Disgrace

Disgrace is a Booker Prize winning novel by J.M. Coetzee. It is the story of David Lurie and his one escapade that turned his life around. David is an almost fifty, twice-divorced university professor. He is claimed to be a womanizer who seduces one of his students, Melanie. He teaches romantic poetry at a University in Capetown, South Africa. To highlight his character as a womanizer, the writer makes references to his occasional flings with women and his regularity at this one brothel for a period of time. David is shown to be in a very lustful and carnal affair with his student, Melanie. However, it is not until long that his clandestine affair blows up in the public eyes. He pleads guilty, accepts responsibility but is then almost forced to leave his job.


Having quit his job, he moves in with his daughter, Lucy. Now Lucy is a strong woman living alone in a farm. Within no time, David is deeply involved and engulfed with his daughter’s life. To add to his woes, Lucy is gang-raped by three natives purely out of communal hatred. Their farm is completely destroyed and David is also attacked. It looks to the reader that come what may, David doesn’t find the peace he oh-so-desires. Life isn’t the same for David and Lucy after this unfortunate event. Their life turns into one full of disgrace. They are looked upon with distrust and absolutely, no empathy whatsoever.

The novel brings to the forefront the spoilt existing relationships between the black and the white in South Africa. It’s usually been a predominant theme in most of Coetzee’s books and Disgrace is no different. There is an underlying danger or risky tone that the characters have to go through across the plot of the book. There is so much that the book stands for which is quite obvious – the central theme is shame and how life can revolve around it. There is a clear distinction shown in the characters of David and his daughter, Lucy. David decides to escape the situation with Melanie and prefers to be in exile. Lucy on the other hand, inspite of all the victimization and disgrace, decides to stay at her farm, build it back and lives life at her own accord. The characterization of the protagonists is done beautifully by Coetzee. He doesn’t really provide any sort of over explanation, rather leaves it to the reader to make their interpretations and devour the novel. This accounts for the engaging novel that is Disgrace. Inspite of all the despair and depression it stands for, Disgrace absolutely deserves to be on the Booker List simply for its characterization and touching plot.

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