Disgrace | Study Guide

J.M. Coetzee

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Disgrace | Chapter 13 | Summary



As Bev Shaw changes David Lurie's bandages the day after the attack, he probes about Lucy's risk of pregnancy and disease. He wants Lucy to see a gynecologist, but Bev says she must be the one to discuss this with Lucy. As David waits for Lucy to appear, he feels that he has aged and his heart has been damaged. "His pleasure in living has been snuffed out," he thinks, and he feels despair.

Back at the farm, Petrus is still absent. Two policemen come to investigate the crime scene and to receive Lucy's statement. She gives it, looking at David the whole time and leaving out any mention of rape. She says the whole incident lasted less than 30 minutes. David, barely listening, is preoccupied with a childhood chant that has been reworked in his mind to reflect his feelings. He thinks, "Oh dear, what can the matter be? Lucy's secret; his disgrace." The policemen say a detective will come to fingerprint the house, and then they depart.

Ettinger arrives. He expresses mistrust of Petrus, saying, "Not one of them you can trust." He says he will "send a boy" to repair the vehicle.

Alone with Lucy, David asks Lucy why she didn't tell the cops the whole story. She replies, "I have told the whole story. The whole story is what I have told." David thinks that by censoring her experience, Lucy is letting the rapists win. They will not only go free but will also leave Lucy in a state of silent shame. David then offers to help in the only way he knows how, which is to bury the dogs. While he buries them, he thinks about the men who shot them and how they must have been satisfied at killing dogs that were a symbol of their oppression.

When Lucy is moving her bed into the storage pantry, he tells her to take the room where he sleeps. He moves into Lucy's room, thinking that "the ghosts of Lucy's violators ... ought to be chased out" of the room.

At dinner he asks her again why she withheld details of the attack. She says that since they are in South Africa at the current time it is her private business. David says she cannot avoid vengeance, nor can she pay for the crimes of history through her suffering and silence. Lucy responds that David does not understand her, and she doesn't "act in terms of abstractions" like guilt and salvation. She then ends the conversation, and their tension and distance is painful to David.


Again, David finds himself staying in Lucy's bedroom, recalling his sexual liaisons with Melanie in Lucy's other bedroom in Cape Town. While literally occupying her bed, David is being metaphorically asked to put himself in her place, the place of the female, something that he cannot do at this point. He can, however, imagine the perspective of the violators.

David had fantasized that Melanie was forced into making a sexual harassment complaint against him. Now he takes the opposite tack with Lucy after her rape. He becomes the one who is trying to force the victim to speak. The situation deeply affects David's emotions, and he separates himself from it by retreating into the indifference of the aged to contemplate "Lucy's secret; his disgrace." The semicolon indicates that these "separate" incidents in fact have the same cause. This is more obvious to the reader than to the character.

Lucy is again presented as the opposite of her father—in this chapter, through her criteria for making decisions and value judgments. David is all abstraction, seeing particular events through the lens of universal archetypes. Lucy, in contrast, is clear sighted and realistic. Their differences create an imbalance in their relationship. Lucy can understand her father, but her father simply cannot understand Lucy, for all his education and intellect.

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