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Complete summary of J. M. Coetzee's Age of Iron. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of Age of Iron. print Print; document PDF. This Page. In the novel Age of Iron, by J.M Coetzee, first published in , we follow This essay is based upon a close reading of Age of Iron and how. Age of Iron is a novel by South African Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee. It is among his . Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version.

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Coetzee - Age of Iron - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or view presentation slides online. The Salvation of Mrs Curren in Coetzee's Age of Iron.' William M. There is no doubt that Age of Iron is an allegory for the social and political struggles of South . Coetzee's novel Age of Iron, a social and political tragedy in a country ravaged by apartheid and racial discrimination, from a cultural studies stand-point. Coetzee uses cancer as a trope for apartheid by way of suggesting the obscenity and fatality of such a political.

And your father too! How proud they would have been of you! She would probably have senile dementia. She would not know what was going on around her. Dorothy was right. My mother would have been bursting with pride.

She is the proverbial "Leopard who changes her spots". She is a seventy year old retired professor, a well-educated white woman who is living in Cape Town. She has been battling breast cancer and has now discovered that us has metastasized and is now incurable.

She also finds a homeless man living on her back porch the same day as she gets her dim prognosis. She begins writing a letter to her daughter explaining both situations.

The reader gets to know Mrs Curren through her letters. She was married for many years but her husband is deceased.


She seems emotionally remote and rather alone which is why she is more open to getting to know Vercueil. As the novel goes on she becomes more aware of the needs and suffering of others. However she is not always at ease with what she is seeing in the world around her and the police brutality that she witnesses makes her bitter and causes her to despise the world that she lives in.

Vercueil Vercueil is the homeless man who arrives in Mrs Curren's backyard and slowly moves into her life.

He is mysterious and enigmatic, always panhandling Mrs Curren and apparently the type of person who is charismatic enough to convince others to let him take advantage of them. He seems to be a drinker and this is likely where most of his money goes.

Age of Iron Character List

The reader gets to know him via the things that he does not by what he says, because he says barely anything. His conversation is limited and he grunts his responses. The biggest question mark about Vercueil is his race; is he black or white? The author never specifies.

Age of Iron Themes

The only references to his appearance refer more to his abject lack of personal hygiene rather than his color. At the beginning of the novel she is out of town but when she returns the upheaval and conflict seems to escalate; this may or may not be a coincidence.

She is businesslike and seems to be in charge of Mrs Curren rather than being in awe of her employer.

She back-chats, speaks her mind without fear or regard for Mrs Cullen's feelings and generally acts in a rather obstreperous way. He takes a long time to agree, but eventually he mails the letter. Curren's housekeeper, Florence, returns from a trip and brings her two daughters and her son Bheki with her.

Curren resents having Bheki in the house, but he has no other place to go. His friend, who Mrs. Curren thinks is a hoodlum, gets into a fight with Vercueil, who disappears for a bit. Around this time, policemen start hanging out near the house, apparently keeping tabs on Bheki and his friends. Tensions are rising.

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When Vercueil returns, he brings home a woman and they both pass out drunk in the living room. Overwhelmed with people, Mrs. Curren starts to feel that everyone is conspiring against her to take over her property before she even dies. One day Mrs. Curren witnesses the same cops who previously talked to her disrespectfully, force Bheki and his friend, John, who are on bikes, to run into a truck.

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John injures his head badly, and she sits in the street holding his head until the ambulance arrives. Previously insulated from racial hatred, Mrs. Cullen starts to realize that her neat little white world doesn't match the reality of police brutality against black people. She wants to demand justice from the authorities for John's injury, but Florence won't let her because she's afraid to be involved with the police.

They all go to the hospital to visit Bheki's friend, but Vercueil and Mrs. Curren wait in the car because she's in too much pain.

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Brought to tears, she admits to him that she hasn't told her daughter about her impending death. He encourages her to tell the truth, so her daughter doesn't resent her after she's gone. At home that night, Mrs. Curren invites Vercueil to sleep on the couch.

She catches herself wishing he lives there. Tragedy strikes again when Florence gets a phone call in the middle of the night saying her son is in trouble. Curren drives Florence and her daughter to Guglethu, an unsafe place, where they meet Mr. Thabane, Florence's cousin. They drive to a part of town in chaos - fire, screaming people, and dead bodies.

Faced with so much destruction and fear, Mrs. Curren essentially throws a fit and is put to shame about her privileged sensibility by Mr. Thabane who lectures her about the true meaning of comradeship. Eventually they find Bheki. He and four other black men have been murdered and left lying against a wall, their eyes and mouths full of sand. Horrified, Mrs. Curren finds a policeman and demands he do something, but he brushes her off.

The next day, some women come by to pick up Florence's things, as she won't return. After all of that, Vercueil asks Mrs. Curren if she intends to kill herself that day. She says yes, so they go for a drive. She's unable to go through with it however, so Vercueil buys some liquor and tells her to get drunk. Offended, she screams at him to leave, which he does.

Coetzee - Age of Iron

He stays away for a while. One night Mrs. Curren wakes up to find John asking about Bheki. She tells him that his friend is dead, but the boy doesn't seem to understand.

Age of Iron - Wikipedia

He's injured, so she looks after him for a bit. When she finds him stashing something in the floorboards one day, she calls Mr. Thabane to take John away. The next morning the police come to her house asking about John. She says that everything is fine, but John is afraid.