“Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny

This paper is a literary essay on Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee. The book reveals a passion and lust, racial hatred and violence, and loneliness and despair that pursue heroes all their life resulting in deep reflections about life, its meaning, and destiny.

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The story describes the South African community in the aftermath of apartheid, where the cruelty and lack of discipline took place. The main hero of the book is a university professor, who is deprived of everything in his life because of the scandal with a student girl, namely he loses the job and the goodwill of the society. As a result, he leaves the Cape and settles near his lesbian daughter Lucy’s house in the Eastern Cape (Coetzee 58). Lucy is a single farmer raped by local robbers who committed the attack on her farm. Each of the characters is on the path of Christian humility: a father carries his cross taking small room having nothing at all and his daughter works in a shelter for homeless animals decided to born a child. The experience of public dishonesty is the theme of the novel.

In his controversy novel, Coetzee answers to the question posed by Franz Kafka: to be or not to be a man, if life depressed you in the eyes of society to the insect state, whether to be a zero or start a new life? A sudden outbreak of love turned out to be a rush of lust and inspiration turned out to be fruitless creative efforts create a disgrace. Life drives the protagonist a long roundabout way of illusory worlds incarnated by lurking desires, temptations, hopes, and aspirations, but no one dares to guarantee that the result of the so-called “travel” would not be painfully real and visible (Hayes 87). The rush to get rid of boredom, to get rid of its tenacious grip could lead to rather ambiguous consequences: in the best case – to an even greater restlessness, and at worst – to the fate of dishonor. If the worst happened, how to wash away this stigma then?

The Disgrace is an attempt to convey a spiritual human experience of losing the past, future, and hope – everything except of self-esteem (Leist and Singer 92). It is a chance to rethink the world – you have to obey it. Otherwise, you would get a disgrace, and your life will not be a fun. However, what is a disgrace according to Coetzee? Protagonist’s refusal to “repent” and thereby save the honor in the public and social sense of the word is a sign that he has his own understanding of honor and disgrace. Besides, the willingness to suffer the shame proves the above idea, too. Any average person would look for ways to stay honest in the eyes of society, not to be expelled (Manhart 77). It is like a survival instinct because it works unconsciously. Nevertheless, Lurie stands alone in this question. Speaking of his disgraced daughter is another interesting aspect. She was dishonored in the eyes of the society due to her homosexual relationships and rape, but if she lost honor? The disgrace of human is expressed in various forms, and, perhaps, it was not the disgrace to some extent.

The style of presentation of the novel is concise and practically devoid of artistic decorations. It is exactly the case when the simplicity and ingenuousness much more convincing than stylistic sophistication. In this novel, the narrator takes the position of an outside observer. Thanks to the author’s chosen tactics of non-interference and refrain from subjective comments, events occurring in the product are perceived as completely independent ones, as a living reality but not a puppet microcosm.

I sympathize the protagonist because he does not shirk responsibility for his actions and recognizes himself as a victim of instinct. He realizes himself in a new way (even if working in the dog kennel) and tries to establish a good relationships with his daughter exerting every effort. The main hero does not forget about inspiration along with creativity hoping to write an opera about Byron. Therefore, he deserves to be considered as a strong person. Reading this novel, I understood that the book is worth receiving awards and prizes. It is incredibly harsh and truthful, it shows the side of life, to which the majority of people prefers to close their eyes, but humanity needs to know the naked truth. The novel forces serious thoughts, puts a lot of questions, and no obvious answers leaving them to the reader’s consideration. Even the name of the story is somewhat deceitful as at first one notes only the act of the protagonist dishonoring female students. Further, there is a reproach for the shame of the whole country that has become a victim of the policy of apartheid.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that the Disgrace novel raises rather sophisticated questions of dishonor, love, and worldview. The book is an attempt to show the soul of man, his feelings, failure, and rebirth.

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Works Cited

Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace, London: Vintage, 2000. Print.

Hayes, Patrick. J. M. Coetzee and the Novel: Writing and Politics after Beckett, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

Leist, Anton, and Peter Singer. J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature, New York: Columbia UP, 2010. Print.

Manhart, Niklas. J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. A Realistic Criticism of ‘New’ South-Africa? New York: Grin Verlag, 2013. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 9). “Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-life-and-destiny/

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"“Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny." StudyCorgi, 9 May 2020, studycorgi.com/disgrace-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-life-and-destiny/.

1. StudyCorgi. "“Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny." May 9, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-life-and-destiny/.


StudyCorgi. "“Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny." May 9, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-life-and-destiny/.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "“Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny." May 9, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/disgrace-by-john-maxwell-coetzee-life-and-destiny/.


StudyCorgi. (2020) '“Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee: Life and Destiny'. 9 May.

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