"All autobiography is storytelling, all writing is autobiography" : Autobiography and the Theme of Otherness in J.M. Coetzee's Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life

by Fredman, Jenny

Abstract (Summary)
Boyhood: Scenes from provincial life by J.M. Coetzee tells the story about John Coetzee from the age of ten until thirteen. Since many details in the story point to the idea that the protagonist might be the author, it is often said to be an autobiography. However, it is not a conventional one. A third person narrator tells the story in the present tense, which is rather different from the autobiographiy’s conventional first person narrator speaking in the past tense. The definition used in order to define the genre to which Boyhood belongs is Lejeune’s criterion author=narrator=protagonist. According to this theory, Boyhood is a biography. However, Lejeune does not take the connection author=protagonist inte sonsideration, but focuses only on the connection narrator=protagonist. Thus an additional description of the text’s generic style must be used.Furthermore, the theme of otherness is analysed. A close reading of the novel shows that the protagonist often feels different from his family and peers. He makes a distinction between two kinds of different – a good and a bad kind. The good means that he is better than his peers, and the bad kind means that he has failed to accomplish something he thinks is important.Although the author wrote the story about his boyhood in a rather unconventional style and the protagonist perceives himself as different, the otherness in the two do not parallel each other. What they might have in common is perfectionism. Thus, the theme of otherness is only to be found in the protagonist, whereas the author’s style of writing is merely unconventional.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Växjö universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:coetzee boyhood autobiography


Date of Publication:06/14/2007

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