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Disgrace, Desire, and Degradation: The Experience of Intrapersonal Reconciliation and Power Relations in Post Apartheid South Africa

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  1. Introduction
  2. Coetzee's description David Lurie's life and work
  3. His casual attitude toward the seduction of a coloured girl
    1. The social and political climate in South Africa
    2. His refusal to offer a confession
    3. David's words to Lucy
  4. Lucy life and that of her father
    1. Living the life she chooses
    2. Her love for Helen
  5. Lucy's rape
    1. Lucy's decision to keep the child
  6. David's return to Cape Town
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

J.M. Coetzee uses the third person omniscient point of view to tell the story of the unraveling of David Lurie's career and the proceeding time he spends with his daughter, Lucy, in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Through this point of view, Coetzee creates a voice that is distant: he evokes extreme emotion in the reader through the complexity of his characters while nevertheless remaining ostensibly veiled in an objective and unyielding tone of voice. It is through this narration that Coetzee discloses the emotional angst and uncertainty that plague both David and Lucy at different points throughout the novel. Coetzee offers a comparison of the varying degrees to which David and Lucy are disgraced and endure shame. While their emotions are precipitated by opposing forces and manifest themselves differently, thus revealing the contrast in their cognitive makeups, they both experience a disgrace that is analogous to the infamy of apartheid and undergo significant, yet muddled internal transformations that mirror the complexity of post apartheid South Africa.

[...] While subtle, Coetzee's words are exceedingly revealing: Lucy's attachment to life in the country is perhaps representative of a larger connection to both the physical and cultural realities of South Africa. While aware of the dangers surrounding her, Lucy remains steadfast in living the life she chooses. Originally moving to the Eastern Cape as a member of a commune of six women, Lucy devotes herself to peddling leather goods and sunbaked pottery (Coetzee, 60). After the commune disbands, Lucy stays and creates a business-like relationship with her neighbor, Petrus, a coloured man who helps with the physical labor involved in maintaining her farm. [...]


[...] In this way, Coetzee is speaking to the complexity of David Lurie: just like the good and the bad in the South Africa's history, David Lurie's growth cannot be measured in quantitative forms of good and evil. Despite David's lust for Desiree and his decision to pick up a prostitute, his attitude toward sex and women does change. He is inevitably changed by the lifestyle he creates living in the Eastern Cape. When he returns to the Eastern Cape in the end of the novel, he has a different attitude toward his relation with Lucy. [...]


[...] When applied to the world they live in, David's view of Lucy's disgrace perhaps mirrors the failure of South Africa to adequately address its history of apartheid (Kossew, 160). Lucy expresses that she is most upset by their hatred for her. David responds by saying, was history speaking through them A history of wrong. Think of it that way, if it helps. It may have seemed personal, but it wasn't. It came down from the ancestors? (Coetzee, 156). On the other hand, Lucy's realism suggests that she views her rape as a consequence of apartheid, as something to be expected. [...]

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