Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Part II

Part II of Waiting for the Barbarians introduces the "barbarian girl." The Magistrate's relationship with her is the center focus of this section. One "side event" is when the Magistrate buys the fox club, which may have been intended to give the girl some company. The Magistrate notes that, at first, "she took it with her to the kitchen, but it was terrified by the fire and noise" (34).
The magistrate will "dispose" of it when the fox is old enough, but the fox is not mentioned again in the section, so what exactly is its purpose.
The magistrates inability to domesticate the fox is apparent when he says that "it cannot be house-trained." He calls the fox wild and jokes that "people will say I keep two wild animals in my room, a fox and a girl" (34).
The girl's reaction indicates that she is offended: "her lips close, her gaze settles rigidly on the wall, I know she is doing her best to glare at me" (34).
What is the importance of the fox club to their relationship? Is the fox something like the barbarian girl?

Initial reactions

The magistrate’s relationship with the barbarian girl is a strange one that I still don’t understand.
He is obsessed with knowing what happened to her, when he says “it has been growing more and more clear to me that until the marks on this girl’s body are deciphered and understood I cannot let go of her.” (31) He genuinely seems to care about her when he starts to ask guards about what happened to her, and his bathing her can be seen as an act to clean the barbarian girl of both her scars from the guards and her own barbarianism.
His relationship with her has complicated his views on the Empire. He rants on about how the empire should leave the frontier and let the barbarians have their land to the new officer. The new officer is obviously pro-empire, so why would the magistrate discuss “pro-barbarian” views that he himself isn’t entirely sure of? The discussion still does not clarify what the magistrate’s view are, but it indicates a level of indifference to the subject. He seems to know that what he is doing is detrimental to his reputation, yet he cannot make himself stop taking in favor of the barbarians. As he opens up, he says that he feels a “barrier between the military and the civilian,” so are these views that most of the civilians living on the frontier share?
After all of this, then why does he take her back to the barbarians? She had indicated that she missed her sister, but she had never talked about returning. She seems to have grown accustomed to the way of life in the frontier, and she has even made friends with the other woman. When she is finally taken away, she tells him that she didn’t even want to go back in the first place. The magistrate regrets his actions, wishing he would have spent more time with her. He realizes that she was a “witty” girl, and he almost feels “proud” of her, yet he lets her leave.
Their relationship is like one that many barbarian women have had with other officers; however, their relationship is still different as it is complicated, and it is the most interesting part of the story so far.