Waiting for the Barbarians Questions and Answers
by J. M. Coetzee

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How does the barbarian girl transform the Magistrate? What does she help him realize that he could not before her arrival?

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At the beginning of the novel, the Magistrate is a respected man in his community. He serves an Empire he understands to be generally worthy of his service and loyalty. It is only when Joll brings a group of nomads to the town—including the girl he later takes in—and tortures them brutally for "information," that the Magistrate begins to realize that his Empire is an instrument of evil. This is the first point at which the Magistrate's eyes are opened.

His relationship with the girl, however, whom he finds blind and begging on the street, leads him into a journey of self-analysis which helps him understand the cruelties of the Empire on a far deeper level. At first, he tells...

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