J.M. Coetzee is the author of the book “Disgrace”. Coetzee develops the book through developing the personality of his main character David Lurie. However, close reading of the last pages of the book shows that although the main character, Lurie, goes a complete metamorphosis in terms of falling from grace to grass, his personality remains intact.
There are some interesting developments especially with regard to the Lurie’s interaction with some people whom he had problems with during the course of the narrative. For instance, Lurie’s relationship with his daughter Lucy is considerably repaired. He is somewhat depicted as being able to eventually understand Lucy’s predicament. His relation with the parents of Melanie is also not as strained as it had been. He is able to face Melanie’s parents and for the first time shows that he regrets his actions thereby mending his strained relationship with Melanie’s parents.
While dealing with the dogs, especially the crippled dog, Coetzee depicts Lurie as a compassionate person but his lack of compassion remains unresolved in the end. In the end his compassion and patience runs out. He is no longer concerned with the dog and is prepared to get rid of it. This aspect is revealed when Bev asks him whether he is giving the dog up and he replies, “Yes, i am giving him up.” Consequently, Lurie’s strained relationship with Lucy is not resolved in the end. He rightfully believes that Lucy still harbors a particularly evil thought for his character, and he hopes to write “something really worthwhile” that could at least make Lucy think better of him.
Towards the end, seems to be interested in working out things with Lucy. First he goes to the market in the company of Lucy and develops a conversation regarding the child that Lucy is expecting. Later when he visits Lucy, Lurie is lost in the thought of being a grandfather despite his earlier opposition to the idea of Lucy keeping the pregnancy. Another thing that is not resolved is Lurie’s selfishness and unrestrained behavior with regard to women. This is apparent when Lurie thinks, “what young hotties would want to sleep with a grandfather?” here Lurie seem not to regret his predicament following his affair with young Melanie.
Lurie’s work with the dogs does not redeem him in any way. Lurie’s attitude especially towards women does not change. From the narration, Lurie is a very insensitive person and incapable of loving. He still sees women as objects for fulfilling his desires. This is seen when Rosalind invites Lurie to have dinner with her. Lurie states that, “his best memories of her are still of their first months together: steamy summer nights in Durban, sheets damp with perspiration, Rosalind's long, pale body thrashing this way and that in the throes of a pleasure that was hard to tell from pain" (Coetzee 187). Despite the fact that the two spent a considerable time together especially when they were a couple, Lurie only recalls their sexual escapades.
Consequently, after he attends a play where Melanie is featured, Lurie is displeased by Melanie’s boyfriend who tells him off and asks Lurie if he has learned to “stay with your own kind” (Coetzee 194). This prompts Lurie to find a prostitute who is high on drugs. After the prostitute finishes her duty, Lurie thinks, “So this is all that it takes! How could I have ever forgotten it?" (Coetzee 194). Although Lurie is seen as repentant of the problems that befell him after his adventure with Melanie and having been depicted as having moved on from his earlier behavior of picking prostitutes to satisfy his sexual needs, he reverts to his behavior of seeking solace from prostitutes.
The book further develop Lurie’s develops character of selfishness. He behaves as if order people’s lives revolve around his. This is apparent in when he visits Lucy and is thinking, ‘what young hotties would want to sleep with a grandfather?’ he is not warmed up to the idea of Lucy giving birth because that would make him feel old. Lurie’s egoism is also seen when Rosalind observes and tells him, "You behave as if everything I do is part of the story of your life. You are the main character, I am a minor character who doesn't make an appearance until halfway through.” Throughout the novel, Lurie is depicted as having an inflated ego, a feature which remains unchanged to the end.
Teresa represents a fantasy for Lurie. Teresa parallels other characters in the book such as Melanie. The manner in which Lurie obsesses with Teresa Guiccoli in his sleep is the way he fantasizes with Melanie. This is evidenced by the fact that when Lurie sees Melanie in a play he fantasizes with Melanie’s naked body. Just like Teresa, Lurie knows that he cannot get to sleep with Melanie again having been disgraced. To that extent Melanie remains Lurie’s fantasy woman.
As the narrative draws to a conclusion, Lurie is depicted as spending most of his time tending to the dogs at the animal clinic. Although Lurie is more reserved when he first arrives at the animal clinic after being dismissed from his work as professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University, he gradually picks interest in the dogs. Close to the conclusion of the novel, Lurie’s work of tending to the dogs “consumes him night and day” (Coetzee 214). Although Lurie has put much effort into the animal clinic he realizes that eventually he would not achieve much and that the only thing that pays attention to his work is the crippled dog which seems to be fond of him. David also feels some affection for the dog to the extent that he is contemplating on including a dog in his opera (Coetzee 215). He is also sympathetic of the dog knowing that it may not have much time to live since its chances of being adopted were severely injured by reason of its handicap. These turn of events shows a great improvement in David’s the attitude considering that the dog’s life depended on his and Bev’s decision. Although all these developments regarding the character of Lurie show progress of his attitude by depicting him as a caring person, the very last sentence in of the novel is contrary to such development when he states that he is giving the dog up.
Coetzee’s narration in this novel is an interesting read. It is a narration that most people can relate with in post-apartheid societies. The use of the first person’s tense also enables the reader to understand the novel easily. Additionally, Coetzee’s use of dogs as a symbol of disgrace is predictive of the eventual life of the main character whose life can be paralleled with that of the handicapped dog.
Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. Great Britain, Vintage, 1999.