Reading J. M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country, I was continuously reminded of the protagonist’s poverty. And by poverty I not only mean economically but also emotionally. Here we have a young girl abandoned and alone with the death of her father, which not only leaves her in want of money and sustenance but also a need to be loved and appreciated. She loses control of her servants and cannot sustain the farm to provide food and money. But her loneliness and longing to be loved is more important in driving this story in which she references countless times. One such reference includes her longing for a husband and that if she would find one it would make her emotional poverty disappear: “If only I had a good man to sleep at my side, and give me babies, all would be well, I would perk up and learn to smile, my limbs would fill out, my skin glow, and the voice inside my head stutter and stumble into silence” (40). Unfortunately, no such husband presents himself, and she is forced to accept shallow, unloving sexual intercourse from the servant Hendrick, who does not so much as even look at her during the act not to mention love her. When the servants finally leave her alone on the farm she resorts to trying to gain companionship from the twelve-year-old messenger boy, who promptly runs off at her mention of sex.
As an English colonist to South Africa, she has endured great hardship not only financially but also emotionally. Her situation helps attest to the weakening of the British Imperialism of the mid to late 20th Century. With other colonist like her enduring hard times and unable to not only cope with harsh financial situations but also the emotional hardships of being alone in a strange land, the influence of Britain on their colonies would indeed wane and give rise to growing independence movements in South Africa and elsewhere.