Disgrace Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-15


The next day, Ettinger arrives with suggestions for security measures that should be taken, but Lurie is unsure his daughter will ever consent to them. Things have changed irrevocably: the only constant seems to be the abandoned bulldog, Katy.

Petrus returns with his wife in a cab, dressed in a suit and bringing with him all kinds of building materials. Lurie is suspicious of the timing of Petrus' absence and questions him; Lucy, however, refuses to consider his possible role in the crime. When Petrus comes to the house, he has heard about the robbery and asks if Lurie is okay. Petrus does not ask about Lucy. Petrus encourages them to go to the market so that they will not lose their stall; however, Lucy is not ready to appear in public. Lurie thus appears at the market in his bandages for Lucy's sake, with Petrus accompanying him. Petrus does all the work at the market and Lurie considers how times have changed since apartheid; he decides "[h]e would not mind hearing Petrus' story one day (117)."

Lurie continues to distrust Petrus, believing that Petrus "has a vision of the future in which people like Lucy have no place (118)." While helping Petrus clean out the algae from the storage dam, Lurie confronts him about the crime. Petrus does not admit any further knowledge of the event. When Lurie becomes worked up about wanting to find justice for his daughter, Petrus coolly responds that he is not wrong for that desire. Lurie meanwhile picks up the slack around the farm, caring for his depressed daughter. This care-giving role frustrates him, as he prefers to work on his Byron opera.

Petrus throws a party to celebrate his land transfer. In preparation for the party, Petrrus purchases two sheep for the feast. Lurie feels sympathy for the sheep, saying, "I'm not sure I like the way he does things - bringing the slaughter-beasts home to acquaint them with the people who are going to eat them (124)." Lucy finds his view ludicrous.

Lucy wears a knee-length floral dress, high heels, and jewelry to Petrus' party. She encourages her father to wear a tie. Petrus' home is very humble. The old stable has no ceiling or proper floor; pictures soften the walls. Lucy and Lurie are the only whites present. When Petrus greets them he introduces Lucy as his "benefactor" and says, "No more dogs. I am not any more the dog-man (129)." As her gift, Lucy has brought the family an Ashanti bedspread. Petrus' wife is expecting a child and Petrus desires a boy.

After the party has been going on for a while, one of the three robbers arrives. Lucy wishes to leave immediately. However, Lurie confronts him and asks Lucy to confirm his identity but Lucy will not do so in front of so many people. They leave the party. Lurie intends to call the police but Lucy will not let him. When Lurie confronts his daughter about why she refuses to confront the boy or charge him, she insists again upon her privacy. Lurie is sad that they no longer are like father and daughter but rather quarrel like husband and wife. After Lucy has gone to bed, Lurie returns to the party as an outsider and witnesses a chieftain's speech.


Having returned to the farm, Lurie quickly gets to the business of protection. Lucy's neighbor, Ettinger, offers to loan them a gun. As Lurie repairs the kitchen door, he considers other options. He says, "They ought to turn the farmhouse into a fortress. Lucy ought to buy a pistol and a two-way radio, and take shooting lessons. But will she ever consent? She is here because she loves the land and the old landliche way of life. If that way of life is doomed, what is left for her to love (113)." Both Lucy and Lurie know that bars, guns, and pistols offer a false sense of security. Neither dogs nor guns nor fences can protect them from the threat of violence. Because they are white South Africans in the country, they are in danger.

Lurie is not able to pin down Petrus' involvement in the incident. Lurie's search for the truth can be described as both anthropological research and an inquisition. He rejects the simple prospect that Petrus set up the crime as payback for his servile treatment, instead deciding that the truth is more complicated. Lurie realizes that the crime is connected to culture-that it is silly to judge such a historically complex situation on the basis of simple guilt and innocence. When he envisions the process of seeking the truth, he sees himself as an anthropologist with clear objectives and methodology, conducted a well-planned survey.

When Lurie actually does speak with Petrus about the event, however, he loses his scientific objectivity. His questions become more like a lawyer's than an anthropologist's. He says, "I find it hard to believe the reason [the robbers] picked on us was simply that we were the first white folk they met that day. What do you think? Am I wrong? (119)." Lurie begins the conversation confrontationally; yet, Petrus remains calm and collected, smoking his pipe. Though Lurie realizes, in theory, that he ought to maintain a cool distance in order to understand the forces behind the crime, he is unable to do so in practice. More and more, a rift opens up between Lurie's idea of himself as an academic and as a person. This also occurs during Petrus' party, which Lurie dreads because of his personal distaste for the sacrifice of the lamb. Similarly, Lurie dismisses Lucy's concern that calling the police on the robber at the part would disrupt this crucial event in Petrus' life.

On the whole, this section pivots on the delicate balance between personal outrage and historical perspective. Coetzee leaves us without a clear sense of which approach is best; he merely offers the dilemma in all its wrenching complexity. Lucy represents one approach-complete capitulation to cultural determinations of justice. Lurie represents another-insistence upon personal vindication. Each character recognizes the other's position, which only increases the poignancy of their growing separation.