Theme Of Sexuality In J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace

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Would it be completely perplexing, If one would to tell you that immorality, power struggle and sex had to do with dogs, a rape victim and a romantic poet from the 1800’s , that all combine to advance the plot and characters in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace? At first glance, incomprehensible perhaps, however not entirely implausible. In Coetzee’s Disgrace the three prominent themes of immoral treatment of animals, power struggle between white and black South Africans and sexual supremacy are supported by symbols; dogs, Lucy and Lord Byron to enhance the development of the plot and form part of characterisation in the novella. By reflecting on the establishment and development of these themes and coinciding symbols, it will demonstrate that they are…show more content…
Lurie believes that “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” (Coetzee, 1999:16). This modus operandi that governs Lurie’s life is the root reason for his dismissal. The rape or “..not quite that…” of Melanie, a student in Lurie’s class is the reason for his dismissal (Coetzee, 1999:25). For this reason, one can assume that even though Lurie does not believe his sexual acts with Melanie are textbook rape, it is neither not rape. By pleading guilty but, rejecting a public statement Lurie believes he is making a romantic gesture of bold individualism that identifies him with the romantic poet, Byron. Lurie declares that motivations of the heart is a sacred right and explains his conduct by describing himself as “…a servant of Eros…” (Coetzee, 199:52). Byron symbolises Lurie’s higher power that directs his sexual dominance with “pretty girls” (Coetzee,…show more content…
Through Lurie’s opinion and treatment of the dogs we can map his change as well as this theme accordingly. Dogs accompany the change in Lurie as he becomes a ‘dog-man’ rather than a ‘predator’, symbolising what disgrace people go through after they have been immorally dishonoured. Typical Post-Apartheid resentment is seen in the theme of power struggle between black and white. Lurie believes he is belittled since his demotion and Lucy because she has to co-own her land with a black farmhand. It is this kind of insolence that induces ferocious acts of lack retaliation like the rape of Lucy. Lucy is now the symbol of payment for past prejudices against blacks. While Lurie’s further demotion to ‘dog-man’ and Petrus’ promotion to entrepreneur symbolises the status antithesis of black and white in South Africa. The men in Disgrace believe they are sexual dominators who can do with women as they like because they were created to be shared. The sexual use of Melanie by Lurie and abuse of Lucy by the three black men are equivalent in terms of the sexual dominance theme. Lurie’s sexual supremacy is inspired as well as justified by the symbolism of Lord Byron’s lifestyle and Eros, yet the parallel between Lurie and the rapist indicates then that they are the same. If Lurie cannot be held responsible then never can the rapist implying that everyone should be equally accountable in

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