DISGRACE (1999) by J. M. Coetzee
Reading Guide & Resources UNDER CONSTRUCTION!
Cora Agatucci, HUM 211 Course Pack - Fall 2004 & Fall 2007


"Coetzee" is pronounced something like "coot-SEE-uh"

J. M. Coetzee (b. 1940, Cape Town, South Africa)
"who in innumerable guises portrays
the surprising involvement of the outsider"
was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.

“Coetzee's work runs like a high-tension cable across an inhospitable South African landscape. . . .
"In the dystopian novel
Disgrace, David Lurie does not achieve creativity and freedom until,
stripped of all dignity, he is afflicted by his own shame and history's disgrace.  In this work, Coetzee summarises his themes: race and gender, ownership and violence, and the moral and political complicity of everyone in that borderland where the languages of liberation and reconciliation carry no meaning.”
"Dear John Coetzee . . . You are a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on your own,
starting with the basic words for our deepest concerns. Unsettling and surprising us, you have dug deeply into the ground of the human condition with its cruelty and loneliness. You have given a voice to those outside the hierarchies of the mighty. With intellectual honesty and density of feeling, in a prose of icy precision, you have unveiled the masks of our civilization and uncovered the topography of evil.”
-- Per Wästberg (Writer & Member of the Swedish Academy).
“The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003.” Presentation Speech, Stockholm Concert Hall.
Nobel e-Museum
. Swedish Academy, Nobel Foundation, 2003:

Not only is the Nobel Prize in Literature "the supreme acknowledgment of literary talent.
It also recognizes the moral integrity and universal significance of one's work. . . .
Coetzee has been concerned with important moral issues . . ., including apartheid and race relations in his native South Africa, human rights, animal rights, and social and political injustice. . . . He is also widely respected for his intellectual courage and honesty in posing such questions as, 'What do we do in the face of terror?' and for suggesting the devastating truth that lies in the possible answers to those questions."
--David Draper Clark, Editor's Note: J. M. Coetzee Special Section. World Literature Today 78.1 (Jan.-April 2004): 3-5 (3pp). Academic Search Premier (11810867). EBSCOhost.
Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 6 Sep. 2004.

During a live broadcast on the Jim Lehrer News Hour the day the Nobel laureate was announced, Ariel Dorfman, Chilean writer and friend of J. M. Coetzee, remarked:
"'He strips bear the human contemporary conditions. He explores the very bleak landscape of the human soul in our times and does so with . . . radiance, luminosity, tenderness. . [Coetzee] doesn't lie. He doesn't lie about himself. He doesn't lie about the human condition.
He doesn't lie about his characters. He goes to the depth of what we are as human beings--men, women, beggars, princes.'"
--quoted by David Draper Clark.

See J. M. Coetzee Biography
URL: http://web.cocc.edu/cagatucci/classes/hum211/CoursePack/coetzee.htm


Disgrace, Coetzee's eighth novel published in 1999, is set in post-apartheid South Africa of the 1990s.
Dustjacket synopsis:
"David Lurie, middle-aged and twice divorced, is a scholar fallen into disgrace. After years teaching Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, he has an impulsive affair with a student. The affair sours; he is denounced and summoned before a committee of inquiry. Willing to admit his guilt, but refusing to yield to pressure to repent publicly, he resigns and retreats to an isolated smallholding owned by his daughter Lucy.
       "For a time, his daughter's influence and the natural rhythms of the farm promise to harmonise his discordant life. He helps with the dogs in the kennels, takes produce to market, and assists with treating injured animals at a nearby refuge.
       "But the balance of power in the country is shifting. He and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings into relief all the faultlines in their relationship.
        "Chilling, uncompromising and unforgettable, Disgrace is a masterpiece."
--Middlemiss, Perry. "1999 Booker Prize." Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 2002. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/prizes/booker/booker1999.html>.

“In Disgrace Coetzee involves us in the struggle of a discredited university teacher to defend his own and his daughter’s honour in the new circumstances that have arisen in South Africa after the collapse of white supremacy. The novel deals with a question that is central to his works: Is it possible to evade history?”
--"The Nobel Prize in Literature: John Maxwell Coetzee.”  Press Release, 2 Oct. 2003.  The Permanent Secretary, Swedish Academy. Nobel e-Museum. Nobel Foundation, 2004. 21 August 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2003/press.html>.

Background on South Africa & Apartheid
Under Construction!

"Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela." [Biography of Nelson Mandela.]
http://www.anc.org.za/people/mandela.html - do correct MLA BIB!!

Blyn, Sara. "Apartheid Literature." Fall 2001. Post Colonial Studies at Emory. Ed. Deepika Bahri (Dept. of English, Emory Univ., Atlanta, GA). 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/apartlit.html>.

Noguchi, Mai. "Apartheid." Fall 2000. Post Colonial Studies at Emory. Ed. Deepika Bahri (Dept. of English, Emory Univ., Atlanta, GA). 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/apart.html>.

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David Lurie: The protagonist of Disgrace is a twice-divorced 52-year-old professor at the Technical University of Cape Town at the novel’s opening. The changed emphasis of the university from liberal arts to technical education finds the aging scholar, whose specialization was Romantic poets, teaching introductory “Communications” courses, which Lurie despises. After university authorities learn of his affair with Melanie, one of his students, Lurie pleads guilty to the charge of sexual harassment but refuses to apologize and must leave the university in disgrace.  Lurie goes to stay with his daughter Lucy on her small landholding in the Eastern Cape, although their relationship has been strained since Lurie and Lucy’s mother divorced some years earlier.

Soraya: Discreet Escorts prostitute whom David Lurie has been visiting on Thursday afternoons, thinking he has “solved the problem of sex rather well” (1), at the beginning of the novel.

Melanie Isaacs: A 20-year-old (45) student in Prof. Lurie’s Romantics course at Technical University of Cape Town who passively engages in an affair with her professor.

Mr. Isaacs: Melanie’s father, a “small, stoop-shouldered” man (37-38) who lives in George, town in the Eastern Cape which is near Lucy’s small farm in the Eastern Cape.

Rosalind: David Lurie’s ex-wife, from whom he’s been apart for 8 years at the beginning of the novel, but with whom he is growing to be friends again (43). (Lucy’s mother? – see p. 12! See pp. 43-45…

Lucy: David Lurie’s daughter—“sole issue of his first marriage” (43)--in her mid-twenties, ekes out a meager living on a small farm in the Eastern Cape, by managing dog kennels and selling flowers and vegetables at the local market, with the help of Petrus, her black neighbor. A lesbian whose former partner Helen has left the farm, Lucy is voluntarily celibate and works hard along side her black neighbors when her father seeks refuge with her following his “disgrace” in Cape Town. David has always felt for her "the most spontaneous, most unstinting love" (76), and wonders at Lucy's independence and decidedly different life of "dogs, gardening, astrology books, and asexual clothes (89).

Katy: Abandoned "old bulldog bitch," in "mourning," that Lucy kennels on her farm (78).

Petrus: Black neighbor who lives in the stables and helps Lucy with her small farm in the Eastern Cape. "By Eastern Cape standards he is a man of substance": a Land Affairs grant enabled him to buy land, he shares a dam with Lucy, he has a cow about to calve, "two wives, or a wife and girlfriend," and may soon be able to "get a second grant to put up a house" (77).

Bev Shaw, described as “a dumpy, bustling little woman with black freckles, close-cropped, wiry hair, and no neck” (72), is Lucy's friend and another "animal lover" who voluntarily runs a Grahamstown animal clinic. With no medicine and few supplies, she can do little for most animals brought to her clinic of "last resort, except give them "lethal" and a gentle death (84, 83).

Bill Shaw is Bev Shaw’s good husband.

Ettinger: Lucy's neighbor is "a surly old man who speaks English with a marked German accent"; his wife dead and his children gone back to Germany, "he is the only one [of his family] left in Africa" and carries a Beretta with him everywhere because "'the police are not going to save you, not any more, you can be sure'" (100).


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COMMENTARY - get rid of? or. . . ???

Narration, Point of View:
"The novel employs free-indirect discourse to such an extent that it is, in effect, a first person narrative. . . . Trapped in a selfish, egocentric subjectivity, fifty-two-year-old David Lurie does not know the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the other characters--and neither do we as readers (near narratees)" (Sarvan).

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Chapter Notes & Critical Commentary on Disgrace
References to chapters and page numbers below are from the edition used
in HUM 211 Cultures & Literatures of
Africa, Fall 2004:
Coetzee, J. M.  Disgrace. [First published 1999.] New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
[ISBN: 0-14-029640-9, paperback.]

SETTING:  Post-apartheid South Africa in the 1990s.

Ch. 1 (pp. 1-10)

Setting: Cape Town, post-apartheid South Africa, late 1990s.
Ch. 1 introduces David Lurie, twice-divorced 52-year-old university professor. In the first paragraph of the novel, we learn that Lurie thinks he has “solved the problem of sex rather well” (1) with Soraya, the working name of a Discreet Escorts prostitute whom he visits every Thursday afternoon. His weekly ninety-minute "session" with Soraya is described (1-2).

