SECTION Amputation by mikesanye


									Chapter Two: Ageing

2.1 Introduction

       In today‘s society being young and strong is very important. Beauty products are sold

by promoting the importance of looking young as something to strive towards. Wrinkles,

greying hair, these are all signs of growing old and should be well-hidden. It is only more

recently that beauty companies have begun to realise product lines which are meant for the

elderly with the intention not of hiding the age, but pro-age. As people live longer now

because of advances in medicine, the theme of age and ageing is maybe more relevant than

ever. The theme of age and ageing seems to be a topic of interest to Coetzee, as it can be

found not just in Slow Man, but also in most of his earlier works including Disgrace and Age

of Iron.

       In this chapter I will first examine the definition of age and ageing, and then discuss

the following features in Slow Man: time, age and ageing, meaning of death, and leaving a

legacy. After these paragraphs there is a comparison between the protagonists of Coetzee‘s

Slow Man and Disgrace.

2.2 Defining Age

       The Collins COBUILD English Dictionary for Advanced Learners defines age as ―the

number of years that you have lived‖ and ―the state of being old or the process of becoming

older.‖ The fourth definition is ―when someone ages, or when something ages them, they

seem much older and less strong or less alert.‖ Ageing, then, is often seen in a negative light

because it makes someone less strong and less alert, and thus be perceived as weak. When

someone comes of age, it means that someone legally becomes an adult. This means he or she

is now legally responsible for his or her actions. It is a threshold everyone must pass. The

protagonist of Slow Man, Paul Rayment, has passed this threshold long ago. As the blurb on

the novel‘s back cover, in the Vintage edition, states: ―Paul Rayment is on the threshold of a

comfortable old age when a calamitous cycling accident results in the amputation of a leg.‖

The fact that his right leg is amputated, that he is no longer mobile, changes Paul‘s life

forever. He cannot return to his old life. In the more philosophical sense: age in the meaning

of ―a period in history‖ can be applied to Slow Man as well. This is an age, a period, of Paul‘s

history. It is a chapter that begins, and is marked by, the loss of his right leg.

2.3 Time

       Paul‘s opinion of time is that it is consuming him. Time does not just pass, it devours.

As Paul remarks, he is ―consuming time and being consumed‖ (19-20). In the novel there are

a number of references to time. When Paul is lying in the hospital after the accident, time

passes slowly:

                 Night or day, time drags. (…) He stares at his watch face, imprinting the

                 position of the hands on his mind. Then he closes his eyes, tries to think of

                 other things – his own breathing, his grandmother sitting at the kitchen table

                 plucking a chicken, bees among the flowers, anything. He opens his eyes. The

                 hands have not stirred. It is as though they have to push their way through glue.


Time is passing so slowly here, as if pushing through glue, because Paul is lying on the

hospital bed unable to do much. The feeling that time is consuming him continues into the

next paragraph: ―The clock stands still yet time does not. Even as he lies here he can feel time

at work on him like a wasting disease, like the quicklime they pour on corpses. Time is

gnawing away at him, devouring one by one the cells that make him up. His cells are going

out like lights‖ (11-12). This is not just in the meaning of time passing by slowly, but also

devouring him almost physically. Before the accident he must have been aware that he was

ageing and time was passing, but now he really feels it. Suddenly it is more of a problem

because he has changed, he has lost a leg. Time can no longer be considered a friendly ally.

       The seventh definition of ―age‖ in the Collins COBUILD, which says that ―[y]ou can

say an age or ages to mean a very long time,‖ used informally, can be applied to time here. To

Paul time seems to take ages, in particular his age. He is ageing slowly, because he is no

longer as mobile as he was. When his nurse Marijana asks him whether or not he wants a

prosthesis, he replies: ―‘I‘ll think about it. (…) There‘s lots of time. All the time in the

world‘‖ (62). Time may be consuming him, but it is doing it ever so slowly. That is the way it

feels to him, because he is no longer as active as before and is stuck in his own flat.

