J.M. Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country

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J.M. Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country In the novel In the Heart of the Country, by J.M. Coetzee, the main protagonist Magda lived isolated from almost any human interaction. Due to this isolation from everything outside ‘the country’ in which she resided, combined with her inherent introvertedness and father’s callousness, her view of life was slanted according to the rare exchanges she did muster. As she was prone to bouts of incoherent thoughts and depression, any positive conversation between her and her father, Hendrik, or Klein-Anna served to maintain her sanity. An impolite few words intensified her feelings of seclusion. Likewise a neutral chat ignited optimistic plans for her life, and a favorable stance on ‘the country’. Therefore, Magda based her fluctuating attitude toward ‘the country’ (her life) on the quality of the communications with the three people she knew: her father, Hendrik, and Klein-Anna. The way in which her father regarded her had the greatest influence on her ensuing moods. For example, after trying to help him up onto the bed, begging him to respond and acknowledge her presence, he says only, “‘Water’”(67). Taking this as a declaration of her worthlessness, she became convinced that she “[was] an idea [her] father had many years ago and then, bored with it, forgot”(69) about. Locked in self-pity after his reply, she continued questioning the point of her being, feeling insignificant and wanting to “annihilate [herself]”(71). In fact, that he does not seem to notice her is also a contributing part of her disposition: after taking to bed with a migraine she comments, “I was not missed. My father pays no attention to my absence” (2). Her resentment of him grew to be so automatic that it envel... ... middle of paper ... ...istress into fits of despair. Magda’s perception of ‘the country’, which was the only home and consistent companion ever known to her, varied depending upon the interactions with the only humanity she came into contact with: her father, the servant Hendrik, and his wife Klein-Anna. Each relationship affected her perception differently, and her moods were constantly volatile. Through this learned dependency on the minimal human contact she experienced, Coetzee suggests that validating one’s life based upon the actions of others is a risky and foolish lifestyle. Magda’s incessant, acidic thoughts ate at her soul until she valued herself at nothing, not unless someone was paying her attention. In the Heart serves as a warning against diminishing one’s own worth for petty and often fleeting, emotions, and lackluster validation from those with ulterior motivations.

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