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J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace: Post-Apartheid South Africa Essay

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You behave as if everything I do is part of the story of your life. You are the main character; I am a minor character who doesn't make an appearance until half way through. Well, contrary to what you think, people are not divided into major and minor. I am not minor. I have a life of my own, just as important to me as yours is to you, and in my life I am the one who makes the decisions (Coetzee 174)

This is a poignant statement made by Lucy Lurie to her father David the protagonist and central consciousness of Disgrace. It is her response to his lack of understanding her life choices and his lack of deep regard for anyone but himself. It is his handicap, his inability to understand anything outside of his self-reflections, and his attitude is due to a level of arrogance and sense of privilege, as he continues his attempts at self-elevation. Lucy is protesting his inability to understand her life choices and the root of his lack of any deep regard for anyone but himself. When David loses his position at the University through his own arrogance,--one reading of the “disgrace” of the title, whether he feels it as such or not,--his partly conscious and partly unconscious search for reconciliation forces him to listen to the voices of formerly silenced persons, feminine, and black represented in the just quoted passage by his daughter. David in his narration bends the scope of his story toward the plight of women, rather than the “colored” in a post-apartheid South African landscape. Lucy is a convenient representation for David of those really disgraced in post-Apartheid South Africa, while David represents those seemingly disgraced who evade the realities of their actions, those unapologetic un-remorseful masses that excuse ...


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...t of vipers. No, Professor Lurie, you may be high and mighty and have all kinds of degrees, but if I was you I’d be very ashamed of myself, so help me God. If I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick, now is your chance to say, but I don’t think so, I can see it from your face.’ Lurie whispers in response, ‘excuse me, I have business to attend to and walks away (Coetzee 38)

David’s response to Melanie’s father in the passage above only further demonstrates what is echoed throughout the text. His avoidance, self-righteousness and inability to apologize become apparent. In that scene at the beginning of the novel we see David’s ability to evade a clear transgression made by him when confronted, and therefore gives us a glimpse of the person we will be depending on to tell us the story.


Works Cited

Coetzee, J. M. (2000) Disgrace. London: Vintage.


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