Deconstruction of Ethical Predicament in J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians
Waiting for the Barbarians is an allegorical novel by J. M. Coetzee, which tells a story of the confrontation of civilization and barbarism. The old Magistrate, as the main character of the novel is called, is a defender of the civilization of the Empire at the very beginning. He falls into the dilemma of the binary opposition between civilization and barbarism through the cruel torture of the Empire and the contact with the barbarians; he breaks completely with the civilization of the Empire, and achieves the salvation of his soul ultimately, after witnessing the torture of the Empire by himself. This paper, with the approaches of Ethical Literary Criticism, throws light on the construction of ethical discourse and metaphor in the novel, and analyzes how the old Magistrate falls into the ethical predicament and comes out of it through ethical choices, thus deconstructing the old Magistrate’s psychological cognitive process of civilization and barbarism, and revealing the ethical callings and moral reflections of this work in relation to realistic social problems.
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