What is the relationship between the barbarian girl and the magistrate in Waiting for the Barbarians?

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copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between the magistrate and the barbarian girl is certainly complicated. It begins simply enough in that the barbarian girl is assigned the task of cleaning up the magistrate's rooms. Although she does a poor job of completing this task, the magistrate keeps that to himself and endures the presence of the girl, at first out of pity and then out of selfishness. Although the magistrate wants to see her as more than just a barbarian and desperately wants to see her as human, he cannot quite allow himself to do this out of fear of what others might think, say, or do. The magistrate tries to walk a fine line between these two worlds, privately engaging the girl in a friendly way all the while dismissing her and her peoples publicly. However, the sexual relationship that develops between the two further complicates the matter and the magistrate is left wondering if he is now as evil as anyone on either side of this great culture war.

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Waiting for the Barbarians

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