2.4 Age and Ageing

       Paul Rayment, the protagonist of Slow Man, often refers to himself as old, although he

is only sixty. When he is in hospital after a crash, he knows that ―[h]e is not the first person in

the world to suffer an unpleasant accident, not the first old man to find himself in hospital

with well-intentioned but ultimately indifferent young people going through the motions of

caring for him‖ (14-15). In the accident his right leg was badly damaged and it had to be

amputated in the hospital. Whereas he was already aware of the fact that he was ageing, he

now seems more focused on it. His age is becoming a problem: had he been younger, they

might have gone for a reconstruction of his leg instead of amputation:

               [B]ut a reconstruction of the required order would entail a whole series of

               operations, one after another, extending over a year, even two years, with a

               success rate of less than fifty per cent, so all in all, considering his age, it was

               thought best to take the leg off cleanly above the knee, leaving a good length of

               bone for a prosthesis. (7)

Paul hates the stump that used to be his right leg. He refers to it as a ―watermelon‖ and ―a

cured ham‖ (28). ―If he has a name for it, it is le jambon. Le jambon keeps it at a nice,

contemptuous distance‖ (29). In French, jambon is ham and la jambe means ‗the leg‘. Jambon

is also slang for the thigh. Whereas ―jambon‖ is the translation for a ham, it has the added

meaning of leg. This name may keep it at a distance, but the meaning of ‗leg‘ is still in there.

Had Paul been younger, they might have saved his leg. He does not want euphemisms, as they

soften what is happening and are used to avoid the dire reality. As Brendan Bernhard puts it in

his review in LA Weekly: ―No more right leg. No more bicycling. No more mobility. Long,

tedious, convalescence. A deep melancholy, colored by humiliation, self-pity and remorse,

settles over Rayment‘s austere bachelor life‖ (Par. 4).

       According to the Collins COBUILD aged ―means very old‖ and ―can refer to all

people who are very old.‖ The act of ageing is defined thus: ―ageing is the process of

becoming old or becoming worn out‖ and ―someone or something that is ageing is becoming

older and less healthy or efficient.‖ Ageing is associated with loss of control, loss of power.

The body starts to become less efficient, and starts to fail. It is not so much age that has

crippled Paul, but the fact he is a sixty-year old with a body that is less efficient because he is

missing a leg. However, while in hospital he thinks he can cope with it and his life will go on

as it was, except at a slower pace:

               In his own vision of the longer term, the vision he has been fashioning in his

               more equable moments, his crippled self (stark word, but why equivocate?)

               will somehow, with the aid of a crutch or some other support, get by in the

               world, more slowly than before, perhaps, but what do slow and faster matter

               any more? (16-17)

However, this is not the case. Paul rejects a prosthesis, and this hampers his rehabilitation.

He reflects on the ―old days, the days before the accident,‖ when ―he was the kind of man

who might last into his nineties‖ (25). After the accident he thinks:

               Well, he may still live to be ninety, but if that happens it will not be by choice.

               He has lost the freedom of movement and it would be foolish to think it will

               ever be restored to him, with or without artificial limbs. He will never stride up

               Black Hill again, never pedal off to the market to do his shopping, much less

               come swooping on his bicycle down the curves of Montacute. The universe has

               contracted to this flat and the block or two around, and it will not expand again.


He now sees himself as ―a diminished man‖ (33). The man he was before, ―[t]he man he used

to be is just a memory, and a memory fading fast. He still has a sense of being a soul with an

undiminished soul-life; as for the rest of him, it is just a sack of blood and bones that he is

forced to carry around‖ (32). When he talks to a visiting friend, and ―tells her about Mrs Putts

the social worker, who has prepared him for the afterlife in all respects save sex‖ (37), he

admits he is unsure whether his body is physically capable of sexual intercourse. He also uses

the word ―afterlife‖ to mark his life with an amputated leg. It is a strange word to use for his

current situation, as it is usually used in the context of dying and life after death.

