waiting for the barbarians sparknotes chapter 2
Even though Colonel Joll hasn’t been at the settlement for two months, his brooding sense of intimidation (especially as a representative of the faceless and seemingly all-powerful Empire) still lingers and affects how the magistrate’s own men relate with and talk to him. Complete summary of J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians. As we later learn, she has already been sleeping with several soldiers in order to make money. Whereas Joll would leave the two corpses to rot without a proper burial, the magistrate insists that even deserters deserve to be buried. She works with other kitchen girls who also see other men. Here, the magistrate reveals how his sexual drive has changed with age—and this change harks back to his philosophy about struggling with the past. His fascination with her has many possible causes. Despite his best attempts to "save" her, the magistrate feels guilty about the girl's injuries. What is it that he actually wants from the nomad? It’s as if the unfolding of the magistrate and the girl’s desire have operated on two distinct timelines, and the magistrate has failed to be sympathetic to this. The magistrate worries that his outburst has given the young soldiers the impression that he's too old and "unsound" to do his job. She’s traumatized. Instead of comforting her, he puts her out of his room. Further, that the magistrate finds it frustrating that he can’t say anything certain about the barbarian girl testifies to the failure of his quest to unearth the truth of her history, untainted by her scars.
At least he feels that this is a mistake. When the details of her experience had still been a mystery, she had appealed to him erotically. He wants to recall an image of her down in the yard. We have tutors online 24/7 who can help you get unstuck.
LitCharts Teacher Editions. November 5, 2018. He hasn't directly "entered" the girl, meaning "raped" or "harmed" her, but he has benefited from her suffering. She blurts out that the guards blinded her by forcing her to stare at the glowing hot prongs of a metal fork. He wants to see what happens to her feet. The magistrate seems to be finally unleashing all of his pent-up rage at the Empire’s anti-barbarian military enterprise. He’s fascinated by her scars. With numb fingers, the magistrate "hold[s] out a coin. Despite the girl's detailed descriptions, the magistrate blames her for his inability to remember. ", Winter settles in, and the magistrate notes that no barbarian tribes have visited town to trade. This selfish relationship can be seen as a representation of the relationship between colonizer and the colonized. Have study documents to share about Waiting for the Barbarians? This brings to mind Joll’s lust for “truth.” Is the magistrate’s desire much different? Stuck? Waiting for the Barbarians Summary. The officer speaks of plans to launch a broad offensive against the barbarians. The magistrate's burgeoning awareness is symbolized in the "embryo" he sees beneath the hood. The cub "belongs outdoors" but has been taken in as a plaything and then scorned when it doesn't show gratitude. Every night she comes to his room and he performs his washing ritual. He gets to feel that he is giving something to her, even though she has had everything taken from her by his people. After Joll and all of the prisoners leave, the magistrate sees a woman, one of the “nomads,” begging the streets. Despite his seeming regression with girl, he seems to be developing some sense of backbone in the face of agents of the Empire. The girl ignores the magistrate, shows no emotion, and barely engages in conversation. The magistrate does not buy the theory of a barbarian threat. It’s as if he wants to prove that no event in the present could erase the past—which is what he feels Joll’s presence did to his old lifestyle. Coetzee, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. He is blinded by her blindness. During their massage sessions, the magistrate questions the girl about her injuries, but she often refuses to answer. The magistrate spends his time reading classic books, excavating ruins, and hunting. He starts to see the nomad girl as hideous. Waiting for the Barbarians is a political allegory about the paranoia at the roots of imperial narratives and the blood lust of colonial violence. Not affiliated with Harvard College. Yet when he does this, it’s too late; it damages, but doesn’t reinforce, his relation with her. Further, the magistrate’s acknowledgement that the girl might find him to be as equally ordinary as he finds her suggests that he’s finally begun to stop othering her—that he’s begun to see her as someone as equally perceptive as himself. Their ritual ends. When he says that he has “relieved her of the shame of begging and installed her in the kitchen as a scullery maid” we see that he sees himself as a savior (32). Soon after, new conscripts to Joll's army arrive, and the magistrate hosts them for dinner.
