Struggle Against Racist and Patriarchal Dominance: An Analysis of J. M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country
Keywords:Patriarchy, Race, Gender, Dominance, Power-reversal, Alienation, Subjugation, Colonialism, Gender Disparity, Racial Inequality, Rape.
J. M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country (1977) is a critique of patriarchal Afrikaner society and focuses on the pathology of master-servant relationship, and on the theme of transgression. The novel touches upon how racial inequality parallels conventional gender disparity. It also focuses on the issue of Coetzee’s stance in the novel and consequences of colonial encounter with the whites as well as the blacks. The protagonist is resentful of the patriarchal imperialist structure of her world, but at the same time, she realizes that her father and the imperial system that he symbolizes are the only accessible means of social identity for her. Trapped in such a situation, the protagonist is overwhelmed by ontological-existential angst that forces her to face the naked truth about her position as a white woman in South Africa. It is through the tensions generated by the confluence of gendered and raced oppression that the protagonist’s insanity can be traced. The effect of the protagonist not only being oppressed by the structures of Afrikaner society, but also her attempts to institute oppression over her servants is one of displacement in the equation of injustices, that of gender/sexuality and race. The novel depicts the failure of the protagonist to subvert the racist and patriarchal patterns of dominance. The sexual oppression as a result of power shift leads to her alienation and subjugation. The two-fold failure of the protagonist, the failure to secure a subject position within history and her failure to establish an equal and reciprocal relation between the races leads to her disorientation when she completely loses her power over her servants.
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