“Disgrace” a Novel by John Maxwell Coetzee

Speaking about the world of literature, it is necessary to say that it is quite difficult to divide the most famous and appreciated books into two groups based on positive or negative aspects of life that their authors are focusing on; in fact, when it comes to good books, it may be a challenging task to describe their general mood as they allow readers to regard the same events from different points of view. In reference to such books showing the life as it is, with all the joys and sorrows that it involves, they often receive a good feedback from readers and book reviewers due to the fact that they are able to hold readers in suspense and sometimes even shock them, changing their usual assumptions concerning the good and the bad things.

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There is no doubt that the novel called “Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee that appeared at the end of the twentieth century can be regarded as an example of such book due to the fact that it touches upon many topics such as sexual preferences and sex crimes that many authors avoid to discuss. Due to that disinhibition, many researchers still doubt which values the author supports (Herrick 82). In order to better understand the meaning and the message of the given novel, it is necessary to pay an increased attention to the characters of the book. The author creates a complex character, Lucy Lurie, who faces the shameful and disgraceful acts of her father, the suggestions and assumptions of her homosexuality, and the degrading physical violations committed against her because of her race and sexuality.

The novel presents a few series of events that are strictly interconnected with each other. The story begins with the description of the changes in life of a professor working in South Africa who has lost his job and authority due to his relationships with one of his students. After this situation, the professor has to leave Cape Town in order to live on the farm of his adult daughter named Lucy. In fact, this character can be called one of the victims in the novel as the readers are demonstrated that Lucy has to cope with problems and threats throughout the book.

In fact, her life has never been easy as there are a lot of things that make her different from other people living in the region. To begin with, there are certain areas there women feel extremely unsafe if they do not have husbands and this problem remains important for Lucy as she is not attracted to men at all; instead, she loves women and she has to pay dearly for her different happiness. Lucy can be seen as a person of nerve, she “is adaptable” and this quality allows her to restore after traumatic events in her life (Coetzee 52).

After being raped by a few criminals who wanted not just to use her body but to put her down and demonstrate that there was nobody who could protect her, Lucy is in a very difficult situation and her father suffers with her too. Seeing his daughter’s attempts to overcome her problems, he notices that “Lucy’s future, his future, and the future of the land – it is all the matter of indifference” (Coetzee 28). Despite a significant age gap, Lucy seems to be even stronger than her father who has demonstrated his lack of will while trying to seduce his student.

Unlike him, Lucy is presented as a young woman who still believes that nothing can tame her spirit completely. Being the only white woman among people belonging to another race and supporting different assumptions can definitely be seen as one more factor making her life more difficult; after the rape and the attempts of her rapists to destroy her farm, she understands that she is pregnant but there is no way for them to punish the criminals (Smith 13). Police officers are disinterested in their problems and Lucy just has to conclude that her rapists “are not going to be caught” (Coetzee 39). Therefore, it can be seen that she is supposed to paddle her own canoe.

In fact, race and sexual orientation act as the factors making Lucy a red flag for those who regard violence as a good way to put people there they belong. It could be easier for her to cope with that if she felt the real support from her father but unfortunately, his lifestyle and behavior do not make him a role model for his daughter; instead, she feels that his attitude to relationships with women is inappropriate.

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In the end, Lucy remains one of the most important characters whose stories are told in the novel “Disgrace” by Coetzee because her difficult life and obstacles that she has to overcome encourage her to reveal her character throughout the book. Due to her race and sexuality, this person has to work hard in order to distract from traumas and problems and continue to pursue certain goal that she sees; these facts usually make readers develop tremendous respect to this character. The story is extremely honest and there is nothing that the author would like to conceal or omit; due to that, it may be a good decision for those seeing themselves as black swans in their communities to read this novel and learn something new.

Works Cited

Coetzee, John Maxwell. Disgrace. Penguin Books, 2000.

Herrick, Margaret. “The ‘Burnt Offering’: Confession and Sacrifice in JM Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Literature and Theology, vol. 30, no. 1, 2016, pp. 82-98.

Smith, M. Van Wyk. “Rape and the Foundation of Nations in JM Coetzee’s Disgrace.” English in Africa, vol. 41, no. 1, 2014, pp. 13-34.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, October 29). “Disgrace” a Novel by John Maxwell Coetzee. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-a-novel-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-essay/

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"“Disgrace” a Novel by John Maxwell Coetzee." StudyCorgi, 29 Oct. 2020, studycorgi.com/disgrace-a-novel-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-essay/.

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StudyCorgi. "“Disgrace” a Novel by John Maxwell Coetzee." October 29, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-a-novel-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-essay/.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "“Disgrace” a Novel by John Maxwell Coetzee." October 29, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-a-novel-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-essay/.


StudyCorgi. (2020) '“Disgrace” a Novel by John Maxwell Coetzee'. 29 October.

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