It’s also possible that he has conquered her by learning her mystery, and now he’s no longer interested or attracted. The magistrate’s willingness to express his disagreement with the Empire’s treatment of the barbarians openly to the officer is a new act of defiance which speaks to the strength of his convictions. The officer wants to leave them where they are but the magistrate demands that they be given their rites.

This time when he wakes the girl is huddled asleep on the floor. The truth itself is ugly. The reader becomes aware of the parallels between the hooded child and the barbarian girl when, in the dream, the magistrate offers the child a coin. This indicates the magistrate as a "passive" predator in contrast to Joll's direct violence. Find summaries for every chapter, including a Waiting for the Barbarians Chapter Summary Chart to help you understand the book.

Their ritual ends. Was the idea of her being tortured titillating when it remained abstract, but ruined when the facts arrived? Then they sleep in the same bed. New conscripts arrive, and old ones return to their homes. The arrival of winter has seemingly signaled attempts by the magistrate to return to his old way of life. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from She reveals that the guards broke her ankles during interrogation. He covers her in blankets. The dream’s depiction of the snow castle as unpopulated might represent the magistrate’s feeling that the town is no longer full of life—that, since Joll’s arrival, the ease and vibrancy of the settlement’s atmosphere has devolved into dread. He takes her into his rooms, though she’s very reluctant to follow.

He feels no desire to have sex with the girl. Coetzee, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians Chapter Summary. But an important part of what disgusts him is his own previous fascination. This infuriates the magistrate, who finds himself practically hating the girl by the end of the chapter. Ironically, unlike his real life efforts to connect with the girl, the magistrate’s (vocal) severance from her in the dream lets the animated vivacity he longs to see in her appear upon her surface, since she can’t be told to redirect it to the fort—the magistrate’s life—itself. His growing repulsion with the girl parallels his repulsion with himself. The magistrate’s encounter with the buck is unique because of the power which its gaze commands. (2018, November 5). Waiting for the Barbarians is a political allegory about the paranoia at the roots of imperial narratives and the blood lust of colonial violence. In the next passage he refers to his ritual of washing and oiling her as a “bondage.” After this he goes to the inn and spends the night with the young “birdlike” girl who he has seen in the past. The main protagonist of the novel is a nameless civil servant, who serves as magistrate to a frontier settlement owned by a nameless empire. She’s traumatized.

The Question and Answer section for Waiting for the Barbarians is a great

He wants to recall an image of her down in the yard.

The girl becomes ugly to the magistrate. Unlike Joll, however, the magistrate begins to recognize his role in the girl's torture. With numb fingers, the magistrate "hold[s] out a coin.

Yet when he does this, it’s too late; it damages, but doesn’t reinforce, his relation with her.

The magistrate offers to have the girl taken back, but she responds, "Taken where?" Again the magistrate washes her feet. Download a PDF to print or study offline. The magistrate jokes that "people will say I keep two wild animals in my rooms, a fox and a girl. He wonders, "Did I really want to enter and claim possession of these beautiful creatures?". He tries to get their memories of her. One of them is a hooded figure who keeps their back to him. LitCharts Teacher Editions. The magistrate has a recurring dream of children playing in the snow. They recall that she was there with her father. Rather than respect the girl's requests, the magistrate pushes her to talk, asking her to relive the trauma over and over. There’s something wrong with her feet. Again, his eyelids droop, but this time he curls up next to her and falls asleep. It is worth noting, however, that the girl does not seem to enjoy the massage or benefit from it in any way. It’s as if the “centerlessness” of the girl’s marred vision has come into a metaphorical clash with the magistrate’s desire to uncover the whole truth of the past. 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. He washes her feet and ankles.

Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide. It’s as if the buck, at that moment, loses its status as an Other and becomes something immensely personal and present to the magistrate. It is echoed in the magistrate's note that the townsfolk "prize barbarian leatherwork" but don't offer fair trade. He returns to the prostitute, although his agitation with the nomad girl ruins his experience. The term white savior is often used in tandem with the term savior complex. He continues having the dream and often wakes up shouting. He speaks about it to the girl but their language is limited. Alternately, it might reference the torture she suffered under Joll. At least he feels that this is a mistake.

This can clearly be seen in the magistrate's obsession with remembering what the girl looked like "before all this."

He tries to comfort her by the fire. The officer speaks of plans to launch a broad offensive against the barbarians.

The rhythm of massaging her sends the magistrate into a trancelike state, and he soon falls asleep. The buck sees him and moves away. However, he makes clear to the reader that the massage is never sexual. Instant downloads of all 1364 LitChart PDFs (including Waiting for the Barbarians). The magistrate’s odd trance suggests that there’s something peculiarly soothing, and perhaps sexually pleasant, about massaging the girl—yet this also becomes a strange sort of ritual, a kind of “othering” and fetishizing of the seemingly impenetrable surface of the girl. He seems to believe his own words that things that happen in the mind cannot be worse than actual experience. It turns out that her father saw her being tortured and he fought back and they murdered him. This can be read as a subtle gesture by the magistrate supporting dissent from Joll—that, if troops stick together, no one will lose any honor. The magistrate is still entangled in his attempts to both understand why he’s attracted to the barbarian girl and to find something in her history—a lost personality—that will justify and give spark to his desire.

The game of washing her and attempting to learn her may also be a game of ameliorating his own guilt. He doesn’t understand why she’s in his bed. As we later learn, she has already been sleeping with several soldiers in order to make money. Here, the magistrate’s earlier fantasy about burying the barbarian prisoners in order to erase their testament to the Empire’s cruelty from history reappears, and is expressed in his desire to rid her from public sight. The magistrate seems to be finally unleashing all of his pent-up rage at the Empire’s anti-barbarian military enterprise. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. He gets her a job as a scullery maid in the kitchen. He gets to feel that he is giving something to her, even though she has had everything taken from her by his people. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. He realizes she was one of Joll's prisoners. It seems almost a reverse torture, as he attempts to unravel her torture in his own mind, to learn it and possess it.

Further, his desire to dredge up an image of the girl before she was tortured resonates with his desire to struggle with and uncover the history of the past, which appears here in the form of an obsession. J.M. In this way Coetzee casts Joll and the magistrate as equal perpetrators of the girl's victimization. Back home, the magistrate grows more agitated with the girl, thrashing about his room at night, not caring if he wakes her. He presses on, just as Joll pressed for answers, albeit using a different tactic. Course Hero, "Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide," November 5, 2018, accessed October 24, 2020, He reads her scars with his fingers, like a blind man reading braille. 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.

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