"He is in good health, his mind is clear. By profession he is, or has been, a scholar, and scholarship still engages, intermittently, the core of him.  He lives within his income, within his temperament, within his emotional means.  Is he happy?  By most measurements, yes, he believes he is.  However, he has not forgotten the last chorus of Oedipus: Call no man happy until he is dead” (2; emphasis added).

Lurie, a Romantics poetry scholar who wants to write "a chamber opera" on "Byron in Italy," originally held the position of professor of modern languages for Cape Town University College, but the university has been forced to reinvent itself as Cape Technical University, close down Classics and Modern Languages, and Lurie dislikes his current “Communications” teaching assignment (4, 3).  He acknowledges that "[H]e has never been much of a teacher," and now "[b]ecause he has no respect for the material he teaches, he makes no impression on his students," which "galls him more than he will admit" (4). "He continues to teach because it provides him with a livelihood; also because it teaches him humility, . . . . The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing" (5; emphasis added).

"In his profession, he is like Soraya in hers: fulfilling his obligations but without real involvement or enthusiasm" (Sarvan). "Sex is not an intimate relationship with another human being, an individual, but a 'problem' to be solved, and the 'conquest' of women is flattering to his vanity" (Sarvan).

"Then one Saturday morning everything changes" (6). In the city on business, David Lurie accidentally comes across “Soraya” lunching with her children, thus trespassing into her other, respectable married life. She sees him observing her, and a line has been crossed. Lurie reflects on his own past family life growing up among women, and his subsequent career as "womanizer" until "his powers" to attract women had suddenly "fled" (7). Lurie had to "learn to pursue," then "buy" women, leading him to his arrangement with "Soraya."  But after keeping a few more appointments with Lurie, Soraya disrupts his equilibrium by ending their liaison a short time later (7-8). His attempts to replace Soraya with another escort, then with Dawn, a new departmental secretary, are failures (8-9). Dawn's passion repels him, and he avoids her (9). "He ought to give up, retire from the game . . . . ageing is not a graceful business," he reflects, thinking idly of castration practiced on "animals every day, and animals survive well enough, if one ignores a certain residue of sadness" (9). When he tracks down "Soraya" at her home, however, she refuses to know him (8-10). His explanation: “But, then, what should a predator expect when he intrudes upon the vixen’s nest, into the home of her cubs” (10; emphasis added).

Ch. 2 (pp. 11-17)

A rainy Friday evening: Deprived of his Thursdays with Soraya and feeling his life “featureless as a desert” (11), David Lurie notices one of his students Melanie Isaacs and is "mildly smitten" with her (11)--a dangerous attraction to act on since she is one of his students and 30 years his junior (12). Melanie, "dawdling," perhaps curious and flattered by the professor's attentions, consents to have a drink, then dinner with David Lurie at his home (11-13). He does his best to charm her (12-16), in the process mentioning that he is “working on Byron” during Byron's time in Italy, where Byron went “to escape a scandal” and had “the last great love affair of his life” (15).  Too much old-fashioned poetic wooing, however, finally puts Melanie off (16), and she escapes the evening with a brief embrace from David (17).

Ch. 3 (pp. 18-28)

Rainy Sunday, two days later.  Though Lurie realizes he should “end it” with Melanie at this point, “he does not”: David Lurie goes to the university, looks up Melanie’s address and phone number, calls and invites her to lunch in Hout Bay (18). She consents to go, he takes advantage of the fact that she is too young and uncertain to know how to deal with his advances, and afterwards takes her back to his house and “makes love to her” (18-19). While it seems not be rape, Melanie "is passive throughout," afterwards "averts her face" as she gathers her things, dresses quickly, declares she must go (19).  
Monday, Melanie is not in class and David Lurie sends her carnations.
On rainy Tuesday, he finds her at school and gives her a ride home.
Wednesday in the Romantic poetry class
, he reads Wordsworth and tries to reach Melanie, but “she slips away in the throng” after class (20-23). That evening, David Lurie attends a play rehearsal in which Melanie has a role.
The next afternoon, David visits Melanie at her apartment. She verbally says no, but does not physically resist his sexual advances. Lurie describes their second sexual encounter as “Not rape, not quite that, but undesired nevertheless, undesired to the core. As though she had decided to go slack, die within herself for the duration, like a rabbit when the jaws of the fox close on its neck” (25; emphasis added).  Afterwards, Lurie acknowledges that it was “A mistake. A huge mistake” and takes himself off (25). 
Friday: Melanie is not in Prof. Lurie's class the next day for the Midterm, and then stays away for a week.

A week later: Melanie shows up at David Lurie’s home on a Sunday evening asking to stay for the night, then the next day asks to stay for “a while” (26-27). Lurie agrees, but is now wary. What he thought would be a “quick little affair” is becoming complicated (27), but if she is “behaving badly” and “learning to exploit him,” he acknowledges to himself that “he has behaved worse” (28).

Ch. 4 (pp. 29-35)

When Lurie and Melanie make love “one more time,” she seems “greedy for experience” and he begins to think “there might, despite all, be a future” (29). That afternoon, however, Melanie’s boyfriend threatens Lurie in his campus office (30-31). That evening David Lurie finds Melanie has gone and his car is vandalized. Thereafter Melanie keeps her distance, and scandalous talk begins at school (31).
The next Monday in the Romantic poetry class, Prof. Lurie has assigned Bryon’s Lara and, despite the unfortunate parallel,  he must discuss Byron’s scandal and notoriety, the Byronic hero (see famous Lara lines quoted on p. 32), and the “dark angel” Lucifer, “hurled out of heaven”--taunted by Melanie’s boyfriend (31-32).

                                                   He could
At times resign his own for others’ good,
But not in pity, not because he ought,
But in some strange perversity of thought,
That swayed him onward with a secret pride
To do what few or none would do beside;
And this same impulse would in tempting time
Mislead his spirit equally to crime. (33)

When Melanie's boyfriend reads the above lines aloud, Prof. Lurie responds: “’Exactly. Good or bad, he just does it. He doesn’t act on principle but on impulse, and the source of his impulses is dark to him. Read a few lines further: ‘His madness was not of the head, but heart.’ A mad heart.  What is a mad heart?’” (33). Getting no answer, Lurie continues himself:

“’Note that we are not asked to condemn this being with the mad heart, this being with whom there is something constitutionally wrong.  On the contrary, we are asked to understand and sympathize.  But there is a limit to sympathy.  For though he lives among us, he is not one of us.  He is exactly what he calls himself: a thing, that is, a monster. Finally, Byron will suggest, it will not be possible to love him, not in the deeper, more human sense of the word.  He will be condemned to solitude’” (33-34).

David Lurie separates Melanie from her boyfriend, meets with her in his office after class, tells her he must speak to her "as a teacher" with "obligations," and urges her to take the Midterm like other students (34-35). But she stares puzzled and shocked--because, as he imagines her wanting to say, “You have cut me off from everyone. . . You have made me bear your secret. I am no longer just a student. How can you speak to me like this?" (34).  Driving home that evening, David shudders with "lust" when he sees Melanie, straddling her boyfriend on his motorcycle (35).

Ch. 5 (pp. 36-46)

The next Monday, Melanie does not show for her make-up exam; instead, Prof. Lurie receives notice that she is withdrawing from his class (36). An hour later, David Lurie gets a long distance call from Melanie's father, Mr. Isaacs of George, S.A., concerned that Melanie wants to withdraw from school and asking Prof. Lurie to intercede because “Melanie has such respect for you” (36-37). Afterwards, David tells himself, he “will not get away with it,” calls Melanie's flat, and has a brief chilly exchange with her cousin and flatmate Pauline.
On Wednesday and Friday that week, a
ttendance in his class is poor, and David Lurie realizes, "The story must be out" (37). Mr. Isaacs turns up to accuse Lurie in person: what he did to Melanie was "not right." Reading Lurie's guilty thoughts--that he is "A viper: how can he deny it?"--Mr. Isaacs warns that Lurie has not "heard the last of it" (37-38).  Soon after, David Lurie receives the Vice-Rector's official notification that a Code of Conduct complaint (sexual harassment, see p. 39) has been lodged against him, and he imagines how Melanie, "too innocent...too ignorant of her power" to initiate this official action on her own, has been coerced by others into lodging the complaint (39-40). In an initial meeting with university authorities, his colleagues, Lurie pleads guilty, readily admits he was having an affair with the girl, refuses to defend himself, and storms out (40-41).

