The concept of deconstruction

The concept of “deconstruction” was introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Later, deconstruction was developed to interrogate the assumptions of Western thought by reversing or displacing the binary oppositions that provide its foundation. (Shen, 2012) To deconstruct colonial discourse is not simply a process of expelling colonizers but more importantly reconstructing the cultural code that the colonial discourse imposed upon the colonized. Therefore, to deconstruct colonial discourse involves breaking the binary oppositions built up by the colonizers. In order to achieve this, Coetzee sets up a group of contrasting images between the colonizers and the barbarians. The barbarians, who are said to do evil things are depicted as peace-loving people. While the Empire, the civilized part, the representation of the justice, is responsible for the extrajudicial killings, custodial death and torture during interrogation. The remote frontier town used to be a quiet and self-sufficient place, where the nomadic people came regularly to trade for goods. The prison cells were of no use before the arrival of Colonel Joll. The contrasts between the Empire and the barbarians consequently lead to the reconsideration of who is really civilized.
To reveal the true face to the colonizers, Coetzee describes the brutal torture. The uncle and nephew who come for medical care are imprisoned for no reason. The uncle dies mysteriously and is convicted attacking the police as an excuse for the soldiers to exculpate themselves. While the nephew is tortured by a knife and suffers greatly so that he has no other choices but to admit that their tribe is planning war. “Pain is the truth; all else is subject yo doubt.”(Coetzee, 1982: 5) The dehumanized torture has also been applied on the barbarian girl and her father, and later even the magistrate himself. However, the barbarians do nothing evil, they never appear, even after the Empire army fails to repress the barbarians and abandoned the town. And meanwhile, Coetzee bitterly rebukes the duality of the relationship between the barbarian and civilization by making civilization the extremist, the most brutal barbarian, whereas making the barbarian the original, natural, essential civilization. This contrast leads to the reassessment of the colonial value and the deconstruction of the colonial discourse.
The deconstruction force also comes from inside the colonial system by depicting the changing side of the imperial magistrate. At first the old magistrate was a representative and upholder of the law and regulations of the Empire. Although he showed sympathy to the barbarians, he almost turned a blind eye on Colonel Joll’s brutal torture. More or less, he was standing on Joll’s side and he involved in the torture by encouraging the boy to tell Joll the truth: “Listen, you must tell the officer the truth[…]Once he is sure you are telling the truth he will not hurt you”(Coetzee, 1980: 7) Later, he rescued a barbarian girl and lived with her out of curiosity rather than sympathy. His obsession with her body gradually made him realize the resemblance between Colonel Joll and himself, being a torturer in a sense. He starts a journey to the barbarian’s territory to send the girl back to her people. When he is imprisoned by the Third Bureau, he completely alters his position and realizes the darkness of the Empire and the innocence of the barbarians. He accuses Colonel Joll as an obscene torturer who deserves to be hung.(Coetzee, 1982:72) After Joll fails to repress the barbarians and flees, the old magistrate distances himself from the imperialism by saying he and Joll are two sides of imperial rule. (Coetzee, 1982:133) The negation to the Empire from an imperial magistrate is a powerful force to subvert the colonial discourse constructed by the Empire. The internal subversion of colonial discourse along with the breaking down of the binary oppositions created by the Empire successfully deconstructs the colonial discourse in the novel.
In Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee first constructs the colonial discourse by describing the Empire fabricating fake images of the barbarians to prove their justice to conquer the nomads. But in a silent way, Coetzee subverts the unequal relationship by deconstructing the colonial discourse, breaking the binary oppositions created by the Empire and resisting colonial discourse from inside of the colonial system. People wait for the barbarians but the barbarians never appear. The barbarians are invisible; the barbarians never exist; the barbarians are created. The real “barbarians” are the colonizers from the Empire and their barbaric values that supported the Empire’s brutal movements. Lack of specific location of time and space for the settings, Coetzee seems to imply that this kind of tragedy can happen at any time, at any place in the world, not only South Africa in particular. Through this novel, Coetzee is calling for attention to struggle against colonial discourse, to ease the contradiction between the colonizers and the subalterns, and to pursue equality for all mankind.

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