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Age of Iron

Age of Iron

by J.M. Coetzee

Family Theme

Age of Iron closely examines what it means to be a family, and the novel pays special attention to the relationship between mother and daughter. Mrs. Curren and her daughter have been separated for a decade – her daughter left South Africa for the United States because of her disgust with how blacks were treated during Apartheid. She's now married and has two children. Mrs. Curren isn't just a mother; she's also a grandmother. Still, she acknowledges that she doesn't really have a relationship with any of them. Age of Iron pushes us to find other ways we can think about the family beyond traditional blood ties. By the end of the novel, it seems that Vercueil is more like family to Mrs. Curren than her own daughter is.

Questions About Family

  1. Why do you think Mrs. Curren chooses to not call her daughter and tell her that she's dying?
  2. How would you characterize the relationship between Vercueil and Mrs. Curren? Is it fair to think of them as family? Why or why not?
  3. Compare and contrast Mrs. Curren's relationship with her daughter and Florence's relationship with her children.
  4. Do you think John (Bheki's friend) has a family? If so, who and where do you think they are? If you don't think he has any, why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Family is made up of the people you're related to: thus, Mrs. Curren's only family is her daughter.

Family is made up of the people you are close to: thus, Mrs. Curren's only family is Vercueil.

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