Coetzee alludes often in his writing to literature, historical events and figures, classical mythology and pop culture. These allusions often hold a great deal of sub-textual information. The following is an analysis of two of the more significant allusions.
The youngest member of the trio of thieves that steal from the Luries and rape Lucy is named Pollux. This is likely an allusion to the Greek myth, Castor and Pollux. Castor and Pollux are half-brothers. Their myth involves in part the kidnapping and rape of the Leucippides, Phoebe and Hilaeira, who become pregnant as a result of the rapes. This aspect of the myth is very similar to the plotline of Disgrace as Lucy (note the phonetic similarity between Lucy and Leucippides) becomes pregnant when Pollux and his quasi-brothers rape her. Furthermore, the myth of Castor and Pollux culminates with Idas- the fiancé of one of the Leucippides- trying to kill Pollux. Pollux is saved when Zeus (his father) intervenes and kills Idas. This again is similar to the plotline of Disgrace when Lurie is trying to get Pollux arrested, but Petrus (Pollux’s father- figure) protects him by withholding his personal information. (139)
Another significant allusion that Coetzee makes is to Lord Byron and his lover Teresa, Countess Guiccioli. This allusion happens several times through the beginning and middle sections of the novel, but it is really featured closer to the end. Indeed, near the end of this novel, the allusion to Byron becomes an aspect of the plot. This allusion is significant because Byron comes to symbolize Lurie. We see this in three ways. Firstly, they share similar characteristics. They are both scholars of the English language. They are both immersed in romantic ideologies which they use to justify their prurience and promiscuity. Secondly, they both take to preying on younger women. Lurie is involved with Melanie (30 year age gap) and Byron was involved with Teresa (14 year age gap). Thirdly, the change in Lurie’s perceptions about Teresa mirrors the change in Lurie’s sexual habits. Initially, Lurie plans to write a show about a “passionate young” (181) Teresa who falls in love with a “now less than passionate” (180) older Byron. In this scenario, Teresa symbolizes Melanie. However, later on in the novel Lurie changes the premise of his show, making it instead about a “Teresa in middle age” (181). The description of this older Teresa as a “dumpy” woman with a “heavy bust” and “stocky trunk” is quite similar to the first description we get of Bev Shaw as a “dumpy, bustling little woman with black freckles, close-cropped, wiry hair, and no neck.” (72). As the change in Teresa’s character occurs after Bev and Lurie sleep together, the older Teresa likely symbolizes Bev Shaw.
Lurie’s relationship with Melanie symbolizes the relationship between colonists and Indigenous people. As I stated in my response to question 3, the relationship between Lurie and Melanie...