Soraya in “Disgrace” by John Maxwell Coetzee


Disgrace was written by Nobel-prize winning author John Maxwell Coetzee. The novelist was born in South Africa and has gained fame thanks to the serious subject matter of his works. There are different views on the central idea of Disgrace, and the ethics of the characters are often questionable (Faber 303).

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However, there is no doubt that this work is a masterpiece of modern literature because it touches on far-reaching themes and problems of modern society. The characters in his books are often realistic, and some are very mysterious. A female that is described at the start of the novel is one of them. The author uses Soraya’s character to express his opinion that women of all professions have their feelings and motives that should be respected.


The relationship of Soraya with the main character is rather interesting. Coetzee depicts her as “tall and slim, with long black hair, liquid eyes” (1). The description is rather short, but it allows the reader to understand that the woman was attractive. Also, it fits a character that is so mysterious, and the main hero mostly saw her during the afternoon. It is interesting that the author decides to mention that it could be seen that she probably gave birth to a child. This is a crucial fact, and it will have an impact later in the novel.

The main hero thought of her as a woman that likes to listen. And it could be the case because he did not trust others with the stories about his life. However, it is a part of her profession. It is also interesting that the main character believed that she acted differently with every client. It may be because he thought that he was special, or he saw something particular in her behavior that made him think so. He realized that she said what he wanted to hear and behaved the way he wanted her to act.

Also, he had a suspicion that she leads a double-life because he is allowed to see her only twice a week. Soraya probably was not a professional, but everything has satisfied the central hero. It is interesting that the author has mentioned her religion, and it is an important aspect of the character. What she does may seem even more wrong, and it is not that easy to understand such behavior.


One incident has changed everything. The main hero saw Soraya walk with her two children, and their eyes meet. There is no better way to describe the situation other than “neither he nor she can put aside what has happened” (Coetzee 6). That was a deciding moment in their relationship. Their meetings were simply not the same, and Soraya decided to put an end to it. She said that she had to look after her sick mother. It very well could be either a truth or lie, and the central character understood that something was wrong.

Other women no longer satisfied him, and he became worried. She was definitely special for him because of her personality, and he felt a connection when they were making love. He became paranoid and wanted to find Soraya once he was unable to contact her. She made him paranoid and almost insane. However, his hopes were ruined once he got hold of her phone number. The tone of her voice was not the same as before, and her personality was different. She shows a strong will and leaves an agency very easily.

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Soraya did it because she did not want to let anyone intrude on her personal life. Also, there is a possibility that she decided to change her life for the better with a realization that she was living wrongly after an incident. She did not want her children to see such a man because she actually loved them. The main hero understood that it was her real self during the conversation, and decided to leave her alone. It is very frequent in the novelist’s works that everything is not explained, and the reader has to think about what actually happened.

Coetzee ends the chapter with “a shadow of envy passes over him for the husband he has never seen” (10). It is an excellent description of the main hero’s feelings towards Soraya. He believed that she also had affection towards him but did not want to ruin everything. It can be said that this is actually a story about the importance of family.


In conclusion, the author was able to create a character of a questionable profession that a reader can sympathize with. Many bad things can be said about Soraya, but there is no doubt that she was a loving mother. The works of the author are often filled with characters that disappear, and she is one of them (Brittan 477). Overall, she was a mysterious and beautiful woman that had her motives and would not allow anyone to intervenes in her life.

Works Cited

Brittan, Alice. “Death and J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Contemporary Literature 51.3 (2010): 477-502. Print.

Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. New York, NY: Viking, 1999. Print.

Faber, Alyda. “The Post-Secular Poetics and Ethics of Exposure in J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Literature and Theology 23.3 (2009): 303-316. Print.

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