Disgrace | Study Guide

J.M. Coetzee

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Disgrace | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

David Lurie leaves Capetown and drives to his daughter Lucy Lurie's homestead in the town of Salem in the Eastern Cape. Lucy makes her living kenneling dogs and selling produce at the local farmers market. It is another world for David, whose attitude wavers between appreciation and criticism.

David stays in the room formerly occupied by Helen, whom he never liked. Helen appears to have been Lucy's ex-girlfriend, though she has left.

On a walk around the property, David meets Katy, a female bulldog abandoned by her owners. David also meets Petrus, Lucy's black neighbor who has gone from being her helper to a coproprietor. He is middle aged and lives in the stable with his second wife.

David says he is thinking of staying a week. He and Lucy speak of the problems David left behind. Lucy offers him "refuge on an indefinite basis." She tells her father that his unwillingness to compromise with the university administration was not "heroic."

Analysis

Lucy's pragmatism and equilibrium bring David's capriciousness and melodramatic tendencies into sharp relief. In another contrast, the rural Eastern Cape is a world apart from the urban Cape Town, although David is an outsider in both places. Like Lucifer in Byron's poem Lara who "stood a stranger in this breathing world," David's outsider status follows him where he goes.

David characteristically uses animal metaphors to conceptualize his experiences, often in terms of castration, killing, or the dynamics of predator/prey. Now, however, he is confronted with a host of real animals, forcing him to shift from his habit of living in his imagination to living in Lucy's world, which is firmly grounded in reality.

Lucy's presence causes David to see himself as if through her eyes. He becomes self-conscious of his physicality, noting that there is "nothing so distasteful to a child as the workings of a parent's body." He also censors himself when speaking about the university inquiry, realizing that from Lucy's point of view, he sounds "melodramatic, excessive."

Although David is her parent, Lucy's calm, mature perspective guides and moderates David's behavior. While he met the university's disapproval with stubborn, arrogant indifference, David does not want his daughter to see his disgrace. He wants her to understand and respect him. This suggests that Lucy may be the weak point in the armor of David's temperament, the catalyst that overcomes his fervent resistance to any sort of inner transformation.

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