The next term, few students show up for Prof. Lurie's first Baudelaire class meeting; though the complaint is supposed to be confidential, the gossip mill has been grinding (42). His lawyer advises David Lurie to take the counseling option offered by the university, and on campus it is Rape Awareness Week (42-43). David dines with his ex-wife Rosalind: they discuss the scandal, Rosalind warns him that no one will sympathize with him, and he mentions he’s thinking of visiting his daughter Lucy (43-45).
The next day, an article entitled “Professor on sex charge” appears on page 3 of Argus,
the local newpaper (46).

Ch. 6 (pp. 47-58)

Prof. Lurie's hearing is held, and he recognizes he goes “into this with the wrong spirit,” but “does not care” (47). The university committee includes Vice-Rector Aram Hakim; Manas Mathabane, Prof. of Religious Studies; Farodia Rassool, Social Sciences and chair of the university's discrimination committee; Desmond Swarts, Dean of Engineering; a Business School faculty member; and a student observer from the Coalition against Discrimination (47-48). Melanie Isaacs is not present, having given her testimony to the committee the day before (48). To official charges of sexual harassment (see 39-40); and of falsification of attendance, written work and examinations submitted for “Ms Isaacs’s record”(48); Lurie pleads guilty. But he will not confess with sincere contrition that he was “wrong” (54) needed to save his university job. Outside, after the hearing, the press accosts him; David Lurie refuses to express repentance, snapping instead, "I was enriched by the experience" (56).  He will not confess or apologize and "They [the press] circle around him like hunters who have cornered a strange beast and do not know how to finish him off” (56).
The next day, Prof. Manas Mathabane calls David Lurie, asking him to sign a brief statement of apology acknowledging  “serious abuses of human rights . . . [and] abuse of authority . . . “ (57), prepared by the university committee.   But David refuses the sign the statement though it would have saved his job (58).

"Like the Romantic poet [Byron] about whom he tries to compose an opera, Lurie is in disgrace, gossiped about, and ostracized.  Byron fled overseas, and Lurie seeks refuge with his daughter on her farm" (Sarvan).

Ch. 7 (pp. 59-67)

Lurie locks up his house, heads for his daughter’s “smallholding” in the Eastern Cape, and his daughter Lucy greets David warmly when he arrives (59).
Lucy had moved in here years ago as a member of a commune, stayed on with her friend Helen when everyone else left, and because Lucy fell "in love with the place" and "wanted to farm it properly," her father David Lurie helped her buy it (60). After his arrival, David discovers that Helen, too, has recently moved on to Johannesburg, and that Lucy is now living alone, feeling protected by her dogs and a gun (60). David moves his things into Helen’s old room, and Lucy gives him a tour of the place: there are five kennels of “working dogs,” which Lucy boards, and “selling flowers and garden produce” also support her “simple” life (61). Lurie notices “Katy,” a morose-looking “tan-colored bulldog bitch,” and learns about Petrus, Lucy’s assistant and co-proprietor (62). David admires his daughter’s transformation into a solid independent woman, “frontier farmer of the new breed” nurturing “dogs and daffodils” (62). In turn, David Lurie shares his “plans” to write something “on the last years of Byron” for the stage, “Characters talking and singing,” because “a man wants to leave something behind” (62-63). Lucy says she has heard something of her father's "troubles" from "Roz," and David admits that he “was asked to resign” from his university position (63). He meets Petrus, “a tall man” with “shrewd eyes” of forty-something years, who looks after the dogs, works Lucy’s garden, lives with one wife in “the old stable” on Lucy's farm, and has another wife and grown up children in Adelaide (63-64). 
At supper that evening, David Lurie suggests that he may stay a week, and Lucy tells him he can stay as long as he likes, mentioning that she heard from “Roz” that “the atmosphere was nasty” in Cape Town when he left (65). David briefly explains his position, why he couldn’t accept the “compromise” offered him, and Lucy says he should not have been “so unbending” (66). "After a certain age one is simply no longer appealing," says David, so he cannot complain or expect sympathy for what he did (67).
In the night, he is awakened by “a flurry of barking” (67; emphasis added).

Ch. 8 (pp. 68-74)

Winter in the Eastern Cape uplands is cold. [Probably the next morning:]
Lucy and David take three dogs, including morose Katy, for a morning walk, and David offers his account of Melanie Isaacs whose family, the Isaacs live in nearby George. 
David quotes BLAKE (69-70)

Lucy and David talk about “his intimate life”—i.e. his relationships with women--for the first time (69-70). 
David is wakened early on Saturday, market day, to help Petrus and Lucy cut and load flowers and vegetables, which they take into Grahamstown to display and sell in their Donkin Square stall (70-71). David muses that two weeks ago he had been teaching “bored youth of the country,” but that life seems far away now (71). 

At market, David meets many of Lucy’s friends, including Bev Shaw, “a dumpy, bustling little woman with black freckles, close-cropped, wiry hair, and no neck,” who runs an animal clinic in Grahamstown (72). David has a prejudice against “women who make no effort to be attractive” like Bev and many of Lucy’s other friends that he has met before (72); but he muses that he “has nothing against the animal lovers” among Lucy’s acquaintances when he visits Bev’s home-and-clinic later that day, though he “is repelled by the odours of cat urine,” sick dogs, and medicine (72; emphasis added). There he is also welcomed by Bill Shaw, Bev’s husband. 

"Lurie is a man of cultivated taste, familiar with European culture, and his initial reaction to Bev is one of condescension, if not contempt . . ." (Sarvan).

Afterwards, David and Lucy discuss the Shaws and their animal welfare work, in which Lurie has little interest (73). Lucy feels that her father is disappointed with her life and friends, but expresses her philosophy candidly: “They are not going to lead me to a higher life, and the reason is, there is no higher life.  This is the only life there is.  Which we share with animals.  That’s the example that people like Bev try to set.  That’s the example I try to follow.  To share some of our human privilege with the beasts.  I don’t want to come back in another existence as a dog or a pig and have to live as dogs or pigs live under us” (74; emphasis added). 

David asks Lucy not to be cross with him: he agrees that “this is the only life there is,” and that humans should be kind to animals out of generosity, but that humans “are of a different,” if not higher, “order of creation from the animals,” and kindness to them should not come of guilt or fear of retribution (74).

Richard A. Barney would have us note that, at this early point in the story, David Lurie expresses fairly typical human thinking about animals, in contrast to that of "animal lovers" like his daughter Lucy and her friend Bev Shaw.  David Lurie has also been established as "unsympathetic, culpable, and downright distasteful individual": "a teacher without a belief in teaching, a sexual opportunist who abuses his position as a university professor, a man estranged from family and friends, and one susceptible to  . . . attitudes about racial propriety related to apartheid South Africa"; alienated "from his lifelong definition of intellectual vocation," expulsed "from the university for sexual impropriety" (Barney), seeking refuge in the dangerous countryside where he will soon prove unable to defend himself or his daughter from attack. As part of a complex argument about the role of animals in Coetzee's fiction, Barney draws attention to this early expression of Lurie's attitude toward animals, for it marks a point from which to measure the change that will occur in Lurie before the novel ends, through the growth of Lurie's ability to empathize with animals--particularly their suffering--and need to accord them some dignity in death.

Barney points out that "animal life long served European colonialism . . . as a way of articulating" their sense of difference from [i.e. superiority to] "non-Western natives whom they encountered" and whom they typically "described in bestial terms." In other works, through his fictional creation Elizabeth Costello, Coetzee has articulated the "thesis that human beings should drastically reform their treatment of animals," using the power of the imagination to "think ourselves into the being of another." Cora interprets this to mean we're talking about human imaginative capability/susceptibility to achieve true empathy, which by definition means to understand, identify and experience with, the other, to feel what the other feels--particularly suffering, which all beings of all species do experience. Cora's reading of Barney reading Coetzee, is that such imaginative empathy with animals is "capable of generating palpable personal, social, or even political change"--life-altering change even in such a one as David Lurie.

