5 Going further (p. 105)

Defoe’s novel has inspired many different versions and adaptations, in books, plays and films. Some have been loyal to the original story, others have taken liberties with both plot and characters. One of the latter is the play “Man Friday” by Adrian Mitchell (made into a film in 1975) in which the relationship between Crusoe and Friday is presented in a rather different, post-colonial light.

 

Task

Read an excerpt from the play and discuss what point you think Mitchell is trying to make with his version.

 

robinson Man Friday

By Adrian Mitchell

 

(CRUSOE goes to corner to sleep. FRIDAY, whistling, picks up his fishing rod, starts to go out. Then stops, borrows CRUSOE’s sunshade and hat. Parades with them, pleased. Starts to climb stockade ladder, but as he reaches the top, CRUSOE wakes and rushes out to stop him.)

 

CRUSOE: Friday. Hat. Sunshade.

FRIDAY (grinning, nodding): Hat. Sunshade.

CRUSOE: It’s time for another lesson, Friday. A new kind of lesson.

FRIDAY (settling down on the stockade): Good. A new lesson. Good.

CRUSOE: Today we will speak only in sentences. We have learned to speak in sentences, haven’t we?

FRIDAY: Good. We will speak in sentences. It is a fine day. Here is a fat fish. My face is black. We will speak in sentences. Very good.

CRUSOE: Good. Friday, listen to this sentence. That hat is mine. And listen to this one. That sunshade is mine.

FRIDAY: What is mine?

CRUSOE: Listen, Friday. There are many things in the world. Some of these things are for everybody. There is the sky. The sky is for Master and Friday and everybody. There is the sea. The sea is for Master and Friday and everybody. But there are other things which are for some people, but not for everybody. This island, it is for Master and Friday and nobody else. These trees and their fruit, they are for Master and Friday and nobody else. And, most important, Friday, there are other things which are for one person only and for nobody else.

FRIDAY: What can be for one person only? This is a riddle, Master. A moment. What is for one person only? A man’s death? That is for him only. No, no, it is for his tribe also.

CRUSOE: It is not a riddle. (Takes off his shoe.) This shoe is for one person only. This shoe is for Master only. That loin-cloth is for Friday only. You can say: This loin-cloth is mine.

FRIDAY (puzzled): This loin-cloth is mine? (Looks at it, worried.) And that shoe is mine?

CRUSOE: No, this shoe is mine. That loin-cloth is yours. You – yours. Me – mine.

FRIDAY (understanding the linguistic side, but not the implications): Ah. The shoe is yours. The loin-cloth is mine.

CRUSOE: Very good. Now. That hat is mine.

FRIDAY: But that hat does not know it is yours. It fits Friday’s head, like it fits the head of the Master.

CRUSOE: But it shouldn’t be on Friday’s head. It is for Master only.

FRIDAY: Is there some magic in the hat? Some magic that makes it for Master only?

CRUSOE: Yes, yes. There is magic in the hat. Master’s magic.

(FRIDAY takes off hat and flings it to CRUSOE, who puts it on.) You see, Friday, mine is a word full of magic. When I tell you that something is mine, it is bad luck for you to touch it unless I take off the spell.

FRIDAY: Yes, Master.

CRUSOE (shouts): That goatskin sunshade is MINE!

(FRIDAY climbs down and hands it to him. CRUSOE holds it triumphantly. He reaches for his musket.) And, Friday, this gun is mine. I have put my strongest spells upon it. This gun is mine.

FRIDAY: Yes, master, I know that.

DOCTOR: This Master person, his mind was very ill. Did he talk such gibberish all the time?

FRIDAY: The answer must be yes and no. Most of the time he talked like that. But his nonsense had a pattern to it, it wasn’t random. You see, he told me that nearly all the people of his island, England, thought the same way.

DOCTOR: You mean he claimed to come from a whole island full of people going about saying this is mine, this is yours.

FRIDAY: Certainly. And he said that if you didn’t understand the words mine and yours in England you were either a bad man or a mad man and should be locked away in a hole.

GIRL: They lock people in holes?

FRIDAY: Yes. If someone takes something that is not for him, they take him to a hole made out of stone which is called a prison. A prison is a bad hut. It is full of bad men. And in this bad hut the bad men are fed on bad food and are made to do things they do not want to do by other bad men who are called jailers.

GIRL: Jailers? Do the jailers live in the bad hut too?

FRIDAY: Yes. But the jailers are rewarded with gifts by the good men who do not live in the bad hut.

DOCTOR: But if you hide a man in a bad place, away from good people, his mind will go bad. And if his mind is already bad, his mind will rot away and the spirit will leave him.

FRIDAY: You speak the truth. And I think that the mind of that island, England, must be very ill.

DOCTOR: Unless, of course, England does not exist, or only exists in the mind of the Master … But what did you do to try to make him well again?

FRIDAY: I allowed him to think he was teaching me. And at the same time I tried to teach him.

(excerpt)