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Disgrace, By J.M Coetzee Essay

1354 words - 5 pages

Disgrace was written in 1999 by author J.M Coetzee. Born in South Africa in 1940, Coetzee grew up during apartheid, something that has tinged his writing to a great extent (Nobelprize.org). Disgrace is set in a post-apartheid Cape Town where the protagonist David Lurie is forced to terminate his job after Melanie, a student, files a sexual abuse claim against him. In this essay I will explore how David Lurie's own view on masculinity is affected by his idolization of Lord Byron, and how this allows him to justify his immoral actions.
The protagonist, David Lurie, a university professor, is particularly interested in Lord Byron; a poet known for his licentious lifestyle, and an inspiration to the literary concept of 'Byronic heroes'. A Byronic hero is arrogant, intelligent, emotional, morally and characteristically flawed and often sexually irresistible to women (Fleming ). Lurie possesses many of these qualities, visible already on the first page, as the omnipotent narrator describes Lurie’s thoughts. He drily explains how “for a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well. On Thursday afternoons he drives to Green Point. Punctually at two p.m. he presses the buzzer at the entrance to Windsor Mansions, speaks his name, and enters. Waiting for him at the door of No. 113 is Soraya.” (Coetzee 1) Lurie has seemingly no regrets towards engaging with the prostitute Soraya. He is pleased with the way he has dealt with the “problem of sex” (1) perhaps implying that it is equal to buying food when hungry; that men need this itch to be scratched? He confuses the reader, as he shows affectionate feelings towards Soraya when he says: “I miss you all the time.” He strokes her honey-brown body, unmarked by the sun; he stretches her out, kisses her breasts; they make love” (1). His choice of words is amorous, in contradiction to the previous paragraph in which Soraya is a way of means to solve a carnal problem. Is he being untruthful to himself, not able to live with buying sex without love? Does he need to believe that to Soraya, he is more than a customer, perhaps even a lover? If so, for what purpose? It likely softens the immorality of the deed, but could it also be a question of a hurt ego?
A trait of the Byronic Hero is to be sexually irresistible; something Lurie was used to in his youth; however “one day it all ended. Without warning his powers fled. Glances that would once have responded to his slid over, past, through him. Overnight he became a ghost. If he wanted a woman he had to learn to pursue her; often, in one way or another, to buy her” (7). Lurie yearns to desire and to be desired by women, it is deeply embedded in him as a fundament (7). However, “it surprises him that ninety minutes a week of a woman's company are enough to make him happy, who used to think he needed a wife, a home, a marriage”(5). He can no longer rely on his magnetism, nor does he seek...

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