During the 1990’s post-apartheid period J.M Coetzee’s wrote the novel Disgrace that illustrates the standpoint view on Rape and Power. This novel encapsulates the disgrace of a South African professor, David Lurie who loses his teaching privileges after having an affair with one of his students. David is man who has lead an interesting life, a professor who has had two failed marriages, multiple affairs, an author of a few books and a daughter who he loves unconditionally regardless of her life choices.
After being let go by the university David ventured from Cape Town to a farm on the country side to visit his daughter, Lucy. One night David and Lucy are confronted by two men and a young boy who assault both David and Lucy. The men not only robbed them but locked David in the bathroom and set him on fire meanwhile Lucy was in the bedroom being raped. Lucy’s demeanor towards David changed after the attack, it put a toll on their relationship.
David’s relationship with his student and the attack represents how both scenarios consist of non-consensual sex.
The second David laid eyes on Melanie he instantly wanted her. David found his way and invited Melanie to his home for a drink. J.M. Coetzee writes that when David extended the invitation to Melanie he is faced with, “A pause, cautious.’OK.” (11). David demonstrates to have a pushy and persuasive personality in this novel. Melanie attempted to leave David’s home multiple times and each time David found a way to convince Melanie to stay.
In one of those instances where Melanie try’s to leaves J.M. Coetzee writes, “ Don’t go yet,’ he takes her by the hands and leads her to the sofa.’ I have something to show you.” (13). Throughout the start of the novel we learn that David sees himself as the type of man who has the ability to swipe any women off of their feet. However, David’s interpretation of this ability is really the definition of obsession and power. We see this obsession right from the beginning when he hires a private investigator to find the whereabouts of his prostitute Soraya. The same way he goes through the university’s department files to find Melanie’s personal information. David may see his actions as trying to court a women but it is actually known as stalking.
David is also a very selfish person who is driven by his sexual desires. David did everything in power to seduce Melanie when he came to the realization that he actually wanted a relationship with her. J.M. Coetzee write that David tells Melanie, “A woman’s beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings to the world. She has a duty to share it” (15). The choice of words may seem as if David is flirting with Melanie but in reality it is showing power powerful David can be. Melanie throughout the novel was interested in David but at the same time was made felt uncomfortable by David. J.M Coetzee wrote, “soon as she is bare, she slips under the quilted counterpane like a mole burrowing, and turns her back on him.” (22). He may not have understood how demoralizing his actions towards Melanie were. Melanie must have felt ashamed and used by David as if she were a sexual object. Melanie at one point looked up to and admired David but all of those feeling turned to anger.
The most shown power struggle was with David’s daughter Lucy. Lucy in turn was a victim to power and rape. David begged Lucy to notify the authorities about what had happened to her. Lucy refused because she did not want change she preferred to move on with her life knowing that those three men raped her. She knew justice would be done because she knew the young man who raped her. J.M Coetzee wrote, “what happened to me is a purely private matter.” (109). As a result of the rape Lucy became pregnant and decided she will keep the pregnancy.
Disgrace by J.M Coetzee is a novel that encapsulates the disgrace of David Lurie after he is terminated from his job at the university. The relationship David and Melanie had goes hand in hand with the oppression that black women experienced in South Africa, in addition to Lucy a white girl being raped by three black men. Melanie and Lucy are vital characters to this novel, these characters illustrate how women were treated and disrespected in South America during the post-apartheid period. The women in this novel all did not have a voice they were inferior to men. Rape may be interpreted in many different ways as a sexual relationship for one person but may not seem like it for another.