Disgrace Chapter 5-16

Summary of chapters 5-16

David Lurie is asked to resign as professor at a university in Cape Town after he took advantage of his student Melanie. First, Melanie withdrew from David’s class. Then, a complaint is filed against him and after further review he is forced to resign, especially after he shows no sense of regret and refuses to apologize or attend counseling.

David leaves and visits his daughter Lucy to escape scrutiny in Cape Town. Lucy lives on a farm outside of Salem, considered to be in the Eastern Cape.  He had not seen his daughter for so long and he explains how he hardly recognized her when he first sees her.

Lucy runs a kennel with many dogs and sells produce and flowers at the market. David, at first, seems to ridicule her lifestyle. Petrus, Lucy’s neighbor, helps around the farm and he is now co-proprietor with Lucy.

Lucy suggests David volunteer at the Animal Welfare clinic by helping Bev Shaw. She puts the animals to sleep at the clinic. We begin to see a new side of David as he appears to care for the animals that are brought in/and or put to sleep. 

One day three men walk onto the farm (while Petrus is gone) and ask to use the telephone. These three men set David on fire, rape Lucy, and shoot the dogs. They drive off with many stolen items and David’s car. They report this incident to the police but Lucy refuses to tell them about the raping. She tells David it is “her business, no one else’s.”

Lucy struggles to recover from this incident. David wants to not only catch the criminals, but is upset because he could not protect his daughter.

Lucy and David attend a big party thrown by Petrus and there they see the young boy involved in the robbery/rape. David approaches him and the young boy refuses he committed any crime and is not a thief. They leave, but Lucy tells David not to call the police, which of course upsets David.

Chapter 16 ends with David driving the corpses of dogs to the incinerator. He does not just drop them off there because he feels that the workers at the incinerator do the dead dogs dishonor, by not disposing of them properly. David puts the dogs in to the incinerator and cranks it himself in the most honorable way possible.

Interpretation and questions for chapters 5-16

Chapter 5 sets up David Lurie’s character to be insincere and un-apologetic. He is stubborn and instead of trying to save his job, he gives no statement, refuses counseling, and shows no regret for what he did to Melanie. On page 58, Manas tells him, “You are confusing issues, David. You are not being instructed to repent. What goes on in your soul is dark to us, as members of what you call a secular tribunal if not as fellow human beings. You are being asked to issue a statement”(58).  David does not try to help himself and refuses to “acknowledge his fault in a public manner and take steps to remedy it.”

After the robbery/rape David tries to tell Lucy to call the police after they see the young boy at the party thrown by Petrus. She refuses him on page 133-134.  However, on page 66 Lucy says to her father… “So you stood your ground and they stood theirs. Is that how it was?” “You shouldn’t be so unbending David. It isn’t heroic to be unbending. Is there still time to reconsider?” Again on page 88 Lucy tells her father “But if you want to put a stop to the scandal-mongering shouldn’t you be standing up for yourself? Doesn’t gossip just multiply if you run away?” After seeing Lucy’s reaction and opinions to her father’s “disgrace,”  how might this explain her reaction and opinion to her own “disgrace” after the rape. Does she not take her own advice? Are the “disgraces” of Lucy and David similar? How are they different?  How have these events or circumstances caused the characters to change between the beginning of the novel until this point? Have they changed and why? On page 77 he explains how he “doesn’t want to be reformed.” Yet  later in chapter 16 he is disposing corpses of dogs so that they are not dishonored. Is he showing liminality at the end of chapter 16? Has his character been reformed? Why or why not?

Another interesting topic brought up throughout these chapters was the topics of race and lifestyle in post apartheid South Africa. After David moves in with his daughter (page 95), the three men that committed the crimes against David and Lucy say that ” He speaks Italian, he speaks French, but Italian and French will not save him here in darkest Africa.” This statement is a strong and significant one. They are discussing David here right before the men drive off after stealing their belongings, raping Lucy, and setting David on fire. What does this statement mean? Page 100, “Ettinger goes nowhere without his berretta” and he says “save yourselves, the police won’t.”What does this say about the government in post apartheid South Africa?  On page 117 it mentions “English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa.” On page 128, at the party the narrator says “They are the only whites.” How do these explanations placed throughout the story set up an image and view of South Africa? How does this relate and tie into the plot? Since David came from Cape Town to Salem does this mean he no longer holds the power that he did in Cape Town? He is no longer a professor with power, but an outsider in this rural town? The police do nothing, Lucy refuses to tell them of her rape or call the police after seeing the young boy at the party, and David was unable to protect his daughter. Who holds the power, does anyone? Even on page 134, it is stated how “Even the days of Ettinger, with his guns and barbed wire and alarm systems, are numbered.”




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