OctoStudy Literature
Print Сite this

Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”


The study of literary works of various epochs and times can provide valuable information about the problems of society at that time. This is due to the fact that many authors have thus made an attempt to spread awareness about existing issues. Thus, this academic paper aims to review the work of J. M. Coetzee, “Waiting for the Barbarians.” The main analyzed problem that will be raised in this study is the manifestation of violence and terror seen in the colonial system. The very title of the work, “Waiting for the Barbarians,” already indicates that there may be an aspect of violence in the work. At that time, barbarians were associated with uneducated and cruel people. Furthermore, even before starting reading, the reader can roughly imagine what moods and events this book contains.

Main body

Therefore, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the main plot of the literary work under study. The central aspect of this story is that the violence and horror that took place in the colonies are viewed through the prism of a conflicted representative of that established culture. The events of the work take place in a colony separated from the rest of the world. The name of the narrator is not reported to readers but only bears the name of the empire. The main action takes place in a village dominated by various kinds of racism and power struggles.

The conflict between different strata of society manifests itself from the very beginning of the work. It often manifests itself in the expression of negative attitudes and violence towards other people, which is an unhealthy and incorrect reaction to the division in society. Further, the primary character is a magistrate working at an outpost on the outskirts of the empire (Coetzee 1). Consequently, his colleagues prefer to think that barbarians are one of the main threats to society. This is due to the fact that these people can often not work and earn money because of their alcohol policy. However, the narrator accuses people of drinking and, as it were, encourages the reformation opinion of such individuals. Violence and horror are also manifested in the author’s description of the fact that women were subjected to these actions most often. They fell asleep with fear of being humiliated by barbaric men. Thus, the author makes an attempt to show the reader the seriousness of the problem under study.

In addition, violence is an effective way to worsen someone’s life with this kind of negative attitude. Hence, in a colonial village, people can provide information about how not all people are against violence. Moreover, the author also shows the differences between consent and denial of action, which is important in everyday life. It is also noted that not all people are subjected to various kinds of violence.

Therefore, this approach to the disclosure of the topic is justified by the fact that this work is a direct representation of the state in which South Africa was during apartheid. It is worth emphasizing that the most important distinguishing feature that is noted when reading the work is the mixing of various backgrounds and types of violence. Henceforth, there is psychological and physical violence, which should be stopped, and awareness of the problem should be spread (Gordon 1719). Violence, as such, should violence be the most important theme of the novel. In addition, a literary work carries a deeper subtext than it may actually seem.

Moreover, it is worth noting that the work under study represents the characteristic features of the author’s work. Thus, many of Coetzee’s works have a fairly large number of descriptions of violence against the lower representatives of society. A distinctive feature of “Waiting for the Barbarians” is that it considers this problem from the side of those who are subjected to cruel actions and does not carry them out. Therefore, the central aspect becomes the emotions that individuals experience and how they interpret what is happening to them. The main emotions that arise when confirming violence are pain and suffering. Moreover, the author prescribes the simplest and most banal features to those who commit violence, showing the absence of a strong gap between some representatives of the lower and upper classes. Consequently, the main character of this work protests against the unfair treatment of such barbarians. Even thought, the state itself does not attempt to go beyond Apathy. However, they are seen by the empire as a hostile tribe planning an attack on the outpost and the empire itself.


In conclusion, it is worth saying that violence and horror permeate the entire novel, making the reader feel uneasy. This is due in places to excessive depictions of violent acts. Moreover, a distinctive and unique feature of the work under study was the fact that the basis is not the act of the act itself but its consequences and how they affect individuals. In addition, the author skillfully betrays the emotions felt by the work’s heroes, influencing the oppressed and those aware of others’ brutal treatment.

Works Cited

Coetzee, John Maxwell. Waiting for the Barbarians. Text Publishing, 2019.

Gordon, Steven Lawrence. “Waiting for the Barbarians: A Public Opinion Analysis of South African Attitudes towards International Migrants.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 40, no. 10, 2017, pp. 1700-1719.

Cite this paper
Select style


OctoStudy. (2023, April 6). Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”. Retrieved from https://octostudy.com/violence-and-terror-in-waiting-for-the-barbarians/


OctoStudy. (2023, April 6). Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”. https://octostudy.com/violence-and-terror-in-waiting-for-the-barbarians/

Work Cited

"Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”." OctoStudy, 6 Apr. 2023, octostudy.com/violence-and-terror-in-waiting-for-the-barbarians/.

1. OctoStudy. "Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”." April 6, 2023. https://octostudy.com/violence-and-terror-in-waiting-for-the-barbarians/.


OctoStudy. "Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”." April 6, 2023. https://octostudy.com/violence-and-terror-in-waiting-for-the-barbarians/.


OctoStudy. 2023. "Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”." April 6, 2023. https://octostudy.com/violence-and-terror-in-waiting-for-the-barbarians/.


OctoStudy. (2023) 'Violence and Terror in “Waiting for the Barbarians”'. 6 April.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on OctoStudy, request the removal.