       He also shows his age when dealing with the son of his nurse, Drago. When Drago is

staying over, he asks Paul for his computer. Drago cannot believe Paul does not have a

modern computer, one that is up to date and more advanced. Paul only uses his computer to

type letters, and says to Drago that ―‗[t]ime will eat you up, Drago. One day you will be

sitting in your nice new house with your nice new wife, and your son will turn around to the

pair of you and say, Why are you so old-fashioned?'‖ (emphasis in novel, 179). Drago replies

by telling Paul about his grandparents, for whom his mother bought a computer and showed

them how to use it. ―So now they can shop on the internet, they can send e-mails, we can send

them pictures. They like it. And they‘re pretty old‖ (179). Paul is unclear what the point of the

story is, and Drago says he can choose. Being sixty-years old is not a reason not to be up to

date with the world. Paul could easily get a computer, he has the money for it, and teach

himself how to use it. However, he chooses not too. He continues to see himself as an old man

and will not adapt.

2.5 Death

        In Slow Man the protagonist Paul Rayment deals with disability after the amputation

of his leg. After the accident, he is moody, and it would not be unexpected were he to

contemplate committing suicide. However, Paul has no immediate wish to die. He is prepared

for it: ―‗I have given plenty of thought to coping, he would tell her [Mrs Putts, hospital

employee].I made my preparations long ago; even if the worst comes to the very worst, I will

be able to take care of myself‖‖ (emphasis in novel, 17). His idea of taking care of himself

means that he has a cache of Somnex in the cabinet in the bathroom of his flat. However, he

will not use this now. ―A leg gone: what is losing a leg, in the larger perspective? In the larger

perspective, losing a leg is no more than a rehearsal for losing everything. Whom is he going

to shout at when that day arrives? Whom is he going to blame?‖ (14-15). Paul sees losing his

leg not as the end of his world. It is the end of his old life, but that does not mean he cannot

continue living. However, it is not as easy as that. It is not a case of not wanting to die; it is

also his indifference, his lack of interest. Christopher Hope says in The Guardian: ―This

infantile state is self-willed; he hasn't merely slowed, he has stalled. The fleshly envelope,

once so protective, has split apart and what awaits is dissolution and death.‖ Paul may not be

suicidal, he is not full of life either:

                Has he given up? Does he want to die? Is that what it comes down to? No. the

                question is false. He does not want to slash his wrists, does not want to swallow

               down four and twenty Somnex, does not want to hurl himself off the balcony.

               He does not want death because he does not want anything. (26)

He says: ―I do not expect a lengthy old age‖ (43). As a sixty-year old man with one amputated

leg, he still has many years ahead of him. But he feels unstrung. ―Unstrung: that is the word

that comes back to him from Homer. The spear shatters the breastbone, blood spurts, the

limbs are unstrung, the body topples like a wooden puppet. Well, his limbs have been

unstrung and now his spirit is unstrung too. His spirit is ready to topple‖ (27). He may not

want anything, but he is not comfortable with his life as it is now. He is indifferent, and this

affects his spirit. Later on he says ―people do die of indifference to the future‖ (58). The

accident on Magill Road marks the beginning of the end for Paul. It did not just force him to

face his old age, but also his mortality. He suddenly has to accept and deal with the fact that

he is ageing and will die one day. The accident acts as a foreshadowing of what is to come, a

first instalment of death: the beginning of the end. This may be a reason why Elizabeth

Costello is in the novel. Her role may be that of a guide, as she also might be seen as a guide

into his rite of passage of ageing. She reminds him he is not immortal on a number of

occasions. ―‗Be advised, Paul: The years go by as quickly as a wink. So enjoy yourself while

you‘re still in the pink. It‘s always later than you think.‘‖ (99). This could be to help him

realise he will have to face death some day and to come to terms with it. Paul himself

considers what dying would be like, what death is like, and why Elizabeth Costello is there:

               The greatest of all secrets may just have unveiled itself to him. There is a

               second world that exists side by side with the first, unsuspected. One chugs

               along in the first for a certain length of time; then the angel of death arrives in

               the person of Wayne Blight or someone like him. For an instant, for an aeon,

               time stops; one tumbles down a dark hole. Then, hey presto, one emerges into a

               second world identical with the first, where time resumes and the action

               proceeds – flying through the air like a cat, the throng of curious onlookers, the

               ambulance, the hospital, Dr Hansen, et cetera – except that one now has

               Elizabeth Costello around one‘s neck, or someone like her. (122)

This would make Elizabeth Costello an angel, a guide to the other world. If she is, she has her

work cut out for her:

               If dying turns out to be nothing but a trick that might as well be a trick with

               words, if death is a mere hiccup in time after which life goes on as before, why

               all the fuss? Is one allowed to refuse it – refuse this deathlessness, this puny

               fate? I want my old life back, the one that came to an end on Magill Road.