Ch. 9 (pp. 75-79)

Lucy's Farm: In the front room, David Lurie nods off  with soccer on television, commentary in Sotho and Xhosa, languages which he does not understand; Petrus joins him and watches much more enthusiastically (75). David goes to find Lucy in her bedroom reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and David muses to himself:: "From the day his daughter was born he has felt for her nothing but the most spontaneous, most unstinting love" (76); he wonders if she has found his love "a burden," then "how it is for Lucy with her lovers, . . . . He has never been afraid to follow a thought down its winding track, and he is not afraid now. . . . Why should they not be open with each other, why should they draw lines, in times when no one else does?" (76).
David and Lucy talk (76-79).  When David asks what he could be doing, Lucy suggests that he "help with the dogs"; "give [Petrus] a hand" with his lands, gained from a Land Affairs Grant; and help Bev Shaw at the animal clinic (76-77).  Bemused, David agrees to all Lucy's suggestions, but wonders whether Petrus will pay him a wage, and jokes about volunteer work at Bev's animal clinic:  "It sounds suspiciously like community service. It sounds like someone trying to make reparation for past misdeeds. . . . I'll do it. But only as long as I don't have to become a better person.  I am not prepared to be reformed.  I want to go on being myself" (77). 
Lucy: "So you are determined to go on being bad.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.  I promise, no one will ask you to change" (77).
Dog kennel: David goes into the yard, greets the dogs, stretches out in the cage beside Katy, the abandoned "old bulldog bitch," falls asleep, and there Lucy later finds him (78).
Lucy on Katy and dogs' plight: "Poor old Katy, she's in mourning. No one wants her, and she knows it. The irony is, she must have offspring all over the district who would be happy to share their homes with her.  But it's not in their power to invite her.  They are part of the furniture, part of the alarm system.  They do us the honour of treating us like gods, and we respond by treating them like things" (78).  David offers that the "Church Fathers" long ago decided that animals had no souls (78); and protests when Lucy counters that she's not sure she has a soul (79).  When David asks what she will do with Katy, Lucy says she'll keep Katy, and David learns that Bev Shaw puts animals down: "It's a job no one else wants to do, so she has taken it upon herself.  It cuts her up terribly" (79).  Lucy says that David underestimates Bev, "a more interesting person than you think" (79).
"A shadow of grief fall over him: for Katy, alone in her cage, for himself, for everyone" (79). David apologizes to Lucy "for not turning out to be a better guide," agrees to help her friend but dislikes the name "Bev"  that "reminds me of cattle" (79).

Ch. 10 (pp. 80-87)

Bev Shaw's Animal Clinic, [Grahamstown?]: A line of people and animals wait their turn outside "Animal Welfare League W. O. 1529," David makes his way through the packed waiting room, finds Bev Shaw in the inner surgery trying to examine the abcessed tooth of a resisting dog (80). David helps hold the dog down while Bev lances the tooth, advising David to "Think comforting thoughts, think strong thoughts. They can smell what you're thinking" (81). Afterwards, Bev compliments David: "You have a good presence.  I sense that you like animals" (81).  David thinks these ideas are "nonsense!" and muses to himself on Bev's "remarkably unattractive" appearance (81-82). The next patient is an old buck goat, nightly savaged by dogs: his swollen scrotum is infested with blowfly, and Bev can do little for him, advises the owner she can either wait for the doctor [veterinarian Dr. Oosthuizen] to come or let Bev "give him a quiet end" (82-83). The old woman drags her goat away, and David finds himself trying to comfort Bev. David "has a first inkling of the task this ugly little woman has set for herself.  This bleak building is a place not of healing . . . but of last resort" (84). David spends the afternoon helping as best he can in Bev's surgery, then he and Bev survey the yard, feed a bird and "mob of scrawny mongre[l]" dogs awaiting their fate, and talk (84-85). David offers to continue to come and help her so long as she knows that he is in "disgrace" (85).

Lucy's Farm, that evening: David retires early but can not sleep, listens to Lucy's noises in the house and wonders about his daughter's life--her absent partner Helen, their relationship and sex life--and his "fate" as an aging father to turn "more and more . . . toward his daughter," his "second salvation," though he believes he must be a "burden" to Lucy (86-87). He reads Byron's letters of 1820: "Fat, middle-aged at thirty-two," Byron at this stage in his life lives with "Teresa, his complacent, short-legged mistress, and her suave, malevolent husband," finding "all the tedium of marriage" in his adultery (87). David sighs: "How brief the summer, before the autumn and then the winter!" (87).

Ch. 11 (pp. 88-99)

A Wednesday on Lucy's Farm: Rising early, David--longing thoughts of Melanie and Soraya still visit him--and Lucy breakfast, take two Dobermanns for a walk, and talk of his "case" (88-89). David cannot quite say out loud that he felt himself "a servant of Eros" when he pursued Melanie; it is too vain, but not entirely a lie to maintain, "It was a god who acted through me" (89). Instead he likens his case to the parallel case of a male "golden retriever" who became "unmanageable" whenever he smelled "a bitch in the vicinity," for which behavior his owners unfairly beat the dog "for following its instincts" and resulted in the dog hating "his own nature" (89-90). Of three options, "to deny its nature," to be "fixed" and spend its days becoming portly "padding about the living-room," or to be shot, David would choose the third (90). They are discussing the aptness of describing Lurie as a scapegoat wandering in "the wilderness," when one of their dogs bristles at "two men and a boy" striding quickly, then disappearing, down the path (91).

Returning home, David and Lucy hear "the caged dogs in an uproar" and find the three males seen earlier on the path, there "waiting for them" (92). Lucy cages the Dobermanns (though David apparently has Katy, the bulldog, on leash outside the cages?).  When Lucy, and later David, call for Petrus, he is nowhere to be found.  One of the men asks to use the telephone in Lucy's house to get help for a sister having a baby (92). When Lucy lets one, "a tall, handsome man," into the house, the second man pushes past David to follow them in, and David "knows at once" that "Something is wrong" (93). David looses the bulldog, and the boy (the third intruder), still outside, uses a stick to keep the dog at bay. Hearing the front door being locked, David breaks in through the kitchen door, but is hit in the head and blacks out (93).

He regains consciousness locked in the "lavatory" of Lucy's house, calls out to Lucy, desperately aware that his "child is in the hands of strangers," that soon "it will be too late," but cannot break out (93). The shorter man suddenly opens the bathroom door and threatens David, who gives up the house keys and pleads, "Take everything. Just leave my daughter alone" (94).

Peering through the bars of the window from his perch on the toilet seat, David watches the men carry "Lucy's rifle and a bulging garbage bag" from the house, hears them start David's car, then pause beneath David's window "discussing his fate" (95). David feels "helpless": his French and Italian cannot "save him here in darkest Africa"; he may as well as well be a cartoonish "missionary in cassock and topi waiting with clasped hands and upcast eyes while the saves jaw away in their own lingo preparatory to plunging him into their cauldron" (95).

David watches the tall man aim Lucy's rifle into the cages and shoot the dogs, one by one (95-96).

Footfalls in the passage, the bathroom door bursts open, David is immersed in "methylated spirits" and set ablaze (96). He flails about, puts out the flames with toilet bowl water, cries out for Lucy pver and over, and hears the intruders start up and leave in his car (96-97). After a time, Lucy, clothed now a bathrobe, unlocks the bathroom door and lets him out; at the door of the ravaged kitchen, he hears her murmur, "My darlings, my darlings!" and trails her outside to survey the "carnage of the dog-pens" (97).  Finally turning her attention to David, Lucy frowns: "What on earth did they do to you?" but she resists his attempted embrace (97).  Back inside, he sees that the whole house is a mess, many things have been taken, and his reflection in a mirror reveals his head a mass of brown ash, angry pink and oozing flesh (97). Lucy has locked herself in the bathroom and does not respond to his anxious inquiries (98).

"It happens every day, every hour, every minute, he tells himself, in every quarter of the country.  Count yourself lucky to have escaped with your life. . . . Count Lucy lucky too. Above all Lucy" (98). He holds desperately to the "comforts of theory. Not human evil," just "A risk to own anything . . . . Not enough to go around . . . . Otherwise one would go mad" (98). 

Cleaned up and clothed, Lucy emerges from the bathroom, suggests that he apply baby oil to his head, refuses to call the police, requests that he confine his reports to what happened to him not her; and announces she will leave to seek help from the neighboring Ettingers (98-99). Choking with tears, he cries out, "My child, my child!" but Lucy suffers his embrace "stiff as a pole, yielding nothing" (99).

Ch. 12 (pp.100-105)

Later the same day, Lucy returns to the farm with neighbor Ettinger in his pickup, but instead of going straight to the police, they take trembling David to the hospital for treatment (100).

At the Grahamstown hospital, Lucy, "all strength, all purposefulness," fills out forms and admits her father for treatment of his burns (100-101). Lucky that his eye has not been permanently damaged because the intruders did not use "petrol" on him, David emerges hours later to find kindly Bill Shaw waiting to fetch him, and David muses with surprise at Bill's friendship (101-102).

That evening, Bev & Bill Shaw's home: David is driven to the Shaw's home, where Lucy has taken refuge and sleeps under sedation (102). The Shaws also minister to burned and weakened David (103).  Awakening himself and Lucy in the middle of the night by a dream of trying to save Lucy, David tries to get back to sleep, can't, and spends the rest of the night "watching over his little girl, guarding her from harm, warding off the bad spirits" (104). 

Early the next morning, Bev shakes her head at David's anxious inquiries about Lucy--as if to say "Not your business . . . violation and its aftermath: blood-matters, a woman's burden, women's preserve" (104). He wonders whether Lucy and Helen consider "Raping a lesbian worse than raping a virgin: more of a blow" (105).  At 9:00 a.m., David knocks on the Shaws' guestroom, finds Lucy turned to the wall and crying, and asks if she's seen her doctor.  She has, but he irritates her by assuming her doctor must be male (105). When she announces her intention to return "to the farm and clean up," David protests that "it's not a good idea. Because it's not safe."  The person who confronts him--"Not her father's little girl, not any longer"--retorts: "It was never safe, and it's not an idea, good or bad.  I'm not going back for the sake of an idea.  I'm just going back" (105). 

