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

2203 words - 9 pages

Through the perspective of an unconventional college professor, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace addresses the transition into post-apartheid South Africa, societal acceptance and rape through David Lurie and Lucy Lurie’s complex father-daughter relationship. While living in his daughter’s countryside home, David Lurie’s experiences reveal that despite the powerful political reform, crime continues to dominate the African people. Aspects of South African history are used to emphasize racial tension and the shift from a white to a black dominated South Africa. Coetzee also suggests the instability of the African society through constantly depicting his characters as emotionally unable to adapt to adverse situations. Although David and Lucy were initially introduced as polar opposites, their value of privacy and refusal to endure public humiliation and shame draw a parallel between the predator and prey of the novel. David Lurie ultimately evolves from his sexual encounters with Soraya, Melanie and Bev Shaw by realizing the traumatizing implications of his actions after the Lucy’s rape.
J.M. Coetzee, a white South African writer, was strongly influenced by his personal experiences while he witnessed the social barriers during the apartheid. As the novel begins, Coetzee describes the sexual relationship between the protagonist David Lurie and Soraya, a prostitute that David routinely indulged in every Thursday. “For a man of his age, fifty- two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well” (Coetzee 1). In his mind, however, he did not put into perspective the thoughts of Soraya. He satisfied his desires at the expense of another’s emotional wellbeing. Despite Soraya’s acceptance of prostitution, her reaction towards her occupation allows the reader to conclude that she feels shameful for what she has to resort to financially provide for her family. Soraya’s adamant response to David phoning her house to question her about her absence resulted in her hostility towards the only man who knows of her double life as a prostitute. “Her shrillness surprises him: there had been no intimation of it before. But then, what should a predator expect when he intrudes into a vixen’s nest, into the home of her cubs?” (Coetzee 10). David identifies himself as a predator to Soraya and her family, but does not realize the severity of his wrongdoings because he deceives himself of the unethical aspects of their relationship. Instead, he views Soraya as the one who is causing difficulties by abandoning him. Furthermore, David familiarity with Soraya inferiority and his efforts to prolong their business together demonstrates the dominance of the typical white South African man during the pre-apartheid (Attwell 67). Unaware of the obscurity of his actions, David persists to contact a detective agency to locate Soraya without first considering her reaction to his call. He instead assumes that the situation has not changed between them and his ignorance...

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