Paul is not ready for death yet. He has realised the end is nearing, but is unwilling to let go of

his life as it was. He is not adapting to his new situation and keeps longing for his old life.

2.6 Leaving a Legacy

       After the accident Paul feels the drive to leave a legacy in this world. When his nurse

asks him if he has children, and he replies no, she asks him if he never worried about this

decision. ―On the contrary, I worried about it more and more, particularly as I grew older‖

(42). This indicates that Paul‘s desire for children is not necessarily a recent development.

However, the accident has made him confront what he has done with his life thus far and left

him disappointed with it because he feels he has done nothing of importance. When he is in

hospital, he wonders about his life. ―Yet frivolous is not a bad word to sum him up, as he was

before the event and may still be. If in the course of a lifetime he has done no significant

harm, he has done no good either. He will leave no trace behind, not even an heir to carry his

name‖ (19). He wishes to leave more than his photograph collection as a legacy, especially

when the son of his nurse manipulates one of his photographs. Justin Cartwright says in The

Independent: ―As part of [Paul‘s] renewed contract with life, he also accepts that his precious

photographs have lost their uniqueness in the age of digital photography and fakery‖ (par. 7).

His photograph collection is losing value, and what better legacy than a child, preferably a

son, of his own? To die childless, ―terminating the line, subtracting oneself from the great

work of generation‖ is selfish, miserly, ―[w]orse than miserly, in fact: unnatural‖ (20). A child

can carry on the family line and will not lose its uniqueness:

               His grandparents Rayment had six children. His parents had two. He has none.

               Six, two, one or none: all around him he sees the miserable sequence repeated.

               He used to think it made sense in an overpopulated world, childlessness was

               surely a virtue, like peaceableness, like forbearance. Now, on the contrary,

               childlessness looks to him like madness, a herd madness, even a sin. What

               greater good can there be than more life, more souls? How will heaven be

               filled if the earth ceases to send its cargoes? (34)

Here his Catholic background shows up, even though he does not consider himself a Catholic.

He has been married once, and he regrets the fact that he never had children with his ex-wife:

               He has many regrets, he is full of regrets, they come back nightly like roosting

               birds. Chief among them is regret that he does not have a son. It would be nice

               to have a daughter, girls have an appeal of their own, but the son he does not

               have is the one he truly misses. If he and Henriette had had a son right away,

               while they still loved each other, or were enamoured of each other, or cared for

               each other, that son would be thirty years old by now, a man in his own right.

               Unimaginable perhaps; but the unimaginable is there to be imagined. (44)

The reason why he wants a child, a son, is so that when Paul says ―it [is] time to pass on,‖ his

son ―would understand at once: pass on the burden, pass on the succession, call it a day.

‗Mm,‘ his son would say, William or Robert or whatever, meaning Yes I accept. You have

done your duty, taken care of me, now it is my turn. I will take care of you‖ (44-45). Another

reason why Paul wants a son is to have someone who cares for him, and to leave a legacy in

this world. ―What he wants is a son, a proper son, a son and heir, a younger, stronger, better

version of himself‖ (45). It is as if his son can take his place in the world once he has passed


        There are women in his life, for example his friend Margaret McCord, who are

interested in him. He once had a fling with Margaret after his divorce, and she practically

offers herself to him, but he is uninterested. One of the reasons why Paul is not uninterested is

that Margaret is approximately the same age as him, and thus past child-bearing age. Another

reason is because he has fallen madly in love with the first nurse who takes good care of him:

