Analyzes on “Waiting for the Barbarians”
The main character in the story of Waiting for the Barbarians is the magistrate who for years has governed an unnamed colonial frontier, living among the native peoples but not living with them. He governed generously and judiciously. He says, “Of course one cannot be sure. But even if they are lying, how can they be of use to you, simple people like that?” when he sees Colonel Joll wants to question these barbarians (4). He was comfortable in his role as magistrate and the native peoples of the area had learned to adapt to him. However, with the arrival of Colonel Joll at the beginning of the novel, all this begins to change: not only is the magistrate's position and authority damaged, he is also forced to begin viewing himself and his world in radically different ways. Gradually the magistrate begins to see what he had not been able or willing to see before: the peoples he had long governed, but had never known. He begins to see the social injustices as well as the personal tragedies caused by a cruel colonial regime. Therefore, we see the transformation of the magistrate who used to be loyal to the Empire without doubt.
Post Colonialism often analyses what happens to individuals when they are exposed to oppression by unknown people. The terms which frequently occur in post-colonial literature are self and other; the oppressor and the oppressed. Under colonial conditions some are the masters and the others are the servants; some have the power and the others are totally powerless, and in this story that’s what we exactly see.
The Magistrate’s double position is stated in the beginning of the novel. The Magistrate was belonged to the Empire who dominates indigenous regions. He develops the other personality and see things from the barbarians’ perspective when the day Colonel Joll appears (1). He doubts what civilization really is when he sees the Empire ...