Ch. 13 (pp. 106-112)

Later that same morning, at Bev & Bill Shaw's home: Bev changes David's dressings and David wonders whether the goat at the clinic felt "the same peacefulness" while she worked on him (106). David asks Bev about Lucy's doctor, worried because Lucy's rape exposes her to the risk of pregnancy, venereal infection and HIV; but Bev tells him he must ask Lucy himself (106-107). Past eleven, David is at loose ends while he waits for his daughter to emerge, and paces the Shaws' garden. "The events of yesterday had shocked him to the depths," he realizes (107).

"He has a sense that, inside him,  a vital organ has been bruised, abused - perhaps even his heart. For the first time he has a taste of what it will be like to be an old man, tired to the bone, without hopes, without desires, indifferent to the future. Slumped on a plastic chair amid the stench of chicken feathers and rotting apples, he feels his interest in the world draining away from him drop by drop.  It may take weeks, it may take months before he is bled dry, but he is bleeding. When that is finished, he will be like a fly-casing in a spiderweb, brittle to the touch, lighter than rice-chaff, ready to float away" (107).

He realizes he cannot expect help from his daughter, who must "work her own way back from the darkness to the light," but he realizes he is indifferent to the farm--"let it all go to the dogs, I do not care"-- and balks at the idea of accepting responsibility for the farm in the interim (107).

"His pleasure in living has been snuffed out.  Like a leaf on a stream, like a puffball on a breeze, he has begun to float toward his end. He sees [107/108] it quite clearly, and it fills him with . . . despair.  The blood of life is leaving his body and despair is taking its place, despair that is like a gas, odorless, tasteless, without nourishment.  You breathe it in, your limbs relax, you cease to care, even at the moment when the steel touches your throat" (107-108).

Two young policemen arrive, Lucy emerges from Bev's bedroom, Bev drives Lucy and David out to the farm, with the policemen behind (108).

Lucy's Farm: The dogs' corpses lie in the cages, though Katy, the bulldog, has escaped and is glimpsed skulking about the stables (108). David hangs back, noticing the kitchen has been cleaned up and Lucy's bed stripped bare, but remains silent, as Lucy takes the policemen through the house and gives her version of the crime (108-109). The policemen depart, telephone repairmen arrive, then neighbor Ettinger, who instructs David that it could have been "worse" if they had taken Lucy away with them (109). Alone with Lucy at last, David offers to bury the dogs, asks why she did not tell "the whole story," but does not press her for a full response (110). David imagines that the three invaders will watch the newspapers, listen to gossip, realize they are 'being sought for robbery and assault and nothing else," and feel victorious when they decide the woman they raped is "too ashamed to tell" (110). Burying six full-grown dogs, David imagines the mindset of the assailants: the act of shooting them "Contemptible, yet exhilarating , probably, in a country where dogs are bred to snarl at the mere small of a black man. A satisfying afternoon's work, heady, like all revenge" (110).  When David returns to the house, he finds Lucy installing herself a camp bed in the musty old pantry, offers her the room in which he has been staying, and moves himself into Lucy's bedroom--the scene of the crime where she refuses now to sleep (111). Gently, David tries to question Lucy about why she did not reported her rape. Lucy denies that it has anything to do with a general issue of "what women undergo at the hands of men, and  maintains that "It has nothing to do with you, David" (111-112). Rather, Lucy says, "what happened to me is a purely private matter" because it happened in "South Africa" today, and "It is my business, mine alone" (112). David vehemently argues against what he assumes Lucy means--that her silence will save her skin and make the fire of vengeance pass her by in future, or will secure her "some form of private salvation" and "expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present" (112). But Lucy insists that David's abstractions are off target, that he misreads her, and ends the conversation.  "Never yet have they been so far and so bitterly apart. He is shaken" (112).

Student Chapter Contributions - Seminar #7, Fall 2007 HUM 211

Ch. 14 (pp. 113-122)

Student #1: Ch. 14

A new day back at Lucy’s farm:
     Ettinger telephones after Lucy’s rape to see if they need to borrow a gun (113). David replies “Thank you, we’ll think about it. David starts to get his tools out to fix Lucy’s place. He wishes Ettinger could be there to fix the place up.  Katy is coxed out hiding (113). The same day Petrus makes his return. The driver of the lorry and him begin unloading, cartons, creosoted poles, sheets of galvanized iron, a role of plastic piping, and finally, with much noise and commotion, two half grown sheep (113). ‘Petrus is back,’ he tells Lucy. ‘With a load of building materials‘ (114). Why did Petrus not tell anyone he was leaving? I can’t tell Petrus what to do. David decides to let this pass for Lucy right now. Lucy keeps to herself, expresses no feelings, and shows no interest in anything around her (114). David spies on Petrus and thinks to himself why he has not come to check on Lucy. They have a conversation and Petrus responds oddly and still does not ask about Lucy (114-115). Petrus finally asks David if Lucy will go to the market tomorrow if she does not she will lose her stall. Lucy tells David to go the market with Petrus she feels disgraced. He sits beside Petrus and commiserates with people asking about Lucy(115). He reads their story as reported in the Harold. There is little for him to do Petrus does all the work. As of yet Petrus has offered no explanation for his absence (116). Petrus is a neighbor who at present happens to sell his labour, because that is what suits him (116-117). David may somewhat like Petrus but he is also suspicious of him. Petrus has a vision of the future in which people like Lucy have no place (118). He is grappling with the Idea Petrus hired these men to teach Lucy a lesson. He tells him I find it hard to believe these men were strangers. ‘The police must find them, he says at last (119).  He is getting angry at Petrus and just wants him to say what an injustice has happened. Violation is the word he would like to force out of Petrus(119). David is now busy doing all of the things Lucy use to do. His wounds are in the process of healing. He wants to make sure Rosiland does not here the story in some garbled form (120).  He composes a dispatch; Lucy and I have had some bad luck. My car was stolen, and there was a scuffle too, in witch I took a bit of a knock (120-121). Lucy is not improving. He is loosing himself day by day. The demons do not pass him by (121). He remember the Byron project, he does need to go on reading. Of the entire books only two volumes are left. The rest were in the stolen car. David is almost happy about this. There is no desire to stare at the blank page that surly would be before him. Will this be where the dark trio are at last brought to life; not in Cape Town but in old Kaffraria(122)?

Student #2: Ch. 14

            The chapter starts out the day after the attack. The neighbor Ettinger offers to give Lucy a gun and makes the suggestion that they take more safety precautions, but he knows that Lucy will not listen. Both Lucy and David know that having guns and dogs are just a false sense of security. Later that day, Petrus comes back after disappearing for a few days. He and his wife arrive in a cab, dressed nicely and ready to go to the market to sell their goods. Lurie asks Petrus if heard about the robbery, and he replied that he had, however he did not ask how Lucy was doing or any details of what happened. Lurie found it very odd that Petrus disappeared right when the robbery happened, and showed back up afterwards. Lurie finds this coincidence very odd. Despite what happened, Petrus encourages them to go to the market because if they do not go, they will lose their booth spot. Lurie asks Lucy if she wants to go, but she says she wasn’t ready to go into public so she asked Lurie to go in her place. Lurie accompanied Petrus to the market, which didn’t make much profit, probably due to the fact that Lucy was not present.

            Lurie continues to distrust Petrus throughout the chapter. At one point he even stated “Petrus has a vision of the future in which people like Lucy have no place( pg 118). On page 118, Lurie confronts Petrus about the robbery while cleaning out algae from the dam. Petrus shoes no knowledge at all of the robbery, acting very calm and collected. Lurie began to get worked up about finding justice for his daughter and all Petrus has to say is that Lurie had a right to feel that way. This conversation only provokes Lurie’s concern about Petrus and his involvement in the crime.

            Lucy becomes more and more isolated over the next few days, so Lurie begins to pick up the slack around the farm while also taking care of Lucy. He becomes a “country recluse”, which is a position he despises. At the end of the chapter, Lurie finds himself staring at a blank page, trying to begin his Byron project.


            After the robbery, the neighbor Ettinger and Lurie believe that the house should be turned into a fortress, however both know that Lucy will be unwilling. She loves her land and she will not agree to all the security, nor will she agree to leave. Lurie says “ But will she ever consent? She is here because she loves the land and the old landliche way of life. If that way of life is doomed, what is left for her to love?” ( pg 113) Both Lucy and Lurie know all the security is a false sense of security in the unsafe world they live in. Guns and dogs will do nothing against the violence. Being a white south Africans in the country makes them in danger at all times. Lurie is frustrated that he has no evidence of Petrus being involved in the robbery and what happened to Lucy. He had many conversations to Petrus about the crime, hoping to get some kind of reaction, but receiving nothing. During one conversation with Petrus he said: ( I find it hard to believe the reason the robbers picked on us was simply that we were the first white folk they met that day. What do you think? Am I wrong? (pg 119) Petrus always acted calm but not even concerned. The way he acts makes me think he definitely had something to do with what happened.

