Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
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Alexis Beetar
A Discussion of Symbolism in the Works of J.M. Coetzee
The Road to Justice: The Nuremberg Trials and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
 
J.M. Coetzee
John Maxwell Coetzee, is a South African author who uses many forms of symbolism, characterization and foreshadowing in his novels to represent the political situation of South Africa during the years of apartheid and thereafter. Coetzee has written many novels that explore the political conflict between blacks and whites in South Africa and the reversal of power between these two races, pre and post—apartheid. His novels express social conditions on many levels, making his writing powerful and profound with great symbolic meaning. In his novel Disgrace, the main theme is the reversal of power after apartheid and the feelings of having to live under a different government. Coetzee, however, includes the issues of human worth, parenthood, sexuality and survival as levels of emotion that this main central theme influences. Throughout his novels there are common characters, themes and useage of unmarred symbolism representing his personal opinion of apartheid in South Africa.

Germany and South Africa had similar oppressive governments which established unfair polices of supremacy that violated the human rights of different ethnicities and religions. The Nuremberg Trials and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressed these violations by trial and punishment, and reconciliation and forgiveness, respectively. After World War II, the Allied nations came to an agreement that the Nazi war criminals had to stand trial in order for justice to be served and for the appropriate punishment. Hence, the Nuremberg Trials took place. Similarly, many people had suffered gross violations of human rights in South Africa during the years of apartheid rule. After the democratic elections in 1994, when a new government came into power, it promoted a campaign to help South Africans heal the wounds of the past and to attempt to live as one, united, nation peacefully and without discrimination. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to achieve these goals and to obtain justice and promote reconciliation whilst not serving as a form of punishment.

Major Works Consulted:

Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. New York: Penguin, 1999.
---. Age of Iron. New York: Penguin, 1998.
Meredith, Martin. Coming to Terms South Africa’s Search for Truth. New York: Public Affairs, 1999.
Rice, Earle Jr. The Holocaust Library: Nazi War Criminals. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1998.
Photo Credit:Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. New York: Penguin, 1999.
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