The magistrate goes hunting alone. After a certain point in this nightly ritual, he falls asleep, as though he can only take in so much information. He finds her and brings her back into his rooms. Later that evening he questions the girl about how people in town treated her when she was first abandoned. One of the central themes in Waiting for the Barbarians is male sexuality. Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide. When he wakes she’s gone. He aims at it but can’t bring himself to shoot. He finds one on her eyeball, like a small caterpillar. It seems almost a reverse torture, as he attempts to unravel her torture in his own mind, to learn it and possess it. He pleads with her to tell him what she remembers of her torture. Finally, right when the girl displays a sense of animation and vivacity in openly expressing her desire to have sex with the magistrate—just when she finally feels comfortable and involved enough to initiate such a request—the magistrate turns her away. It is worth noting, however, that the girl does not seem to enjoy the massage or benefit from it in any way. News eventually comes of the bodies of the two. Yet though the magistrate gets factual information about the girl’s blinding, he still wants to know about her own psychological reaction to the event.
She doesn’t want to talk. For this reason Joll has traveled a long distance from the capital to the magistrates outpost. Just as the magistrate cannot imagine the girl's face before she moved into his home, he cannot imagine the face of the hooded child, a victim of colonization dehumanized by the Empire's oppression.
Course Hero. J.M. He goes back in his memory and tries to recall. The magistrate's questions during the massage sessions become another form of torture. He wonders, "Did I really want to enter and claim possession of these beautiful creatures?". The magistrate’s encounter with the buck is unique because of the power which its gaze commands. He has been living in peace in his outpost for most of life, tradin… The facts are ugly. What’s most bold is his explicitly anti-Empire wish that the barbarians would counteract the Empire militarily and succeed, teaching them a “lesson.” The magistrate’s defense of the barbarians’ territory as their proper home, and as a foreign land in which the Empire is nothing but a collection of outsiders, further condemns the way the Empire “others” the barbarians in order to stake a claim to their own identity—to their own sense of belonging in the region as mere settlers. She reveals that she prostituted herself to survive. Ugly. The cub spends all day hiding, and it soils the floors. This infuriates the magistrate, who finds himself practically hating the girl by the end of the chapter. He regularly notes her scars and asks how they were sustained, but she never wants to discuss it. Web. He continues to question the girl about her experiences in town before the torture, trying desperately to remember what she looked like "before all this." His rejection of the nomad girl at this point is a rejection of knowledge. He covers her in blankets. The magistrate is unable to see the woman as she is now. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians Chapter Summary. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. He can only handle so much “truth” at once. He realizes that she considers him one of Joll’s men. A ritual of washing begins. He feels disgusted by her and he does nothing to comfort her. GradeSaver, 29 March 2017 Web. In Course Hero.
One guard mentions rumors of an upcoming offensive. She begins to sleep in a cot down below. His sense that he should hold his tongue adds to the tension of the plot. He takes her into his rooms, though she’s very reluctant to follow.
They recall that she was there with her father. In all of its many interpretations, the act of possessing her—keeping her in his room—remains an act of power that also allows him to control her place in his existence. The magistrate stares into her eyeballs, fascinated. The magistrate continues to have the recurring dream of the children playing in the snow and the girl who will not turn to face him.
His drive to hunt then drops away and feels like an alien force, like he hadn’t been directing his life on his “own terms.” This alien drive to hunt mirrors his sexual lust for the girl, though she never captivates him in an instant of empathy like the ram. Accessed October 24, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Waiting-for-the-Barbarians/. In 1976, five years before Waiting for the Barbarians was published, the Soweto Uprising occurred, marking a turning point in the history of South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement.
The magistrate’s fascination with the marks on the girl’s body reflects his desire to struggle with the past until its history and “truth” is revealed and becomes accessible. The magistrate jokes that "people will say I keep two wild animals in my rooms, a fox and a girl. "I undress her, I bathe her, I stroke her, I sleep beside her—but I might equally well tie her to a chair and beat her," he says. She has grown annoyed with his constant desire to talk. Rather than confront Joll or the system that allowed her torture to happen, the magistrate "relieve[s] her of the shame of begging" by hiring her as a scullery maid. Even though the enthusiasm of the girl at the inn is likely an act, the magistrate prefers her flattery to the walled-off, unanimated personality of the barbarian girl. The officer explains that two conscripts deserted en route to their post. He reads her scars with his fingers, like a blind man reading braille. Winter arrives. Waiting for the Barbarians study guide contains a biography of J.M. Nevertheless, the magistrate's subconscious awareness of his passive participation in the oppression of the barbarians begins to form, which is represented in the recurring snow dream. Course Hero. Copyright © 1999 - 2020 GradeSaver LLC. He grows repulsed by her.
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