Support for Racism Novel by J. M. Coetzee “Disgrace”

Since the novel Disgrace by L.M. Coetzee was published in 1999, it has never ceased to be at the center of controversy. Some critics have acclaimed it for “unblinkingly depicting the lack of progress South Africa has made towards its declared goal of a non-racial, non-sexist democracy” (Beyad, Maryam, and Hossein 153) while others have argued that the text is “for painting a one-sidedly negative picture of post-apartheid South Africa” (Beyad et al. 160). The novel`s negative perception of the black community has largely been seen to support the racism and stereotypes of the white community.

Pointedly, one of the most common attacks on Disgrace was its submission to the United Nations as a typical depiction of racism in South Africa. This article will present a literary output of the novel Disgrace, particularly analyzing the themes and styles in the text and the way it reflects the post-colonial period and the voices of protests against the while imperialism, both from literary cultural and social-political perspectives.

Fantasy versus reality

The author introduces the readers to the story of a wayward professor, Dr. David Lurie as he ages through a disrespectful decline. Throughout the novel, the story is not only a tale of strife and wrenching transition that exists in the microcosm of David’s thought, but also other parallel themes and symbolism that underpin the social, political and ethical decorum that are realities in the contemporary South African communities. In his interactions with people and other creatures away from his usual milieu, the faults of David lines between his myopic perceptions of the society and reality dawns on him with disconcerting clarity.

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At some point, Lucy ironically points out reality by snapping, ‘Wake up, David… this is Africa’ (Coetzee 52).

The author uses a series of phrases to reinforce the notion that every member of the society lives in solitude on matters to do with the soul; ‘What goes on in your soul is dark to us… ‘(Coetzee et al. 58).These statements emblems the deliberate disregard that is used in justifying the actions of individuals, governing structures and the society in a series of unfortunate occurrences. Further, the author makes the readers believe that the deliberate ignorance is the blindfold that is often used to cloud the conscious minds of individuals into the state of denial hence permitting the status quo to escalate. Talking about guilt and innocence, the novel explores the social morals along which justice is aligned. Ultimately, the novel brings out the aspect of justice as a public act that was driven by guilt and dishonor.


Disgrace is one of the literary works that has chosen the path that fewer writers have dared (Rockel 170). The novel has explicitly spoken about the sad pictures in the society, excluding race, nationality and the perceptions of the society. The book was explicitly authored following the promulgation of the new constitution in South Africa and notes that political transition is not enough to change the evils and ideals in the society. The constitution stipulated that both men and women have equal rights. At this time, violence had taken root in the country, and economic activities were constrained. Famers ceased their operations as a result of the violence vindicated against them (Coetzee et al. 42). Similarly, cases were reported of women being raped at least twice in their lifetime (Coetzee et al. 68).

Sex and gender inequality

In the novel’s complex analysis of sexual encounters, the novel uses David and Petrus to show how gender inequalities happen in the society and how some men use women to both material and psychological power. Petrus pretended to be a friend of Lucy but later betrayed her trust. David, at fifty-two years, is noted to be sexually active and often thinking about sex. Aside from, marrying twice, he sought for the service of a prostitute to satisfy this sexual desire. In another case, Laurie, being a teacher, is implicated to have slept with his student. This act crosses the boundary; the teacher should be a guardian and the pillar of moral support. The difficult situation not only lead to Laurie losing his job and being humiliated in public, but also the young student drops out of school and gets charged for the event.

Similarly, the author has used the case of Lucy to explore the aspects of rape, justice and how the society misjudges the actions of its members. Lucy is introduced as the daughter of David, and she is raped by multiple men who later stole items from their house. While she is reluctant to report the matter because of her private issues, she knows very well that justice will never be served. “Three unknown assailants have attacked Ms. Lucy Lourie and her elderly father on their smallholding outside Salem…'(Coetzee et al. 49) although the perpetrators were strangers and Lucy did not recognize them, she took the matter upon herself. Lucy realized that the society misjudged her including her father (Coetzee et al. 25). David watched her daughter go through fear and misery without any efforts to comfort her. She decided to get married the first man that proposes to her. This action follows the struggle that she went through and the negative perception. She decided to make a new beginning and a new beginning for herself.

The article has explored J.M. Coetzee`s distance towards the underlying conflicts, predominant tense gender and racial correlations, and symbolism as used by the author in his questioning of realism in the text. Through the novel, the author has highlighted the challenges in the society and the reactions that individuals make in pursuit of a new start. The story has also presented a set of themes through the characters; David faces a series of conflicts as he tries to settle with his daughter Lucy in their new home. The themes such as irony have been shown by the outcome of events that contravened the expectations. The author used the twist in the case of Lucy and her failure to seek redress to invoke the specificity and the range in which the law is depicted in the novel. The novel has successfully investigated the aspects of gender inequality, post-colonialism as well as metaphorical assertions, allegories, and symbolism. In this regard, the work by Coetzee has been widely acknowledged including being awarded the Booker Prize in 1999 and the author getting a Literary Nobel Prize. Similarly, the book was transformed into film, recognizing its role in allegorically exploring and speaking about realities and contemporary issue in the society.

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Support for Racism Novel by J. M. Coetzee “Disgrace”. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from

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