Marijana Jokić. The fact that she has three children only increases his infatuation. She is

married to Miroslav Jokić, something which Paul does not wish to consider. To him, Marijana

offers the perfect package: she is a nurse and can take care of him and his leg, and she has two

daughters and a son. Her exact age is not mentioned, but it is clear she is younger than Paul,

and is probably still able to bear children. Because of this all Paul is jealous of Marijana‘s


               [Miroslav] Jokić has them all and he has – what? A flat full of books and

               furniture. A collection of photographs, images of the dead, which after his own

               death will gather dust in the basement of a library along with other minor

               bequests more trouble to the cataloguers than they are worth. (51)

        The problem with his sudden urge to procreate is the fact that Paul is sixty years old,

that he is ageing, and this urge is hard to realise. His situation makes him question whether he

can still father children, and where will he find a woman:

               It is not beyond the bounds of the possible to acquire a son, even at this late

               juncture. He could, for instance, locate (but how?) some wayward orphan,

               some Wayne Blight in embryo, and put in an offer to adopt him, and hope to be

               accepted; though the chances that the welfare system, as represented by Mrs

               Putts, would ever consign a child to the care of a maimed and solitary old man

               would be zero, less than zero. Or he could locate (but how?) some fertile young

               woman, and marry her or pay her or otherwise induce her to permit him to

               engender, or try to engender, a male child in her womb. (45)

What he does not take into consideration is that, even more importantly, should he father a

child, a son he so desperately wants, now, he will be ninety by the time his son is thirty. He

wants someone to take care of him now. The best option he has at the moment is to make

Marijana Jokić, and therefore her children, his. If he takes them under his wing, he becomes

the stepfather to Drago, the sixteen-year old son of Marijana. When Elizabeth Costello visits

Paul, she urges him to act upon his desires. ―But then, as the Costello woman keeps telling

him, if he wants to be a father he had better find out about fatherhood as it really is,

fatherhood of the non-mystical kind‖ (189). He does so, and Drago lives with him for a while

and he experiences what it is to be a father. He learns that it is not at all as he thought it would

be, and that the young generation will not always listen to him. However, in the end his desire

for a child is still with him, and takes priority over other things. Elizabeth Costello offers to

take care of him, but he opts out of this. Instead, he seems to be stuck in the situation where

he is infatuated with his married nurse Marijana and her three children. Her family has fixed

his bike for him, and when Elizabeth asks if there is ―space for a passenger, do you think?‖,

Paul replies: ―Space for a child behind the rider, yes. But not for another grown-up‖ (262).

Paul does not want her to take care of him, and is still set on his desire of leaving a legacy.

2.7 Comparison of Protagonists in Slow Man, Disgrace and Age of Iron

       The theme of age is not something new in Coetzee‘s work. In previous novels the

theme was often linked to the politics of South Africa, where he lived. As there are no ties to

South Africa in Slow Man, Coetzee has emigrated to and the novel is set in Australia, the

question is how the theme of age applies in his latest novel. Can it be linked to the politics of

Australia, or has it become a theme in its own right? I will analyse how the theme of age is

handled in Disgrace and Age of Iron and then compare this to Slow Man.

2.7.1 David Lurie in Disgrace

       Coetzee‘s novel Disgrace (1999) also deals with a protagonist who has to come to

terms with his life after two important incidents. Professor David Lurie loses his job as a Cape

Town University because he has had an affair with a student. He moves to the countryside to

live with his daughter Lucy, he is attacked by three black youths. The novel was received with

mixed reviews, as Coetzee depicts black violence: the three youths burn David‘s face and

humiliate and rape his daughter. The novel is set in a post-apartheid South Africa and the

events act as an allegory for what is happening in the country. Concerning the theme of age:

David Lurie is in his early fifties, and as it goes with ageing: he is no longer in control. His

face was injured during the attack, his daughter will not listen to him, and he is forced to give

up sex with attractive women in general. Lurie is also part of the receding generation, very

similar to apartheid. That is to say, the apartheid system has been abolished and the new order

is trying to settle in. He belongs to the older generation, and the new generation, including his

daughter Lucy, are the ones who take over the country. This generation will have to learn to

deal with the new-found status of equality between black and white in South Africa. Lurie is

frustrated with his daughter, because she accepts the rape and is unwilling to report it to the

police, even though he urges her to do so. As a father he has no control over her any more.

