J. M. Coetzee's Childhood Essay

723 Words3 Pages
In his Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, J. M. Coetzee provides his readers with his own portrait of the artist as a young man. Like James Joyce, Coetzee depicts himself as a boy trying to find himself, to adjust to his society, to come to terms with his parents, and to lay the groundwork for his future career as a writer and an academic. The book focuses on Coetzee’s life from the age of ten to thirteen, formative years marked by an awakening sexuality, a love-hate relationship with his smothering mother, a fascination with literature, and a sense of his alienation and isolation from his classmates.

Narrated in the third person, the book provides readers with a slice of an autobiography, but a very selective and crafted one. While the book proceeds chronologically, Coetzee tampers with time to create a sense of fiction: Certain themes recur regularly, events foreshadow others, and Coetzee is at once a real boy and a symbol of the
…show more content…
His home is a “box,” where he is trapped by an ineffective father and a self-sacrificing, smothering mother. Caught between them, his allegiance wavers, and he vacillates, first betraying his mother by joining his father in criticizing her, and then ultimately rejecting his father. He hates his father’s personal habits and states that he does not want to have a father. For Coetzee, his father is an “appendage” outside the family core. His dislike of his father is also fueled by his father’s limitations: While his father is an attorney, was a soldier, and played rugby and cricket, Coetzee states that, in each case, “there is an embarrassing qualification,” since all these attributes are followed by “but.” These early declarations prepare readers for the father’s later decline when his legal practice fails and he goes into
Open Document