Age of Iron
by J.M. Coetzee
Age of Iron Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I was on my way out to the shops, in the act of opening the garage door, when I had a sudden attack. An attack: it was just that: the pain hurling itself upon me like a dog, sinking its teeth into my back. I cried out, unable to stir. Then he, this man, appeared from somewhere and helped me into the house. I lay down on the sofa, on my left side, in the only comfortable posture left to me. He waited. "Sit down." I said. He sat. The pain began to subside. "I have cancer," I said. "It has made its way into the bone. That is what hurts." (1.33)
As if the mere knowledge of her own impending death weren't bad enough, Mrs. Curren also has a ton of physical pain to deal with. This moment paints a really vivid picture of what Mrs. Curren's physical suffering is like: she feels like she can never be comfortable. Can you imagine having only one position to lie in that feels comfortable to you?
Who cares? When I am in a mood like this I am capable of putting a hand on the breadboard and chopping it off without a second thought. What do I care for this body that has betrayed me? I look at my hand and see only a tool, a hook, a thing for gripping other things. And these legs, these clumsy, ugly stilts: why should I have to carry them with me everywhere? Why should I take them to bed with me night after night and pack them in under the sheets, and pack the arms in too, higher up near the face, and lie there sleepless amid the clutter? The abdomen, too, with its dead gurglings, and the heart beating, beating: why? What have they to do with me? (1.54)
Mrs. Curren's physical suffering also carries an emotional impact. She feels totally dissociated from her own body, which she feels has betrayed her. It's as if she can't believe she's trapped in her own body.
"Rabbits," I said. "They used to belong to my domestic's son. I let him keep them here as pets. Then there was some commotion or other in his life. He forgot about them and they starved to death. I was in hospital and didn't know about it. I was terribly upset when I found out what had been going on unheeded at the bottom of the garden. Creatures that can't talk, that can't even cry." (1.103)
Mrs. Curren doesn't just think about her own suffering all the time; she reflects on the suffering of animals. Is it possible, though, that she sort of identifies with the slow, painful death that the rabbits experience?