Whereas in the beginning he is sexually active – there is the student with whom he has an

affair and a prostitute he visits – in the end he is slowing down. While visiting his daughter in

the countryside he sleeps with the woman who runs an animal shelter and whom he probably

would not have considered as a sexual partner before. ―Let me not forget this day, he tells

himself, lying beside her when they are spent. After the sweet young flesh of Melanie Isaacs

[the student he had an affair with], this is what I have come to. This is what I will have to get

used to, this and even less than this‖ (Disgrace, 150).

       In conclusion it can be said that even though David Lurie is not that old, his power is

diminishing. Physically he is still fit, but his face is no longer as handsome as it once was, and

his control over the things in his life is declining. Sue Kossew writes in her article ―The

Politics of Shame and Redemption in J.M. Coetzee‘s Disgrace‖:

               If sex is a ‗game,‘ as he appears to believe here, then growing old means

               retiring from bodily satisfaction. Ageing men and women are ‗disgraceful,‘

               dissociated from their bodies and from society—they are ‗ugly‘ and his own

               sexual activity is described disparagingly as a ‗man exercising himself on the

               body of a woman.‘ David‘s loss of authority is not confined to his body and its

               sexual activities: he is also intellectually castrated in the ‗emasculated

               institution of learning‘ (4) that is the Cape Technical University, where he is an

               outdated intellectual forced to teach Communications rather than his specialist

               field of modern languages. (157)

Losing the ability to attract women and have intercourse is a sign for David that he is growing

old. As critic Derek Attridge puts it: ―[w]hat [Lurie] experiences is a deeper sense of being

unfit for the times in which he lives‖ (110). His life has changed so dramatically that he feels

he cannot return to the way it was before, and he is forced to come to terms with these


2.7.2 Mrs Curren in Age of Iron

         The protagonist in Coetzee‘s Age of Iron is the elderly Mrs Curren, who is diagnosed

with cancer. The novel takes place in the 1980s, a troubled time in the history of South Africa.

Mrs Curren‘s husband died long ago, and she lives alone in the large house except for her

housekeeper and her cats. She feels disconnected, and is re-evaluating her life. The novel is in

fact a long letter to her daughter, who has moved to the United States of America to escape

apartheid in South Africa. While facing terminal cancer, Mrs Curren opens her eyes to the

situation in South Africa. She sees the world differently and wonders what she can still do in

this apartheid ruled South Africa. When it comes to Coetzee using allegories to compare a

story to politics, this is probably his most direct indictment of the apartheid regime in South

Africa. Her body‘s decay and the apartheid in South Africa are insistently compared in the


         Mrs Curren has her own angel, as she calls Mr Vercueil. He is a vagrant who has taken

up residence outside Mrs Curren‘s house. At first she tries to get rid of him, but in time she

becomes attached and dependent on him. She wonders if he may be ―an angel come to show

me the way‖ (168). In his capacity as a guide Vercueil‘s character is very similar to Elizabeth

Costello‘s character in Slow Man. I will discuss this in Chapter Four, but suffice it to say that

she also acts as a guide for the protagonist of Slow Man. This could either be a guide into the

rite of passage of the aged, or of the after-life, or perhaps both. In Mrs Curren‘s case, Vercueil

is her angel because he takes care of her, and can be seen as her angel of death. In the end she

wonders about this. ―I have fallen and he has caught me. It is not he who fell under my care

when he arrived, I now understand, nor I who fell under his: we fell under each other, and

have tumbled and risen since then in the flights and swoops of that mutual election‖ (196). As

Lawrence Thornton says in The New York Times: ―Mrs. Curren and Mr. Vercueil are thus

harbingers of the caritas that is slowly, even glacially, returning to South Africa. It is not yet

time when ‗mutual election‘ will heal the old wounds, but the process has begun with these

two unlikely avant-gardes‖ (Par. 12).

2.7.3 Paul Rayment, David Lurie and Mrs Curren

       A comparison between the three characters in recent novels by Coetzee, Paul Rayment

in Slow Man, David Lurie in Disgrace, and Mrs Curren in Age of Iron, has interesting results.

