J.M. Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country
In the novel In the Heart of the Country, by J.M. Coetzee, the main protagonist Magda lived isolated from almost any human interaction. Due to this isolation from everything outside ‘the country’ in which she resided, combined with her inherent introvertedness and father’s callousness, her view of life was slanted according to the rare exchanges she did muster. As she was prone to bouts of incoherent thoughts and depression, any positive conversation between her and her father, Hendrik, or Klein-Anna served to maintain her sanity. An impolite few words intensified her feelings of seclusion. Likewise a neutral chat ignited optimistic plans for her life, and a favorable stance on ‘the country’. Therefore, Magda based her fluctuating attitude toward ‘the country’ (her life) on the quality of the communications with the three people she knew: her father, Hendrik, and Klein-Anna.
The way in which her father regarded her had the greatest influence on her ensuing moods. For example, after trying to help him up onto the bed, begging him to respond and acknowledge her presence, he says only, “‘Water’”(67). Taking this as a declaration of her worthlessness, she became convinced that she “[was] an idea [her] father had many years ago and then, bored with it, forgot”(69) about. Locked in self-pity after his reply, she continued questioning the point of her being, feeling insignificant and wanting to “annihilate [herself]”(71). In fact, that he does not seem to notice her is also a contributing part of her disposition: after taking to bed with a migraine she comments, “I was not missed. My father pays no attention to my absence” (2). Her resentment of him grew to be so automatic that it enveloped her: “Was I the one who killed the life in him, as he kills the life in me” now? (39). Such a melancholy pattern of thoughts was customary of every interaction with or indifferent reaction from her father.
Hendrik’s influence on Magda’s perception of life and ‘the country’ came primarily in the form of sexual contact. It was via his midnight visits to her room, and their subsequent desistance, that Hendrik tinted the glasses through which Magda surveyed her existence. For instance, to advance her lacking social skills after one such encounter, she reached out to her servant, but he only “loosen[ed] [her] fingers…and depart[ed]” (111). Rejection of this sort, from someone with whom she had shared this intimate act, threatened a personal if subconscious belief of...