Ch. 15 (pp. 123-135)

Setting:  Kaffraria, or the Eastern Cape of South Africa, late 1990’s

At this point in the book, Disgrace, the violent attack on David Lurie and his daughter Lucy has come and gone, and while they may still be changing and attempting to heal from their very vicious and very different assaults it seems that the worst of it is over.  However, it only seems that way, both David and Lucy are becoming less and less of the people they used to be, and at this juncture, which is chapter 15, these days they spend out in that far off country house push them apart from each other and into further isolation. 

Not able to indulge in his personal projects of intellect, he finds a very temporary distraction with his concern for Petrus’s (the neighbor) two slaughter sheep.  David can’t seem to get past the treatment of these two animals that Petrus clearly has no interest in so long as they are still living.  David imagines rescuing the animals by purchasing them from the neighbor, “[W]hat will he do with the sheep anyway, once he has bought them out of slavery?  Set them free on the public road? Pen them up in the dog-cages and feed them hay?” (126). Why this sudden and strange connection with these Persian sheep.  Are they really just his lemmings, since he has no control or influence on the way his daughter feels and behaves?

Once the lambs have been killed for Petrus’s big party, David has only the slightest shadow of sadness when he decides, contrary to his original decision, that he will attend the celebration.  Although, the minute he walks into the party his insecurities seep out again, “They are the only whites.  There is dancing going on, to the old fashioned African jazz he had heard.  Curious glances are cast at the two of them, or perhaps only at his skullcap” (128).

One of the attackers eventually shows up to the gathering, David flips and quickly leaves with his daughter, making for the house where he intends to phone the police as to the whereabouts of one of their assailants.  He is enraged at Petrus, whom he has had a grudge against through David’s entire visit, whom David blames for the attack, thinking of Petrus as if he were an accomplice to the group of criminals, or perhaps their lawyer.  David is just about to phone the law, “…when Lucy stops him.  ‘David, no, don’t do it.  It’s not Petrus’s fault.  If you call in the police, the evening will be destroyed for him.  Be sensible’” (133).  David is shocked, of course.  How could Lucy, who was victimized the worst in the assault, not want justice, not want to put this guy behind bars, not want to put an end to this whole maddening pass in their lives? 

Lucy has assumed responsibility for the antiquitous crimes of the white South African race, and this is how she has commissioned to clear up that nasty history.  David is more than shocked, more than concerned, “Lucy, Lucy, I plead with you!  You want to make up for the wrongs of the past, but this is not the way to do it” (133).  Of course the antagonistic propensity that is David Lurie cannot let enough alone, he ends up driving a wedge between himself and his daughter, “No: that is Lucy’s last word to him. She retires to her room, closes the door on him, closes him out” (134).  David has forced this vast distance between Lucy and himself that may never be gapped.

Ch. 16 (pp. 136-146)


-------------------------------[Cora picked out the following quotation]:

David Lurie questions himself about why he has taken over the task of incinerating the dead dogs euthanized in Bev Shaw's clinic.  Ultimately Lurie decides that he has done so "For himself . . . . For his idea of the world, a world in which men do not use shovels to beat corpses into a more convenient shape for processing" (Disgrace ch. 16: 146).

 Ch. 17 (pp. 147-150)

Student #1: Ch. 17

At the clinic the work is over for the Sunday:

The kombi is loaded. As a last chore Lurie is mopping the floor of the surgery (147). Bev offers to do this for Lurie as she knows he needs to return. The conversation turns to his life and how different it is. You must miss your own circle. You must miss having women friends, (147).Lurie seems sure Lucy must have told Bev he has not had much luck with women recently. He admits I caused the women in question at least as much trouble as she caused me. Bev turns the conversation to the fact Lucy told her, you had to leave the university. She asks if he regrets what happened. What noisiness! Curious how the whiff of scandal excites women (147-148). He exclaims he regrets nothing. He believes she knows what it is like to lose her self in her emotions. She is blushing.  He is trying to imagine her as a younger woman. On an impulse reaches out and runs a finger over her lips (148). Nothing happened after that moment and he leaves the clinic without another word to her. The next afternoon there is a call from her, can we meet at the clinic, at four (148-149). He knows what she wants and loves her innocence. He knows the clinic is closed today. They fall into each others arms in the surgery room. As she is getting ready he thinks to himself never did I dream I would sleep with a Bev.  She grasp his hand, passes him something. A contraceptive. All thought out beforehand, from beginning to end (149-150). David Lurie is feeling succored by a woman. “Let me not forget this day, he tells himself, lying beside her when they are spent. After the sweet young flesh of Melanie Isaacs, this is what I have come to. This is what I have to get use to, this and even less than this (150)”. Bev says she has to go. He gets up feeling no shame in not wearing anything. Bev presses her head to his chest at the door he feels compelled to let her dictate the rest of the night. His thoughts briefly go to Emma Bovary. Well, let poor little Bev Shaw go home and do some singing too. And let him stop calling her poor little Bev Shaw. If she is poor, he is bankrupt (150).

Student #2: Ch. 17


o        Professor David Lurie and a friend named Bev Shaw in Grahamstown.

§         Half of the chapter was in the city area and the other half was in a hospital floor.

§         Did not say anything about time of day or season.

·        Characters:

o       The only two characters that were mentioned were Professor Lurie and Bev Shaw.

o       They both talked about Lucy the daughter of Lurie and the women he had slept with.

·        Plot Summary:

o       At first, Shaw and Lurie were talking to each other about Luires “women” in Cape Town.  Shaw asked him and wondered if he was sad that you left his town and if he was lonely.  “You must miss you won circle.  You must miss having women friends” (Page 147).  He then put his finger on her lips and she gave into the sexual wanting.  She asked his to meet her at the hospital at 4 o’clock, they then did not really talk just had sex.  Lurie felt different with Shaw because she was an older woman and since his two wives’s he had been sleeping with girls so her body type was not the same.  Shaw was not like the other girls either she was more serious and mature.  Lurie could not decide if you quit liked it or not compared to his college doings.

·        Significant passages

o       “Even in the dimness there is nothing charming in the sight” (Page 149).

§         Lurie is describing Shaw’s body type even though she is still younger than he is.  He is just used to the more toned younger bodies.

o       “He lets ether do it, as he has let her do everything she has felt a need to do.  His thoughts go to Emma Bovary strutting before the mirror after first big afternoon” (Page 150).

§         He is just doing it because of her not him, a little change of pace for his sex life.  But then his mind goes instantly to a young college girl.

·        My commentary

o       I think that Lurie is a very sick man and needs to get help.  Him going to Grahamstown is to help him get away from women and to find himself so he does not want sex so much.  Not working, he finds another person that just wants to have sex, he thinks.  I think she is going to fall in love with Lurie and that is going to scare him to death because I do not think he wants to live his life like that because he is so sick.  Who knows she might actual turns him around enough to be a regular human but never a teacher again.


 Ch. 18 (pp. 151-162)

The chapter begins with Petrus hard at work on the piece of land that he can now call his own, plowing and planning his new residence. It’s here where David approaches Petrus with an idea: If Lucy were to go on holiday to take a break from the farm, could Petrus keep the farm running? Petrus ponders for a few minutes and concludes no, “it is too much.”

David receives a phone call from the police saying that they have found his stolen car, but when he and Lucy go to retrieve it, he discovers that is not, in fact, his car. On the ride home from the police station, conversation begins to get heated between David and Lucy. He tells Lucy that her only options are to live in fear on the farm or to move to start a new life in a different town. She is not keen on David’s opinion and advice. She does however open up to David about the rape that occurred, describing the feelings that have left her so shaken. One significant idea in this chapter is that maybe Lucy owes something to those Africans, a price to be paid for living in their territory.

“…[W] hat if that is the price one has to pay for staying on? Perhaps that is how they look at it; perhaps that is how I should look at it too.  They see me as owing something. They see themselves as debt collectors, tax collectors. Why should I be allowed to live here without paying?” pg. 158

            Back at the farm the two exchange letters, David begging Lucy to consider leaving the farm and Lucy refusing his guidance in reply. David has one last afternoon with the dogs and Bev Shaw, who assures David that Lucy will be just fine.

            This chapter is a looking glass to the depths of two central characters.  The dialogue between Lucy and David helps the reader to understand the dynamics of their relationship. David wants so badly to be needed by his daughter and finally discovers that she has out-grown him.

Ch. 19 (pp. 163-174)


Ch. 20 (pp. 175-186)


Ch. 21 (pp. 187-195)

1.      Characters:

~David Lurie is the main character of the book. He has just returned from his daughter’s farm in the country to his house that he had abandoned for three months while visiting his daughter. He is currently in a state of depression, holding no real goals for his life at the moment, pursuing nothing except the opera that he is working on writing.

