In J.M. Coetzee's "Waiting for the Barbarians", the Rumors Spread around the town Demonstrate the Ignorance of Civilization

Essay by dedog45High School, 12th gradeA, September 2006

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Coetzee's description of the rumors (120-121) shows how unaware the citizens are of what the barbarians are actually like. The settlements' opinion and actions involving the barbarians displays the ignorance that is rampant throughout civilization.

The village's belief in the rumors allows the empire to use the barbarians as scapegoats for their actions. The soldiers and military personnel are the most suspected source of origin for the rumors. With the citizens in a terrified state of mind, the soldiers can and do get away with anything. "There have been incidents in which soldiers have gone into shops, taken what they wanted, and left without paying" (121). The town's unawareness is satisfied with the commonly accepted rumors, and the barbarians are the ones at fault. Even the kids buy into and take part in the rumors. A little girl is raped and no one was around to see it, but that does not stop the kids from blaming the barbarians.

The kids claim they say a barbarian "running away into the reeds", and could recognize him by "his ugliness." The most logical explanation is that a soldier raped the girl and threatened her so she would not tell what actually happened. However, the constant fear of the barbarians allowed the town to believe that the barbarians were the ones to blame.

Ignorance is prevalent through all classes of people in civilization. Colonel Joll, a member of the Third Bureau, is a highly regarded member of the empire. It is fathomable to understand the citizens' ignorance, but Coetzee also exhibits how blind Colonel Joll is. Joll's glasses show symbolically his state of ignorance. In his first visit Joll comes to the village with the pair of glasses on. The Magistrate cannot help but wonder, "Is he blind?" (1). Colonel Joll is...