Age of Iron
by J.M. Coetzee
Age of Iron Mortality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
This was the day when I had the news from Dr. Syfret. The news was not good, but it was mine, for me, mine only, not to be refused. It was for me to take in my arms and fold to my chest and take home, without headshaking, without tears. "Thank you, doctor," I said. "Thank you for being frank." "We will do everything we can," he said, "we will tackle this together." But already, behind the comradely front, I could see he was withdrawing. Sauve qui peut. His allegiance to the living, not the dying. (1.4)
Mrs. Curren has been dealing with her cancer for a while, but now she knows for sure that she's going to die from it. What's interesting here is that Mrs. Curren senses that her relationship with her doctor changes the moment he tells her that he can't save her. It seems like he's given up.
The first task laid on me, from today: to resist the craving to share my death. Loving you, loving life, to forgive the living and take my leave without bitterness. To embrace death as my own, mine alone. (1.12)
Mrs. Curren's attitude toward her death is a complicated one. Can you imagine how awful it would feel to know that you were dying while having to try to not bring everyone else around you down with you? Mrs. Curren is determined not to make her own mortality someone else's problem.
We sicken before we die so that we will be weaned from our body. The milk that nourished us grows thin and sour; turning away from the breast, we begin to be restless for a separate life. Yet this first life, this life on earth, on the body of earth – will there, can there ever be a better? Despite all the glooms and despairs and rages, I have not let go of my love of it. (1.55)
Mrs. Curren philosophizes about how the slow process of dying prepares one for death. We have to ask, though: has she ever thought about how other people die in quick, sudden ways that don't give them that opportunity to come to terms with their mortality?