Disgrace, By J. M. Coetzee Essay

2242 words - 9 pages

This paper aims to investigate some aspects of postcolonialism, feminism, as well as symbolism, allegories and metaphors. For this purpose I have chosen the novel Disgrace (1999) by J.M Coetzee. The story takes place in Cape Town, in post-apartheid South Africa. David Lurie is a white man and works as a professor of English at a technical university. He is a ‘communication’ lecturer and he teaches ‘romantic literature’ too. Lurie is divorced two times already and one gets the impression that he is not really satisfied with his job. His "disgrace" comes when he makes attempts to seduce Melanie Isaacs, one of his students, against her will. This affair is then remitted to the school ...view middle of the document...

Moreover, we learn that David regularly visits the prostitute Soraya. It is a good opportunity for him to feel good, since the woman ‘obeys’ and fulfills his wishes. Nonetheless some feminists might classify prostitution as a form of rape because the man exploits the woman. We can agree on that also David merely sees the women as an object. Could this be one of the reasons why he is divorced twice?

To escape his problems, David takes refuge at his daughter Lucy’s farm in the Eastern Cape. She is homosexual and used to live together with Helen, her former girlfriend. One day, when returning from a walk with the dogs, Lurie and his daughter come across three unknown, dark-skinned men and one threatens the dogs in the cages with a stick.
Lucy’s question to the men, ‘’What do you want?’’, indicates her fear (p.92). Their reply ‘We must telephone.’, is quite vague and it is not sure if they are honest people. However, when Lucy is kind enough to let one man into the house, it turns out that the trio planned to attack David and his daughter. Lurie’s face is severely burnt and Lucy is raped. Despite this trauma that she apparently suffered, she refuses to advise he police of the assault. She is willing to sacrifice herself for the damage, that the Whites inflicted on the Africans in the colonies. She reduces the crime to a robbery. Or we may add that the desecrators acted to take revenge on the white people.
Lucy, who has the attributes of the modern, independent, emancipated young woman in almost clichéd manner, negates everything that has been making her life so far and that had identified her as a member of the Western civilization. The attack changes Lucy’s attitude towards the dynamics between men and women as well. She accepts her cruel fate without moaning and she takes very confusing decisions.
Bearing in mind that the woman is homosexual, the biggest surprise comes, when she wants to marry Petrus - a man who helps her occasionally at the farm - after getting pregnant on account of the rape. In her opinion, he could give a feeling of security to her and the baby, who she wishes to keep. When her father asks her if she really wants a child from one of the intruders, Lucy says ‘’yes’’ with the frugal justification: ‘‘I am a woman, David’’ (p.198).
Another characteristic trait of postcolonialism is that Lucy doesn’t want to, and cannot get rid of the insight, that her privileged, civilized, European and ‘white’ existence in South Africa came to an end.
Actually, she wants her child to grow up in the society of the dark-skinned neighbors and sees this as a good starting point for a new beginning.
When Lurie returns to Cape Town after weeks, he finds that his house was forced open and looted. He regards this incident as a reparation that should be entitled to the for the harm of the apartheid. The Africans destroyed in order to obtain submission and subjugation from the Caucasians.

Regarding the poststructuralist questioning, I may argue...

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