and thus make a place for herself in the history, but for Foe, the story is not attractive enough as the truth is too boring to be told nakedly. This paper, thus attempts a comparative analysis of both the works, focusing on how difficult it is to get Her-story told without it being influenced by his-story or his opinions, thereby drawing our attention to the fact that no voice or no story is entirely original and thus reliable.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jflcc.v8n2a3