Age of Iron
by J.M. Coetzee
Age of Iron Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The other boy lay sprawled on his back now. With his jacket the plumber was trying to staunch the blood that streamed down his face. But the flow would not stop. He lifted the wadded jacket and for an instant, before it darkened with blood again, I saw that the flesh across the forehead hung open in a loose flap as if sliced with a butcher's knife. Blood flowed in a sheet into the boy's eyes and made his hair glisten; it dripped onto the pavement; it was everywhere. I did not know blood could be so dark, so thick, so heavy. What a heart he must have, I thought, to pump that blood and go on pumping! (2.193)
Doesn't it seem like Mrs. Curren is particularly attuned to other people's suffering now? She watches the way John's body reacts to his injury with total fascination. Maybe this is because she's spent so much time thinking about how her own body is breaking down.
"And I am sick too," I said. "Sick and tired, tired and sick. I have a child inside that I cannot give birth to. Cannot because it will not be born. Because it cannot live outside me. So it is my prisoner or I am its prisoner. It beats on the gate but it cannot leave." (2.352)
Here, Mrs. Curren expresses how she's pretty much stuck in her predicament. She feels hopeless because she knows that she will always have cancer – there's no getting rid of it.
I told myself: Have a hot bath, rest. But an icy lethargy possessed me. It took an effort to drag myself upstairs, peel off the wet clothes, wrap myself in a robe, get into bed. Sand, the gray sand of the Cape Flats, had crusted between my toes. I will never be warm again, I thought. Vercueil has a dog to lie against. Vercueil knows how to live in this climate. But as for me, and for that cold boy soon to be put into the earth, no dog will help us anymore. (3.202)
Here, we see something else besides her cancer causing Mrs. Curren to suffer. She has witnessed a horrible scene of violence and suffering, including Bheki's death. She may think she'll never be warm because she's been out in the cold for a while, but it seems just as likely that she uses the cold to describe her feelings of helplessness. Coetzee's so tricky!