Disgrace chapters 5-16

Chapter 5 opens with Melanie withdrawing from David’s class.  Which is immediately followed by her father, Mr. Isaacs, calling David to question him as to if he knew of any reasoning behind why his daughter would drop.  He says to David (on page 36) “Professor, I wonder if you could help us”.  He asks him to talk to her and David’s response is asking Mr. Isaacs if he has questioned his own daughter.  Mr. Isaacs describes how he and his wife tried questioning their daughter and then asks if he could try to persuade her because “She has such respect for you” (on page 37).  The reader sees what David is thinking to himself: that he is well aware that Melanie lost respect for him weeks ago.

At his hearing, David pleads guilty immediately without hesitation.  He is told he should “reflect on” and think about the “gravity of the situation”(page 51).  One of the people at the hearing says that David says he is guilty, however he says he is not confessing to abuse of a young woman, rather an impulse he could not resist (page 53).

  • Does David truly think he did something wrong?

Throughout this section “counselling” is brought up as something that David should try.  He is very defensive every time it is suggested to him, as if he is taking offense to the idea of it.  He responds to the idea “To fix me? To cure me? To cure me of inappropriate desires?”(page 43).  It comes up again when Lucy asks about the compromise the university asked him to make which was “Re-education, Reformation of the character.  The code word was councelling” (page 66).  She further questions why it would be a bad thing and he tells her he is too old-fashioned and would prefer to be shot.

  • What do you think of the significance behind this?
  •  David jumping to conclusions suggested (at least to myself) that he deep down sub-            consciously thinks there may be something ‘wrong’ with him – what are your                                    thoughts?

Upon hearing of David’s situation, Rosalind (his ex-wife and father of Lucy) expresses her disproval

  • She questions if it is his way of having a sexual life to which he does not respond. She later tells him “You are too old to be meddling with other people’s children”(page 45).
  • In chapter 8 Lucy asks David if he plans on remarrying and he brings up his age and asks if she means to someone his own age she responds yes and he asks “But it is unseemly to go on preying on children” (page 69)

David notices appearance before other things

  • Chapter 7 is the first time we are introduced to Lucy.  When David sees her he notices her weight gain and then proceeds to comment on her hips and breasts –strange thing for a father to comment on about his daughter, clearly he has a constant thought of appearance as well as sexual desire.
  • on page 72 he says “He does not like women who make no effort to be attractive”. He describes Melanie as having her mother’s beauty at one point.  He also hints to the reader in this section that he believes Lucy is homosexual.  He wonders about the details of her life, in particular her relationship with her former roommate Helen (page 86)

Lucy attacked

  • He doesn’t know exactly what happened to her, he can only make assumptions.  He believes she was raped.  He thinks that she was a target because of her homosexuality – neither of which Lucy admits to.  He refers to her homosexuality as her secret, and his experience with Melanie as his disgrace.  On page 115 David believes Lucy does not want to leave because of the disgrace and shame – I took this as him believing she feels ashamed as to what happened to her and that her homosexuality is what he sees her disgrace as.
  • What are your thoughts? Does Lucy have a “disgrace”?
  • David is very upset with the attack.  He is nervous and scared for his daughter during and after it.  He asks on page 119 “Am I wrong to want justice?”.  This is interesting as Mr. Isaacs at the beginning of this section wanted justice for what David did to Melanie and now David wants justice for what was done to his own daughter.

At the party Petrus throws we are told “They are the only whites” (page 128).

  •  What is the significance behind this? Issue of racism in South Africa?

David’s job in Chapter 16: disposing of animal remains

  • The dogs are brought there “because they are unwanted” (page 146)
  • He thinks he is getting stupid for doing this as a job
  • What do you think of this? Is there some significance behind David disposing of dead                        animals and people in his life disposing (on some level) him?


  • Mentioned on page 85 “Not just in trouble.  In what I supposed I would call disgrace”

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