Coetzee’s novel Disgrace illustrates the difficulties that characters experience in living and growing in disgrace. This novel does not simply refer to the actions that result in the fall of David Lurie from a life of grace or his daughter’s violation, but it relates to a life that has lost the aspects that make life valuable. Even though David might be perceived as departing from his literary model, Byron, and giving himself the chances of creating history, he is quietly falling into a history that is distorted, and transcending humanity and sexuality and reduced to nothingness.
Coetzee’s approach in writing this novel is historical and direct. As a middle-class, white, heterosexual man, David has no innate experiences of the oppressed world and segregation based on his race or sex. He has no experience of being denied subject status as a result of his race or sex. Without a doubt, David finds himself in uncomfortable situations, and he tries to identify himself as a Byronic hero (Olsen 35).
In his life, David made several attempts to identify himself with Byron, a romantic poet. David Lurie had an affair with a 20-year-old student by the name of Melanie Isaacs. In the book Disgrace, several comparisons are highlighted between the romantic poet and David Lurie. Both believed that they were irresistible in such a way that they attracted women easily. At the age of nine, Byron’s sexual instincts were aroused by a nurse who used his body to carry out some sexual experiments. This made Byron suffer from erotic confusion (Coetzee and Ractliffe 167).
David also tried to be a Byronic hero by adopting his hero’s characteristic traits. For instance, Byron would not sustain a relationship. He developed a clear distinction between sex and love such that he would get bored with the attractive women he slept with. David too pointed out that his fate was that he would not sustain a marriage. This is proven by the fact that he had two marriages that had failed and several affairs all through the novel. Olsen asserts that Byron felt real love for his sister Augusta, with whom they had a child out of a scandal; he felt some attachment towards her (89). David too continued developing a desire for Melanie as part of his scandal and also felt connected to her through their wrongdoings (94).
According to Coetzee, David’s sex life continues to be a disgrace when he holds a conversation with Isaac, Melanie’s father. David justifies his careless actions by thinking that he is indeed a gentleman of a definite kind with impulsive little adventures (66). He would not realize the statements he made, like in the case of Melanie, where he says that something unpredictable happened to him. David says that Melanie struck up the fire in him (67). These statements were inappropriate to a father who had entrusted the university with the welfare of his daughter only for her to be taken advantage of by her professor. David’s actions garnered harsh criticism throughout the novel.
Another attempt that David made in order to become a Byronic hero was to develop a passion for prostitutes who easily fell for his charms. His idol, Byron, referred to any person who had passed thirty years as an obstacle to any fierce or real pleasure in the obsession (Coetzee 86). David was already past this age, but he believed that he had not attained the achievements that Byron had. This was after engaging in a love affair with a student.
David Lurie wanted to prove his heroic abilities by not complying with any authority. For instance, in his affair with Melanie, his student, he was told to make a public apology. He ruined his professional career by refusing to apologize in public as the university committee wanted. He was not remorseful either for his actions; instead, he affirmed that he could not make an apology for the sake of it without being truly sincere. David Lurie extended his malice by telling the media that he was deeply upset by that knowledge when reporters sought his opinion regarding the scandal (Coetzee 56).
David Lurie was attracted to Byron because he discovered that they both possessed similar characteristics. For instance, he was confused and unable to handle a relationship just like his idol Byron. David had two failed marriages and several affairs with prostitutes, including his own student at the university. It justifies why David tried with great effort to identify himself with Byron. Therefore, whatever he did was pleasant according to his judgment as long as it would be attributed to his hero…
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