~Rosalind is David’s second ex-wife, who has called David, concerned that he has not kept in contact with her. In this chapter, we learn a great deal about Rosalind’s character. She is not very compassionate or nurturing, but passionate. David describes her as a “sensualist.”  We also learn of her interrogating character; she is not afraid to speak her mind.

~Lucy is David’s daughter, who lives out in the country on a farm alone. She prefers the company of women, and has recently broken up with her girlfriend, Helen. During David’s stay at her house, the house was broken into and Lucy was raped by the three burglars.

~Melanie Isaacs is a young woman that, in the past, attended David’s poetry class that he taught at the University. The two had an affair that ended up costing David his job, after Melanie reported him.

~Ryan is Melanie’s protective boyfriend. 

2.      Setting:

The first 3 pages of the chapter are set in a coffee shop in Claremont. Rosalind telephones David because she has been told by Lucy that David is “back in town.” She inquires why David has not attempted to contact her, and in reply, he says, “I’m not yet fit for society.” They meet at the coffee shop, which ends poorly.

The second half of the chapter takes place the Dock Theatre, where Melanie is performing in a play. David, after learning of her acting in the play from Rosalind, slips into a far row in the back of the theatre, to watch Melanie perform.

3.      Plot Summary:

David and Rosalind meet at a coffee shop to catch up, in which David talks of Lucy’s life at her farm: unsafe and lonely. Rosalind inquires about David’s stolen car, which he chooses to lie about the burglary incident, leaving important truths out of the story. “It was my own fault. I should have been more careful,” he replies. Rosalind mentions that his trial regarding his affair went poorly. He responds sourly. Rosalind informs David that Melanie is performing in a play, and he soon after goes to the theatre, in secret, to watch her. Ryan sees David in the back row and begins to harass him, in which point David leaves quietly. Ryan confronts him in the parking lot, “Stay with your own kind.”  At a traffic light on his drive home, he is attracted to a intoxicated “streetwalker,” at which point he picks her up, pulls into a cul-de-sac, and has sex with her. Afterwards he drives her back to the place he found her.

4.      Significant Passage:

“‘I saw you girlfriend,’ Rosalind says, changing the subject.

‘My girlfriend?’

‘Your inamorata. Melanie Isaacs – isn’t that her name? She is in a play at the Dock Theatre. Didn’t you know? I can see why you fell for her. Big, dark eyes. Cunning little weasel body. Just your type. You must have thought it would be another of your quick flings, your peccadilloes. And now look at you. You have thrown away your life, and for what?’

‘My life is not thrown away, Rosalind. Be sensible.’”

The irony in this passage is that at the end of the novel, David realizes that his life has been thrown away. He has no more ambitions, no real job, no happiness. He has come to terms with it. He is just going to wait out his punishment, or his sentence, until he dies. That is all he decides he will do… wait until the end.

Ch. 22 (pp. 196-205)

Lucy’s home

Petrus, Pollax, Davis, Lucy, one of Petrus’ wives, Bev Shaw

In this paragraph, David suspects that something is wrong with Lucy, and decides to fly over to her and find out what is wrong since she will not tell him, and Bev Shaw has admitted that “developments” have occured. Once there, he finds Lucy pregnant; pregnant from the three who raped her. She also tells him that the boy is back, Pollux. Apparently, Pollux is Petrus’ wife’s brother. David goes next door to speak to Petrus about Pollux being here, and since Pollux is the boy who possibly impregnated Lucy, Petrus offers to marry her and “take her under his wing” for protection. David is shocked  by this proposition since it is not “western,” but when he relays the proposal to Lucy, she sees the good in it as well. She will sign over the farm to him since that us what she believes he really wants, and she will become his third wife or concubine, but her proposal to him will allow her full control over her kennels and she will still be able to live in her house. The baby will become part of his family. At the end of the chapter, David is going to relay her counter-offer to Petrus, and he notes that she is looking more and more down; she will soon be lost.

Ch. 23 (pp. 206-212)

Student #1: Ch. 23

The setting of chapter 23 is firstly on Lucy’s farm, outside her house and later on at the animal clinic and a boarding house in Grahamstown.

The characters involved in chapter 23 are: Lucy, David, Bev Shaw and Pollox.


David is out walking Katy the bulldog when he comes across Pollox (one of Lucy’s rapists) staring into the bathroom window, peering at Lucy. Fueled by rage David strikes him and while trying to run Pollox falls, allowing Katy to attack him. David is screaming and thinking racist thoughts that are deeply ingrained in Afrikaans culture. The boy is attempting to defend himself from Katy’s attacks while yelling that he will kill David. Lucy comes out and stops Katy’s attack on the boy. As she attempts to help the boy her breasts are exposed and both the boy and David stare. David’s rage grows again as Lucy covers herself and the boy scrambles away. Lucy tells David that her life is to crowded with him there and David goes to the animal clinic and converses with Bev Shaw about the gap between Lucy and himself. He then goes in search of a place to stay in Grahamstown. He finds a room in a boarding-house and yet makes his home the clinic. He eats, sleeps and plays the banjo in the compound behind the clinic and takes care of the animals. He vows to live like that until Lucy’s baby is born.

Significant passages:

““Teach him a lesson, Show him his place.” So this is what it is like, he thinks! This is what it is like to be a savage.”

““We will kill you all!” he shouts.”

“(B)ut also the thought that like a weed he has been allowed to tangle his roots with Lucy and Lucy’s existence.”

“The Problem is with the people she lives among. When I am added in, we become too many. Too many in too small a space. Like spiders in a bottle.”

“Souls overcome with anger, gnawing at each other. A punishment fitted to the crime.”

“What a tale to tell back home: a mad old man who sits among the dogs and sings to himself!”

This chapter reveals the true relationship between Lucy, her father and one of her rapists. The fact that she can defend the person who sexually violated her exposes the fact that she truly has accepted her circumstances; she is a white women living in rural South Africa. Alone, with no strong husband to protect her, she is at the mercy of the black community. This is fine as most of that community are good solid people like herself, however some like Pollox are plainly deranged or just evil and others like Petrus are egotistic black males that believe that been a black man they own the world in which they live. David feels powerless in this new land, and finds that he cannot even protect his daughter from people like Pollox

Works Cited

Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. New York: Penguin, 1999 

Student #2: Ch. 23

            “It is mid-morning.  He [Lurie] has been out, taking the bulldog Katy for a walk” around Lucy’s house (206).  Lurie sees the boy named Pollux, “the one Petrus called my people”, standing by the house, peeking in at Lucy who is in her bathroom (206).  In a rage, Lurie slaps Pollux and there is a violent confrontation between these two and the dog (206).  It ends with the boy running off home to Petrus (206).

            Lurie alternately realizes that Pollux is mentally screwed up, and that Lucy is trying to protect the boy for some unknown reason (207).  When Lurie tries to talk to her about the situation, Lucy says, “I must have peace around me.  I am prepared to do anything, make any sacrifice, for the sake of peace” (208).  Lucy is even willing to sacrifice her relationship with her father for the sake of peace (208).   Lurie decides to leave, though still very angry and ashamed of his part in the estrangement between his daughter and himself (208).  He knows he should apologize, but cannot (209).  “Lucy may be able to bend to the tempest; he cannot, not with honour” (209).  Like his opera character, the longing Teresa, he is unable to be comforted (209).

            Lurie drives to the Animal Welfare clinic and has a chat with Bev Shaw (209), wherein he tells her that he is only staying in town “as long as it is necessary” (209).  Lurie confides that he’s not getting on well with Lucy (209).  Bev responds that maybe it is time for him to leave her to her own life, that with Petrus his daughter should be safe (210).  Lurie is too afraid of another attack on his pregnant daughter to leave (210). 

Lurie offers his services at the clinic, to help out as before (210).  Then he buys a truck and rents a room at a local boarding house (210-211).  While spending every day at the clinic, Lurie sets up his own “spot” at the back of the building (211).  Complete with a table, chair, umbrella and gas stove, he works on his opera writing and befriends a lame dog (211).  Three boys are amused at the “mad old man who sits among the dogs singing to himself” (212). 

  Ch. 24 (pp. 213-220)

Chapter overview: Coetzee is tying up the loose ends concerning the three sub-plots; Lurie’s work with his Byron writing, his daughter Lucy, and his relationship with Bev Shaw. I will explain each part separately…

1.)    Lurie’s work on Byron: Throughout the book, the late writer Byron seems to be somewhat of an obsession to David Lurie. In this last chapter David is sitting out by the kennels plucking the banjo with the dog he likes most. He is pondering what direction his latest writing will go. The work in Byron, which was once described by him as “Just something to dabble at…” (214), is now something that “…Consumes him night and day” (214). However strong his attachment to his work is, he admits that it is becoming a dead end saying, “Surely in a work that will never be performed, all things are permitted?” (215). Lurie is surrendering to the fact that he may not have the skill to effectively finish what Byron left.

