Redistribution of Wealth, Power, and Narrative Focus in Disgrace

Disgrace, by J.M Coetzee, is a deceivingly short book. On the surface it looks like a simple personal narrative, but it is much more complex than that. The novel not only deals with the delicate matter of rape, it also examines the intricate racial complexities of a new post-apartheid South Africa. Encompassing all these themes is another question: what is the nature of human-animal relationships? The three levels of the novel – personal, racial, and biological – each offer a different perspective on the dominant motif of the story: the issue of redistribution, whether of power or wealth. Although redistribution takes place on all three of these levels, the redistribution of power in the human-animal relationships is unique in that, unlike the others, the benefit is not unidirectional, but bidirectional. Both the humans and the animals gain from this exchange. To better understand this process of redistribution, we examine it from three different perspectives – personal, racial, and biological.

First, we examine the redistribution that takes place on a personal level, namely, to David Lurie. At the beginning of the novel, David is a professor of communications at Cape Technical University. As a professor, he is assured the...

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