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Magdas Unreliability: Language and Body+Place in Coetzees In the Heart of the Country - Essay Example

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An educated person is a product of his/her education,an education that includes language and body+place dimensions.John Maxwell Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country analyzes the post-colonial meaning of language and body+place through the story of Magda…
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Magdas Unreliability: Language and Body+Place in Coetzees In the Heart of the Country
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"Magdas Unreliability: Language and Body+Place in Coetzees In the Heart of the Country"

Download file to see previous pages Coetzee wants readers to understand though that Magda is an unreliable narrator because her perceptions and interpretations do not match his norms. This novel shows that Magda is an unreliable narrator because her colonial place makes her disconnected from reality, due to the role of language and body+place in promoting colonialism, which makes this text a post-colonial work, and Coetzee suggests, that, in order for Magda to be free, she must challenge the colonial language and deconstruct colonial binaries. Magda is unreliable as a narrator because of her colonial place that colonial language puts her in, a place that becomes more and more evident as she shifts from the place of the colonized slave to the place of the colonial master. Coetzee shows that language has a role in creating and sustaining colonial relations. Magda understands her position in the colonial system: “I, who living among the downcast have never beheld myself in the equal regard of another's eye, have never held another in the equal regard of mine” . She is a downcast because society sees her as one, and so she acts and speaks like one. Magda knows the language that puts her in her place of the colonized. At first, she does not resist the language of the oppressor, but later on, when she kills her father, it becomes the same language for her. She uses the rifle to force Hendrik in helping her with her father’s dead body: “When one truly means what one says, when one speaks not in shouts of panic, but quietly, deliberately, decisively, then one is understood and obeyed. How pleasing to have identified a universal truth” (Coetzee 68). As the new owner of the house, she changes social positions, where she is hesitant in the beginning to assert her new social status, but she learns the oppressor’s language to command authority. She speaks quietly, but her rifle is her decisive source of power. The universal truth is that violence gives oppressors their power. Symbolic violence is further put into the language they use, where oppressors know the right language to control the people. Coetzee is showing that as long as people use the same language, they cannot escape and reject colonialism. Magda uses the same language of the oppressors, which makes her infallible as the representative of the oppressed. Aside from language, the body+place narrative underscores that Magda’s body defines her place in society, and these perceptions are infallible because as long as she sees her body this way, she cannot redefine her social space. Magda has conflicting notions of her identity. At times, she sees herself as a “black bored spinster with a locked diary” or a “miserable black virgin” (Coetzee 36). She identifies her gender and race in relation to words of disempowerment. Her female body is her miserable place in society. On the contrary, Magda uses impersonation to redefine her identity. She imagines a small boy telling the story of an angel: “The Angel, that is how she is sometimes known, the Angel in Black who comes to save the children of the brown folk from the croups and fevers” (Coetzee 5). In this story, she is the heroine in action. She is no longer locked up and suffering from migraine, but out there in another place and history. Despite the empowerment, Magda remains a helpless woman because her powerful status is imagined in the colonial system. As long as her body is in the system, her oppressed place remains stable. Given these factors, In the Heart of the Country is a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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