Age of Iron
by J.M. Coetzee
Age of Iron Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Since when have the schools been closed?" I asked Florence.
"Since last week. All the schools in Gugulethu, Langa, Nyanga. The children have nothing to do. All they do is run around the streets and get into trouble. It is better that he is here where I can see him." (2.8-9)
Bheki's presence seems to throw Mrs. Curren's house into disorder. Florence justifies bringing him, though, by telling Mrs. Curren that the disorder in Gugulethu is even worse.
Last year, when the troubles in the schools began, I spoke my mind to Florence. "In my day we considered education a privilege," I said. "Parents would scrimp and save to keep their children in school. We would have thought it madness to burn a school down."
"It is different today," replied Florence.
"Do you approve of children burning down their schools?"
"I cannot tell these children what to do," said Florence. "It is all changed today. There are no more mothers and fathers." (2.21-24)
The standards and rules through which Mrs. Curren understands the world don't apply anymore. Any sort of traditional order that she believes is the right way to live seems to have been toppled over. As the children around her fight against an oppressive regime, they also seem to be fighting against all traditional standards – everything is in chaos.
Florence is openly proud of how Bheki got rid of the good-for-nothing, but predicts that he will be back as soon as it starts raining. As for me, I doubt we will see him as long as the boys are here. I said so to Florence. "You are showing Bheki and his friends that they can raise their hands against their elders with impunity. That is a mistake. Yes, whatever you may think of him, Vercueil is their elder!" (2.91)
As far as Mrs. Curren is concerned, the world operates with certain rules. One of the most important ones we see her defending is the necessity of respecting one's elders. She seems to see this as a pretty fixed one. No matter who the person in question is – herself, Florence, or even a drunk like Vercueil – the order of things determines that they deserve kids' respect.