2.)    Lucy’s Situation: David and Lucy discuss over lunch how Lucy is making out on the farm and how the arrangements with Petrus are coming along. On David’s final visit to the farm, which he rarely ever visits anymore, he sees his daughter working contempt in the field like a peasant. He thinks about how she was once a tadpole in her mother’s body and that she is now harboring a tadpole of her own. He ponders being a grandfather. Will he fail as a grandfather like he did as a father? He thinks not, and at that moment he comes to finally accept Lucy’s choices, “There is a moment of utter stillness which he would wish prolonged forever” (218). And with that, David is again a visitor at his daughter’s home starting over again.

3.)    Bev Shaw and the animal shelter: The affair between Bev and David has since blown over and David is with Bev again on Sunday doing the less glorious job at the hospital. As a character, David goes through a change here. “He has learned by now, from her, to concentrate all his attention on the animal they are killing, giving it what he no longer has difficulty in calling by its proper name: love” (219). Never in the book thus far has David been comfortable with loving something truly and now he has finally learned what it means to be compassionate. It is time for the last dog to be put down. This is the Dog with the crippled leg that David has said would die for him. David has taken a special liking to this dog and when Bev asks, “Are you giving him up?” David says, “Yes, I am giving him up” (220). This is a somewhat startling end to the book, but I interpret David’s character as ultimately giving up what means most in his life. He has admitted that his writing is going nowhere, he has let go of any sense of control over his daughter’s life, and he has put a companion to death. David has given up, not on life, but on his life’s direction. He has nowhere to go, but I get a sense that it is not meant to be tragic. Actually David is moving away from his disgraceful ways.

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Works Cited & Resources


Barney, Richard A. "Between Swift and Kafka." J. M. Coetzee Special Section. World Literature Today 78.1 (Jan.-April 2004): 17-23 (7pp). Academic Search Premier (11810873). EBSCOhost. Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 6 Sep. 2004.

EBSCO Academic Search Premier subscription database articles are available online to COCC students.

Blyn, Sara. "Apartheid Literature." Fall 2001. Post Colonial Studies at Emory. Ed. Deepika Bahri (Dept. of English, Emory Univ., Atlanta, GA). 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/apartlit.html>.

Clark, David Draper. Editor's Note: J. M. Coetzee Special Section. World Literature Today 78.1 (Jan.-April 2004): 3-5 (3pp). Academic Search Premier (11810867). EBSCOhost. Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 6 Sep. 2004.

EBSCO Academic Search Premier subscription database articles are available online to COCC students.

"Coetzee Wins Nobel Literature Prize." BBC News, World ed., 2 Oct. 2003. BBC, 2004. 3 Sep. 2004 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3158278.stm>.

Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. 1999. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.

Call No. PR9369.3.C58 D5 2000 - Summit

Coetzee, J. M. "Excerpts from Disgrace." [Pages 111-112 and 183-184.] "J. M. Coetzee - Prose." 6 Nov. 2003. Nobel e-Museum. Nobel Foundation, 2004. 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2003/coetzee-prose.html>.

Coetzee, J. M. The Lives of Animals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001.

Call No.: HV4708 .L57 2001 - Summit - Summary: "J. M. Coetzee uses fiction to present a discussion of animal rights in all their complexity. He draws us into his character's own sense of mortality, her compassion for animals, and her alienation from humans, even from her own family. In his fable, presented as a Tanner Lecture sponsored by the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, Coetzee immerses us in a drama reflecting the real-life situation at hand: a writer delivering a lecture on an emotionally charged issue at a prestigious university. The story is followed by responses treating the reader to a variety of perspectives, delivered by leading thinkers in different fields. Coetzee's text is accompanied by an introduction by political philosopher Amy Gutmann and responsive essays by religion scholar Wendy Doniger, primatologist Barbara Smuts, literary theorist Marjorie Garber, and moral philosopher Peter Singer, author of "Animal Liberation." Together the lecture-fable and the essays explore the palpable social consequences of uncompromising moral conflict and confrontation."

"Featured Author: J. M. Coetzee, with News and Reviews from the Archives of The New York Times." New York Times on the Web, 1999. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/11/28/specials/coetzee.html>.

Gorra, Michael. "After the Fall." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. New York Times 28 Nov. 1999. New York Times on the Web, 1999. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/11/28/reviews/991128.28gorrat.html>.

COCC Library holds periodical subscription to The New York Times.

"J.M. Coetzee (1940- )." The Authors. Guardian Unlimited Books [Manchester, UK], Guardian Newspapers, 2004. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://books.guardian.co.uk/authors/author/0,5917,-43,00.html>.

Page offers links to several review articles, as well as excerpts from Coetzee's works:
"JM Coetzee's Nobel Lecture: 'He and His Man'":
"Lost in London," from Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II (memoir):
"'That Is Not Where I Come From,'" from Elizabeth Costello (novel):
"The Reluctant Guest of Honour," from Elizabeth Costello (novel):

"J. M. Coetzee: Banquet Speech." 10 Dec. 2003. Nobel e-Museum. Nobel Foundation, 2003. 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2003/coetzee-speech-e.html>.

“J(ohn) M(axwell) Coetzee, 1940- .” 2 Oct. 2003.  Contemporary Authors Online.  Gale, 2003.  Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2004. Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 17 August 2004.

Gale Literature Resource Center subscription database articles are available online to COCC students.

Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. "Caught in Shifting Values (and Plot)." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. Books of the Times. New York Times 11 Nov. 1999. New York Times on the Web, 1999. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/11/07/daily/111199disgrace-book-review.html>.

Lyall, Sarah. "J. M. Coetzee's 'Disgrace' Wins Booker Prize." New York Times 26 Oct. 1999. New York Times on the Web, 1999. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://www.nytimes.com/library/books/10269coetzee-booker.html>.

Marais, Michael.  “J. M. Coetzee, February 9, 1940- .”  Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 225: South African Writers.  Ed. Paul A. Scanlon.  Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. 131-149. Gale Literature Resource Center [Online Subscription Database]. The Gale Group, 2004. Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 17 August 2004.

Masoga, Mogomme Alpheus. "Towards Sacrificial-Cleansing Ritual in South Africa: An Indigenous African View of Truth and Reconciliation." Alternation: International Journal for the Study of Southern African Literature and Languages 6.1 (1999). 4 Sep. 2004 <http://sing.reshma.tripod.com/alternation/alternation6_1/14MASOG.htm>.

McCrum, Robert. "The Voice of Africa: Robert McCrum on Nobel Prize-winner JM Coetzee's Timeless Brilliance." The Observer 5 Oct. 2003. Guardian Unlimited Books [Manchester, UK], Guardian Newspapers, 2004. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,6000,1055828,00.html>.

Middlemiss, Perry. "1999 Booker Prize." Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 2002. 31 Aug. 2004 <http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/prizes/booker/booker1999.html>.

"Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela." [Biography of Nelson Mandela.] http://www.anc.org.za/people/mandela.html

“The Nobel Prize in Literature: John Maxwell Coetzee.”  Press Release, 2 Oct. 2003.  The Permanent Secretary, Swedish Academy. Nobel e-Museum. Nobel Foundation, 2004. 21 August 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2003/press.html>.

Noguchi, Mai. "Apartheid." Fall 2000. Post Colonial Studies at Emory. Ed. Deepika Bahri (Dept. of English, Emory Univ., Atlanta, GA). 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/apart.html>.

Price, Jonathan. "J. M. Coetzee." Fall 2000. Post Colonial Studies at Emory. Ed. Deepika Bahri (Dept. of English, Emory Univ., Atlanta, GA). 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/Coetzee.html>.

Sarvan, Charles. "Disgrace: A Path to Grace?" J. M. Coetzee Special Section. World Literature Today 78.1 (Jan.-April 2004): 26-29 (4pp). Academic Search Premier (11810875). EBSCOhost. Central Oregon Community College Library, Bend, OR. 6 Sep. 2004.

EBSCO Academic Search Premier subscription database articles are available online to COCC students.

Swedish Academy. "J. M. Coetzee - Bibliography." 3 May 2004. Nobel e-Museum. Nobel Foundation, 2004. 4 Sep. 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2003/coetzee-bibl.html>.

Taylor, D. J. "The Castaway: DJ Taylor on JM Coetzee's Intriguing Nobel Acceptance Speech." Guardian 13 Dec. 2003. Guardian Unlimited Books [Manchester, UK], Guardian Newspapers, 2004. 4 Sep. 2004 <http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,6000,1105841,00.html>.

Wästberg, Per. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003.”  Presentation Speech, Stockholm Concert Hall.  Nobel e-Museum. Nobel Foundation, Swedish Academy. 2003.  August 21 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/2003/presentation-speech.html>.

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J. M. Coetzee: Biography & Bibliography | Disgrace (1999) Reading Guide

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