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In J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace, it is a very powerful novel that has many unfortunate events all taking place in South Africa. J.M Coetzee wanted to really outline the topic of racial oppression in South Africa and interlink it with very grim themes that are very raw and brutal. There are many themes in the novel ‘Disgrace’’ such as sex, family (relationship between David and his daughter Lucy), violence, men and masculinity, and women and power. In this essay, my main focus is the theme of women and power and the injustice they face in their society. This essay will also briefly explain how the men’s perspective towards women can be viewed as degrading and immoral. It is an intense theme, the text represents a male dominated society and women are followers. It outlines the idea that men do not value women, they have very little respect for them. It also emphasizes the idea that men hold a lot of power compared to women. However, throughout the novel the characters, especially David, they change. He is represented as an arrogant man, feels superior. Throughout the novel, his character tends to change; he becomes powerless in the sense that he loses everything, his job, and reputation and not to mention his dignity.

David Lurie is an intriguing character; he is a professor teaching romantic poetry and has so much passion for literature and arts as well as culture but the irony is that his personal life is led by ignorance, this is evident in the way he objectifies both Melanie and Bev Shaw. David’s thoughts and values are recognized through his actions and personal thoughts as well as his morals. They all portray who he is as a man. He is portrayed in the novel as a morally flawed male who only craves and yearns for sexual encounters. His priority is to satisfy his cravings even if it means going about it the immoral way. David’s relations with the women he has come across both physically and emotionally inspire and gives him more experience, he believes it helps him develops as a person yet it does not seem to change him or the way he views women.

As readers, we get to read his personal thoughts, how he views the world, what he desires, how his thoughts differ when it comes to his daughter Lucy and his sexual partner Melanie. His weakness is Melanie, she brings out the frail side of him, he cannot act arrogant nor superior when he’s with her and that in it self is quite intriguing because David’s character is very arrogant. His ego gets the better of him; this is recognized when his colleagues confront him about the incident that happened between him and Melanie. He acts superior, he does not care nor does he fear the serious consequences that he will face. His self-importance gets the better of him and prevents him from acknowledging his misconducts and therefore refuses to cooperate in the hearing because he feels that admitting what he has done is wrong dishonors who he is a man. He will feel disgraced.

The theme of women and femininity is strongly outlined in the novel Disgrace. Melanie, Lucy and Bev have a strong influence in the text, they portray the way of how women are being objectified and degraded in a patriarchal society. The novel portrays these three women in a negative light, very weak, vulnerable, full of pity and lack self respect. For example, after the horrific incident Lucy had faced (getting raped by three boys) she feels like she’s responsible for the attack, she portrays the idea that she deserved what she got. She states that perhaps this is another act of service, a twisted way of payment so she can live on their land. Lucy’s character can be interpreted in many different ways, some readers can interpret her character as strong and independent, has courage to want to stay and live for herself, please herself and not depend on anyone else and therefore refuses to run away after the attack. On the other hand, a handful of readers can completely have a different viewpoint towards her as a character, as a woman. She portrays the idea that getting attacked/raped is something she’s guilty for; the rape is justified because ‘’ this is Africa’’ this submissive act depicts women as fragile and not worthy of respect. ‘’She does not reply. She would rather hide her face. Because of the disgrace. Because of the shame.’’ This quote is very significant because it represents Lucy’s emotions and feelings towards the incidence. This is what the visitor wanted to achieve, to symbolize their masculinity and feel superior even if it meant being abusive and committing an awful sin. They destroyed Lucy’s confidence and self worth, they showed her what a woman was for. Another shocking act is the fact that Petrus’s character is depicted as morally flawed in the sense that he neglects the topic of Lucy’s horrible attack and tends to only focus on the fact that David’s car has been stolen. This shows his perspective on women and how belittles he thinks of them, he is willing to protect his family’s name even if it means ignoring something so immoral and injustice

The topic of women holds great importance when it comes to the text, not only does Lucy suffer and has to deal with an upsetting attack but Melanie is portrayed as a weak girl too. She does not stand up for herself nor does she uphold her self worth as a woman. David’s affair with Melanie really outlines his character and portrays the idea that he’s morally flawed. He states that Melanie has made him feel like a younger man, like someone more alive and new and open to experiences. She gave him a sensational thrill and for that reason he felt it was necessary to pursue the relation between them. He is sex driven and his sexual needs are far more important than a woman’s worth. This has a negative impact on Melanie because there’s a thin line between rape and a sexual encounter. However, its not as simple as it seems, Melanie does not fight nor refuse to have sex with him, instead she encourages the idea and therefore it prevents it from being labeled as ‘rape’ He took advantage of her and he was aware of what he was doing which makes it more of a revolting act. He certainly manipulated her by convincing her that ‘’a woman’s beauty does not belong to her alone...she has a duty to share it’’ Melanie’s character symbolizes weakness, this is evident of the way she lets David to objectify her and use her for what he believes she’s good for, satisfying his sexual needs. Melanie then turns into a vulnerable character that does not act or refuse to be degraded. Her passiveness depicts the idea that she’s allowing David to degrade her, she does not believe she’s worthy of respect. This is a common trait in this novel, that all women are defenseless and allow the men to have control over them, mentally and physically.

In conclusion, the novel disgrace written by J.M Coetzee’s, a major theme is women and power. In this case, the women lack power and men seem to dominate in a very negative way. All the women in this novel have been subjugated somehow, some more than others. J.M Coetzee novel has a serious element to it; it is not a generic type of story that has a happy ending. It symbolizes life and sometimes the events that occur in reality do not always have happy endings. He shows us the harsh reality, it has no comic relief, no humor, the seriousness itself is a great technique to get readers more aroused and wanting to read more. The theme of women and power is portrayed extremely well in this novel as well as gender inequality and injustice.

Coetzee, J. disgrace . south africa: secker & warburg.

dailey, v. a review and commentary on disgrace by J.M Coetzee . 2.

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