Waiting for the Barbarians Essay

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It is a common thing: an innocent, kind, humane person joins the military, goes to war, and comes back as a psychological disaster. They either become paranoid, depressed, anything to this nature. However, there are also individuals who go to war with prior psychological conditions. In J.M. Coetzee’s novel “Waiting for the Barbarians”, is reflective of these two situations. In the novel, war breaks out between an Empire and a group of nomads, the barbarians. In between all of this, is the protagonist, the magistrate, a man with a position of power in the military, who opposes the war. Much like actual war, there is an array of different psychological disorders portrayed through the characters, with some characters having disorders before…show more content…
When the magistrate questions Colonel Joll’s inhumane acts of interrogation, Joll replies that torture only plays into situations “in which I am probing for the truth, in which I have to exert pressure to find it… I get lies, then pressure, then more lies, then more pressure, then the break, then more pressure, then the truth” (Coetzee 5). Colonel Joll firmly believes that the truth will not be given until it is the prisoner’s only option. It is in Colonel Joll’s true character to find the truth, even if it requires beating the prisoner until they are in enough pain to surrender. It is this sociopathic nature that makes Colonel Joll a master at his job. In his article, “When the Personality Disorder Wears Camouflage”, Carey Benedict tells the story of Steven Green, an Army private who was responsible for leading an attack on an innocent Iraqi family, raping and executing their daughter and murdering the parents. It was later found that Green suffered from antisocial personality disorder. Benedict says of this disorder, “Antisocial behavior is characterized by reckless irresponsibility, habitual lying and an indifference to the suffering of others” (Benedict ). In the case of Green, his disregard for the suffering of others lead him to murder that family without remorse. Just as Green displays these traits, Colonel Joll does, as well. It is evident from his attitude towards using torture as an interrogation method that Colonel
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