Age of Iron
by J.M. Coetzee
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First Person (Central)
Mrs. Curren, an elderly woman dying of cancer, tells her story in the first person. What's really cool about the narrative technique in Age of Iron is that she's not just yammering the story to an unknown reader (us) like we've experienced when reading most other novels with first-person narrators. Instead, the entire novel is written from her perspective as a series of letters to her daughter in America (this style, by the way, is called "epistolary" writing. Check out our "Writing Style" section for the scoop on that). As a result, the entire novel is directed at someone she calls "you." Now, we know that the "you" she's writing to is her daughter, but this sort of intimacy draws us right in, too – sometimes it's easy to forget that she doesn't know us and that she isn't speaking to us explicitly. Since what we end up with is a chronology of her worries, hopes, feelings, and reactions, we get to watch Mrs. Curren develop as a person on the inside just as we also learn about all of the eye-opening things happening in the world all around her.