Literature Study GuidesWaiting For The Barbarians

Waiting for the Barbarians | Study Guide

J.M. Coetzee

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Course Hero. "Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide." Course Hero. 5 Nov. 2018. Web. 6 July 2020. <>.

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Course Hero. (2018, November 5). Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 6, 2020, from

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Course Hero. "Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide." November 5, 2018. Accessed July 6, 2020.


Course Hero, "Waiting for the Barbarians Study Guide," November 5, 2018, accessed July 6, 2020,



J.M. Coetzee

Year published






Perspective and Narrator

Waiting for the Barbarians is narrated from the first-person perspective of the unnamed magistrate. All the novel's events are filtered through the lens of this unreliable narrator. The narrator's views on the Empire and barbarism change drastically over the course of the novel.


Waiting for the Barbarians is narrated in the present tense.

About the Title

Waiting for the Barbarians references the novel's townsfolk waiting for an impending attack from the barbarians rumored to be circling their gates. As they wait, panic spreads, bringing out the citizens' own barbarism as they descend into distrust and torture of outsiders, including nomads and fisherfolk. The title suggests that the townsfolk need not have waited for the barbarians. They were there all along.


This study guide for J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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