Mrs. Curren in Age of Iron
Mrs. Curren’s advancement of education is fortified by ethnocentric mothering and her former vocation of teacher and professor of Latin. Education features prominently in the long letter Mrs. Curren pens for her daughter. Much of the letter reports on the mother’s utter dismay and despair with the degenerating state of her dying body, cruelly mimicking that of South African schools and society. Child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein fashions the mother’s address as a key mechanism by which the baby’s internal drive to know is activated and formed. She terms this drive to know the (m)other the epistemophilic instinct. Coetzee’s pedagogical use of the long-form letter in Age of Iron deploys transference summoning authorial and readerly feelings of child-parent relations. The mothers’ fights over the children highlight the onto-epistemological breech bitterly dividing the interest, labor, and role of each in a racist society.