September 06, 2008

What happened to Friday

I didn't know that Daniel Defoe published a sequel to Robinson Crusoe. It's called The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.

Before I discuss it, let's note how Robinson Crusoe ends. Crusoe, Friday, and an English captain overcome the sailors who planned to maroon the captain. After that...the book doesn't mention Friday again. Crusoe takes leave of his island...and doesn't even say whether Friday goes with him.

In The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the first paragraphs tell us that Crusoe has married and had three children. But he misses his island and then his wife dies. Seven years after returning home, he sets sail again.

Back to the island

As he departs, he finally mentions that Friday is accompanying him. So Friday journeyed to England and spent seven years as what...Crusoe's manservant? There's a story for you: how the inhabitants of a small English farm town reacted to a "wild" Indian in their midst.

This lack of detail shows that Defoe didn't consider Friday a real character. Friday was a prop that existed so Defoe/Crusoe could teach him (and us) his Puritan moralism and Protestant work ethic. He completed that task in the first book, so (as we'll see) Friday is no longer necessary.

Crusoe returns to his island. He deals with the Englishmen and Spaniards he left there along with the local Indians. Friday gets exactly one paragraph of dialog. I think Crusoe mentions Friday's unnamed father more than he does Friday. And he starts calling his companion "old Friday" even though Crusoe must be a good 20 years older.

Finally Crusoe and Friday leave the island for the Brazilian mainland. They spot an oncoming fleet of Native canoes. Here's what happens (from the text itself):I made Friday go out upon the deck, and call out aloud to them in his language, to know what they meant. Whether they understood him or not, that I knew not; but as soon as he had called to them, six of them, who were in the foremost or nighest boat to us, turned their canoes from us, and stooping down, showed us their naked backs; whether this was a defiance or challenge we knew not, or whether it was done in mere contempt, or as a signal to the rest; but immediately Friday cried out they were going to shoot, and, unhappily for him, poor fellow, they let fly about three hundred of their arrows, and to my inexpressible grief, killed poor Friday, no other man being in their sight. The poor fellow was shot with no less than three arrows, and about three more fell very near him; such unlucky marksmen they were!

I was so annoyed at the loss of my old trusty servant and companion, that I immediately ordered five guns to be loaded with small shot, and four with great, and gave them such a broadside as they had never heard in their lives before.
Yes, how annoying it must've been for Crusoe to lose his faithful Indian sidekick. Good help is so hard to find.

Farewell to Friday

To be fair, Crusoe expresses a modicum of emotion a few paragraphs later:And now I name the poor fellow once more, I must take my last leave of him. Poor honest Friday! We buried him with all the decency and solemnity possible, by putting him into a coffin, and throwing him into the sea; and I caused them to fire eleven guns for him. So ended the life of the most grateful, faithful, honest, and most affectionate servant that ever man had.And...that's it for Friday. Crusoe never mentions or thinks of him again.

Crusoe goes on to have adventures in Madagascar, Southeast Asia, China, and Siberia (!). I gather he walks, rides, and sails all the way across Russia till he returns to Europe and England.

It's Marco Polo all over again--and improbable, to say the least. I guess Defoe didn't have time to publish a second sequel, Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Books.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Oooh, in the sequel, Friday MUST have been wearing a red shirt, a la STAR TREK, and then was sent off alone where he was finished off by forces he did not control. Wow, Daniel Defoe even predicted STAR TREK?
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Let's note that Friday's death off the Brazilian coast after leaving his island confirms that he was a Caribbean Indian.