This paper will discuss and evaluate the changes that the main character David Lurie goes through in the novel Disgrace by Coetzee. It would also cover as how it reflects the changing times in South Africa and its affects on other characters in the novel. In Disgrace by Coetzee, Lurie is a man who has various levels of character evaluation. He went through various phases of changes. At one time, he seems to be contemptuous of others, uses his position to take what he wants and to justify the taking. On the other level, in parallel, he is a white South African male forced to re-evaluate his entire world when he thinks he is too old for change.
In the novel “Disgrace”, we see that 52 years old David Lurie is a professor of communications at a Cape Town University. Unfortunately, he is twice divorced and enjoys this personal opinion that having a woman has never been a problem. In this novel, he reveals various traits of his personality and character through various phases and changes. Ultimately, he has to acknowledge that he is no longer fascinating with the passage of time; he sought the suitable services of a prostitute. This was an arrangement that finally came to an end, leaving him with no channel for his virility.
He is confronted with another change in his approach and approach at this phase in the novel. David Lurie lastly induced himself that an affair with a one of his female students would not be a bad idea after all and went for it. At this stage, we observe another turn in his life. The complaint of sexual harassment by the student shook his academic life upside down and he had to quit the job. As soon as he realizes this, David Lurie go through another phase of his character and leaves for the country side to an unsafe and remote farm. There, he intends to spend some time with his daughter who ran an animal refuge and sold produce and flowers.
He gets himself involved in writing. Lucy is violated by gangsters and with that David’s disgrace reaches its climax. David, at this critical stage and point of life, unexpectedly finds himself re-evaluating and changing his character. He reconsiders his relations with people, his affiliation with his only daughter, as well as his links with women. This change of approach and re-evaluation process reveal upon him that that love is never unreflecting rather it is always two-sided; it may be called a matter of give and take. He feels a certain kind of change in his character and approach at this specific point of time he was going through.
The basic message from this novel is that the reader comes to know the generally accepted truth that a person can comprehend who he/she is only when he analyzes his past. An important change in Lurie’s character is revealed through a significant event when on his journey, Lurie is compelled to visit Melanie’s family where he finally performs an act of contrition. When he finds his Cape Town home vandalized, he decides to permanently change his life. He returns to stay with his daughter, who is pregnant with the child of one of her attackers and living under the protection of being one of Petrus’s wives.
Lurie devotes himself to volunteering at the animal clinic, where he helps put down diseased and unwanted dogs, and composing his futile opera. Although not what he would ever have expected, he finds some form of life purpose. We also see Lurie in a different shade of his character when he resists to being part of the University committee’s desire for “prurience and sentiment” echoes the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which offered immunity in return for full disclosure of facts and a public show of remorse.
The TRC has been internationally acclaimed for contributing to the way South Africa avoided a civil war. The change in his character transpires when Lurie finally apologizes, members of the tribunal refuse to be satisfied, demanding to know whether it reflects his sincere feelings and comes from his heart: “Confessions, apologies: why this thirst for abasement? ” Lurie asks himself. We see that he enjoys various virtues and traits of character during different phases of his life.
David Lurie could save his job if he simply expressed the kind of repentance demanded of him by the university disciplinary board that has authority over him. He seems a different Lurie at this stage. We find ourselves sympathizing with the reasons he gives for not giving them what they want when he says: We went through the repentance business yesterday. I told you what I thought. I won’t do it. I appeared before an officially constituted tribunal, before a branch of the law. Before that secular tribunal I pleaded guilty, a secular plea. That plea should suffice.
Repentance is neither here nor there. Repentance belongs to another world, to another universe of discourse…. [What you are asking] reminds me too much of Mao’s China. Recantation, self-criticism, public apology. I’m old fashioned, I would prefer simply to be put against a wall and shot. (Coetzee, 1999, p. 58) There is not a word about the ethical conflict between lust and abuse of academic power. And there is no hint that the protagonist thinks he has committed an act genuinely subject to ethical objection. As regards to the same inclination, we also find a somewhat more honest confrontation.
A South African professor of English is caught imposing sex upon a beautiful student enrolled in his “Romantic Literature” course. Here, he seems a different kind of person persuading a young girl to fulfill his lustrous desires. When he first proposes that she “spend the night” with him, she asks “Why? ” and he answers, “Because you ought to. ” “Why ought I to? ” “Why? Because a woman’s beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it…. ” “And what if I already share it? ”…
“Then you should share it more widely. ” (Coetzee, 1999, p. 16) Conclusion In depicting the characteristic evolution of David Lurie’s fall and rise, Coetzee uses his typically spare prose to great effect. Sometimes, the accusation of using stereotypes confuses Coetzee’s habit of avoiding unnecessary detail with racial typecasting. If we are to believe that Coetzee is casting all black men as immoral, rapists and liars, then surely it would be equally true that we are to believe that all white men are academic Lotharios who spend their time sexually harassing students.
On the contrary, by following the downfall of one man Coetzee is drawing attention to South Africa’s dilemma of striving for color-blind equality in the immediate aftermath of decades of institutionalized racial discrimination. The evolutionary changes in the main character of the novel have been connoted in over all opera of contrasts based setting of the novel. The existence of contrast should not be taken to suggest, however, that these are two entirely separable ways of working with cultural materials; the point at which making becomes creating, or creating reverts to making, is never predictable, and can be assigned only after the fact.
It is often a gradual process of false starts and wasted efforts, erasures and revisions, slowly inching nearer to an outcome that, one can only hope, will be the desired one, or arriving at it in fits and starts. We may quote from Coetzee’s Disgrace again, though this description of David Lurie’s composition of a chamber opera is the echo of thousands of similar accounts across a number of fields. This reflects and suggests change in his character.
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