Disgrace is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a “loss of reputation or respect as the result of a dishonourable action”. The word Disgrace has two subtly different meanings- it can either be used as a noun or a verb. A person can be in disgrace (noun) or person can disgrace themselves or others (verb). Either way it implies a dishonourable event occurred that casts a shadow over a person or a group of people. A dictionary definition cannot truly convey what the meaning of ‘disgrace’ is. As with many words in the English language, ‘disgrace’ has a highly elusive nature. This is caused in part by the negative connotations associated with it and, as a result, the subtle nuances that it evokes when used.
In the context of the first 50 pages the title could refer to the act and aftermath of the affair that takes place between David Lurie and Melanie Isaacs. In fact, Lurie’s ex-wife says that the event “is disgraceful from beginning to end. Disgraceful and vulgar too.” (45). Allow me to refer back to the definition of disgrace as a “loss of reputation or respect as the result of a dishonourable action”. We see each aspect of the definition in this event. It has indeed brought Lurie a loss of respect and reputation. Melanie loses her respect for him (37), students stop attending his class, and colleagues act cold to him (42). This affair eventually leads him to lose his job.
The title could also refer the state Lurie is living in- the state of growing old and still pursuing younger women. Coetzee suggests in the very first chapter that “…ageing is not a graceful business,” (9). After having disappointing sex with a colleague, Lurie remarks that castrating himself would be “an ugly sight, but no more ugly, from a certain point of view, than the same man exercising himself on the body of a woman.”(9). This statement alerts us to how disgraceful Lurie regards his position to be. Castration, an operation generally associated with animals, is an inglorious way to depart from the world of sexually active humans. Yet Lurie is claiming that it would preferable to pursuing women who have varying degrees of interest in him.
The Apartheid in South Africa occurred between 1948 and 1994. The population was racially segregated as a part of the policy of the active government, the National Party (NP). Public services, such as education and health care, were segregated between white and black populations. The services provided to white people were far superior to the services offered to black people. As a result the black majority and other racial minorities were firmly established below the poverty line.
On June 16, 1976 a student uprising was mobilized when high school students left their classes to march peacefully across Soweto. These students were protesting the fact that they had to learn Afrikaans as well as the general political conditions of the time, in particular the apartheid. The protest was meant to...