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Life and Times of Michael K by John Maxwell Coetzee - Book Report/Review Example

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Life and Times of Michael K by John Maxwell Coetzee

Nowhere is the writer's linguistic problem properly captured than in the Life and Times of Michael K. The speaker whose language (English) is the product of oppression is not a proper medium for the expression of the experience of the oppressed). Therefore Coetzee makes Michael almost incapable of proper use of language. Thus, in spite of the fact he is the central character in the novel we know very little about him. This lack of information about the identity of Michael becomes matter of permanent curiosity and thus language communicates by its absence. According to Scott Bishop: "Coetzee, as a writer, is morally compelled to speak at the same time he is aware of the suspect nature of representation, authorial voice, and even language."(56) Apart from this problem, silence becomes a rhetorical devise and opens up opportunity for endless discussion on Michael. Michael symbolically is also the silenced tongue of the natives; the colonial language destroyed the growth of the local languages and literature is a frequent theme in post-colonial literature. When the whites ruled the blacks, the compulsory silence of the oppressed and their fate in the new lands , finds voice in the post-colonial literature. ...
bout him is directly told: "The first thing the midwife noticed about Michael K when she helped him out of his mother into the world was that he had a hare lip The harelip is an emblem of otherness and "natural inferiority." The harelip functions as a rhetorical symbol of his inability to produce the proper language. Surprisingly the doctor notices that it could have been fixed. But it is worn in the novel as the symbol of his being different. The westernized Africans have become like their colonial masters because they have the same language. Michael remains different, as he is incapable of producing the Standard English sounds. He also gets removed quickly from the normal school and finds the place in the school for afflicted children who are on state charity. The school had lot of handicapped and feeble-minded children and he is quickly mistaken to be a simpleton.
This assumption of Michael is not correct. He could repair a damaged radio and carry his mother in a cart instead of waiting desperately for help from the government. Surprisingly we find him reading magazines. He has little respect for any type of paper work and refuses to sign documents. Incidentally, when he refused to sign a document relating to his mother's death, another man "in a suit and tie" signs it for him. His refusal to sign and the readiness to sign an unauthorized documents by one who wears the badge of European civilization (suit and tie) is actually the ultimate communication that calls in question the institutions of the white man where faithfulness to letter is more important than to the spirit of the law. The signing of a document is the sign of approval by the responsible person. It is not a ritual. In the English law forgery was a serious crime. But the official has no notion ...Show more

Summary

J.M.Coetzee, in his novels, shows the political and moral side of the colonial experience (apartheid springs from the colonial past) in South Africa. He was an Afrikaner and was born in the days of apartheid. His membership in the privileged community would make his speaking for the blacks less convincing as he had not experienced the fate of the typical black…
Author : melvinhirthe
Life and Times of Michael K by John Maxwell Coetzee essay example
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