All three are educated, two of them even professors. Perhaps this is because they are modelled

on Coetzee himself: an educated university professor. Another similarity with the author

himself is that all three protagonists have been married and divorced at least once. All three

have few close personal friends. Coetzee often writes about solitary men, and this is the case

in these three novels. Few friends come to visit them, and when they do, they are turned down

by the protagonists. The closest friend Lurie seems to have is his ex-wife Rosalinde, who

speaks candidly with him. For Paul it is an ex-lover, whom he is no longer interested in. Mrs

Curren has become a real recluse, no visits of any friends are mentioned, and there is only one

constant: her housekeeper of whom she actually knows very little. Vercueil would be closest

to her, she opens up to him. All three then undergo major events that change their way of life

and their outlook on life. These events also ensure that all three characters feel undignified

and out of control with the events in their lives.

       There is one major difference between Slow Man and Disgrace: David has a daughter,

Lucy, whereas Paul is childless. David turns to Lucy when he loses his job, and focuses on

what remains in his life: his daughter. This is exactly the reason why Paul wants a child: to

have someone to turn to and who will take care of him. David already has this, and indeed

falls back on it when he loses control of everything else. In the end, though, his daughter

refuses his help and will not listen to his advice.

       All three novels deal with a physical injury or disease. In Disgrace and Slow Man the

protagonists accept their fate, as does Mrs Curren in Age of Iron, however, she feels the urge

to undertake action. She is also depressed because of her illness, but she now faces the world

and realises she ought to do something about the state of the country. She helps her

housekeeper‘s son, his friend, and the vagrant Vercueil, but besides them she does not

undertake any major action. Still she does more than the other two protagonists. David and

Paul have faced mortality and accept that they will die, whereas Mrs Curren, who is

terminally ill, is the only one willing to do something.

       The main difference is, as discussed in the two previous paragraphs, that in Disgrace

and Age of Iron the feeling of powerlessness, loss of control, and decay of the body and

society around them, are used as a link to the state of the country of South Africa. The decay

of their bodies and their strength partly serves an allegorical purpose: to act as a parallel to or

a symbol of the decay of the apartheid state or of the white supremacy. In Slow Man decay is

a universal theme in its own right.

2.8 Conclusion

       A number of definitions listed under ―age‖ and ―ageing‖ in the Collins COBUILD can

be applied to the novel. Ageing is often viewed in a negative way, as it is associated with

someone who is diminishing physically and mentally. As Paul Rayment loses his leg, he is

faced with not just the fact that he is ageing, getting older, but also with mortality. Time is

now seen as an enemy, as it is something that consumes the last years of his life. His age is a

problem because he is no longer young. Ageing is associated with the loss of power and

control. He starts to see himself as an old man and is unwilling to adapt. The accident made

him face mortality and it has left him limping. He has no immediate death wish, because he

does not wish for anything. He has become indifferent. He is not adapting to his new situation

and keeps longing for his old life. The accident has left him with a desire to leave a legacy, a

need for children of his own. This wish for a son is quite selfish as he wants somebody to take

care of him. To father a child now would be difficult: can he still father children, and where

will he find a woman? Something he does not consider is that fathering a son right now will

not instantly solve his need for care: a baby cannot take care of him. His best option is

becoming a godfather to someone else‘s child. For a while he takes the son of his nurse into

his home, but this does not work out as he had thought it would. In the end he still holds on to

his wish for a son of his own. His efforts to woo his nurse and try to acquire a family are a

denial of reality. He refuses to recognise he is too old for this and that he should accept his

condition without self-pity.

       When comparing Slow Man to Disgrace and Age of Iron, there are a number of

similarities between the protagonists of these three Coetzee novels. All are educated, solitary

characters who are slowly losing control and grip on the events in their life. This loss of

power and the decay of the body used to act as an allegory for the state of South Africa, but

this is not the case in Slow Man, which is set in Australia. Whereas age and ageing may have

been themes in Coetzee‘s novels before, in Slow Man it is a key theme.

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