The IUP Journal of English Studies
Writing as Escape in J M Coetzee's Age of Iron: A Jakobsonian Approach

Article Details
Pub. Date : June, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES60621
Author Name : Eman K Mukattash
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 21



The study analyzes the letter form J M Coetzee's novel Age of Iron (1990) takes as an extended act of communication in the light of Roman Jakobson's Communicative Model. Mrs. Elizabeth Curren, the white elderly protagonist of the novel who is dying of cancer, writes a lengthy letter to her daughter and chooses a vagrant trespassing her property to post it to her after her death. Given Coetzee's (1992) description of the act of writing as a performative act, Mrs. Curren can be seen as performing an extended act of communication in which an addresser sends a message to an addressee in a given context via a mutually understandable code and with reciprocated signs of contact. Overwhelmed by the recurrent, but failed, attempts to understand the truth and convey it in a letter to her, she chooses to redefine the act of writing/communication as an escape from the truth, rather than as a channel of it. This she does intentionally, producing a failed/dysfunctional act of communication, which, when approached in the sociolinguistic context of Jakobson's Model of Interactive Communication (1960), is better understood. Though Mrs. Curren tries in different ways to come to terms with the truth, and though her attempts at doing so earn her the credit of a hard worker, she eventually sees escape through writing as the route to salvation. Her letter to her daughter, therefore, is her way of telling us that she refuses to live with this burden, the burden of the truth, and chooses to rid herself of its heaviness through liquidating the truth it bears in the letter she writes.


Most, if not all, of J M Coetzee's characters in his masterpiece Age of Iron (1990) can be described as escapists. Mrs. Curren, Florence, and Mr. Vercueil escape the harsh life in an Apartheid-controlled society through not talking directly about how miserable the situation has become there. Even those belonging to the younger generation, Florence's son Bheki and his friend John, who Florence describes as children of iron," have their own way of escaping the morbid reality they live. But to think of the act of writing of the letter (the epistolary form which the novel takes) as a means of escape rather than as a means of communication gives new meaning to the characters', Mrs. Curren's in specific, attempts to avoid a firsthand experience of that reality.


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