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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Mortality

Mortality is pretty much front and center in Age of Iron as far as themes go. No sooner does the novel begin than we find out that the narrator, Mrs. Curren, is dying of cancer. Throughout the nove...

Suffering

If Age of Iron were a store, we imagine that it would be like if Baskin Robbins opened up a suffering shop, where instead of 32 flavors of ice cream you could get countless varieties of suffering....

Literature and Writing

In many ways, Age of Iron is a novel about reading and writing – and not just on our part or J.M. Coetzee's part. We aren't just reading a novel here; we're also reading Mrs. Curren's highly pers...

Rules and Order

Age of Iron takes on the subject of Rules and Order by turning our conceptions of those two terms totally upside-down. Mrs. Curren finds herself in a world of chaos in which rules are meant to be b...

Race

A discussion of race is completely unavoidable when considering a novel that takes place during Apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was a system of racial segregation that was in place – legally...

Hate

Hate is a pretty strong word, and it's definitely not one that we take lightly here at Shmoop – and neither do the characters of Age of Iron, it seems. Hate permeates every part of the society th...

Violence

To say that there's violence in Age of Iron is a total understatement: we see it happen on every scale. Sometimes it's on a small scale, like when Bheki and Vercueil get into a fight in Mrs. Curren...

Principles

Principles: some people got 'em, some people don't. We can tell that Mrs. Curren sets the bar pretty high for herself. In fact, she isn't able to see why other people can't match her expectations....

Family

Age of Iron closely examines what it means to be a family, and the novel pays special attention to the relationship between mother and daughter. Mrs. Curren and her daughter have been separated for...

The Home

You know that old saying, "a man's home is his castle"? Well, let's just say that when Age of Iron begins, Mrs. Curren definitely seems to take that adage to heart. To her, her house is her own per...
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