The Change of David Lurie

The Change of David Lurie


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Initially clearly portrayed in J.M. Coetzee’s novel, Disgrace, is the well-educated, narcissistic, sex addict, David Lurie.  One can clearly see this man has created a life of bachelorhood that he intensely enjoys, working as a communications professor solely to provide the funds to support his acquisitive desires.  By recklessly abandoning common sense and indulging in intimate relations with a student after the loss of his beloved Soraya, David throws away everything he has worked so hard for and opens himself to the beginnings of change.  Throughout the novel David encounters a series of events that would change even the most contumacious.  At first glance one may come to the conclusion that David does not change, as originally stated, “His temperament is fixed, set.  The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body”(2). However, upon further inspection, Coetzee reveals that David’s does, in fact, change in many ways. [THIS LAST SENTENCE OF INTRO IS THE THESIS STATEMENT].

The first hint of David’s change comes about through the dogs when Lucy manages to convince him to assist Bev Shaw at the Animal Welfare League.  The fact that he even agreed to help someone for the sole purpose of helping shows the first glimmer of hope for change, however, he has not even yet realized that the change is beginning.  To see his progression, one must reflect upon his arrival at the clinic when Bev is struggling with a dog to provide treatment for an abscess, at which time David immediately assists her.  Upon completion of the procedure, Bev thanks him and states, “I sense that you like animals”(81), and he replies, “Do I like animals? I eat them, so I suppose I must like them, some parts of them”(81).  This shows that he has retained his stubbornness, however, as he begins to assist her in putting down the animals, the dogs, one of his many stages of change is revealed.  For instance, when he begins this, he is only required to drop the carcasses off at the hospital for incineration on Sunday nights.  It does not come about immediately, as with all good things in life, it takes time.  In stages, David goes beyond his call of duty; first by keeping the corpses in the kombi overnight to avoid dropping them at the hospital with the vagrants trying to keep warm by the incinerator, then he begins personally loading the bodies onto the belt as to avoid the savage beating of the lifeless canines by the workers “with the backs of their shovels before loading them, to break their rigid limbs”(144-145).  David begins to feel for the animals, Coetzee writes, “a dog-man: a dog undertaker; a dog psychopomp; a harijan”(146).  Specifically through the use of the term, “harijan”, meaning of the lowest class in the Hindu caste system, it shows his change in self image. Coetzee shows David’s extreme change from narcissist to a seemingly caring human being through his passion for the dogs




  1. THESIS STATEMENT ANALYSIS: Thesis statement is too vague, not specific enough. Saying David Lurie simply changes isn’t enough of a claim to build out an argument. There needs to be something specific about his change to build an argument. However, it is a start in the right direction because it is about him changing. But the thesis needs more specificity.
  2. ANALYSIS OF BODY PARAGRAPH: The body paragraph exemplifies solid argument writing. In fact, very little summary occurs; therefore, it is a good example how one should structure one’s body paragraphs.
    • The first sentence is a clear point with specific reference to an event in the novel. This directs the argument. It is, however, a little vague. This is due to the nature of the vagueness of the thesis. That’s why a thesis statement with specifics is needed.
      • STUDENT’S POINT: “The first hint of David’s change comes about through the dogs when Lucy manages to convince him to assist Bev Shaw at the Animal Welfare League.’
      • IMPROVEMENT: ‘David’s compassion awakens through helping Bev Shaw with the dogs at the Animal Welfare league.’
        1. [This point works better for two reasons:
          • First, it mentions the specific aspect of David that is changing, “compassion.” The original point only said the “change comes about through the dogs.” However, we need to know what in David is actually occurring and hanging, to have a strong point.
          • Secondly, the improved point is better because it links the specific change, “compassion,” to a specific event in the novel, which is David assisting Bev “at the Animal Welfare League.” The original point already had the part about him working at the veterinary clinic; however, it fell flat because there was no link to what was specifically at work within David’s character.
          • Another thing that makes this body paragraph strong is the writer doesn’t summarize; instead, the writer analyzes and offers interpretation to support the point.
          • How does the writer accomplish this?
            1. As stated above, the writer has a direct point to start the paragraph. This helps resist simple summary. For example, if the writer had started the paragraph with, “David goes to the country and works in an animal hospital,” that would be summary, which will likely leading to more summary of the novel.
            2. Secondly, there is STRONG PIER STRUCTURE I’ve color-coded the paragraph to show how it progresses from POINT, INTRODUCE EXAMPLE, EXPLAIN EXAMPLE, RESTATE POINT. You can see how the writer moves between introducing an example and explaining the example. The explanation is typically the interpretation part. If you analyze your own paragraph with the PIER PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE, you’ll be able to tell if you are just summarizing.
          • Thirdly, the writer shows a specificprogression of change in David; this is within specific events related to his work at the Animal Welfare League. Rather than summarizing all the action up to that point, the writer begins at a specific time within David’s journey. Through direct quotation and mention of specific events, the writer takes us right to the action WITHOUT UNDUE SUMMARY.
          • Fourth, the writer moves immediately to state an interpretation after a quotation or mentioning an event. The writer moves smoothly to interpretation with transitions such as: “This shows that he…” and “David goes beyond…” and “David begins to feel…” By keeping the focus on what is changing in David, the writer focuses our attention on the interpretation at hand, rather than simply describing action in the novel (summarizing). This helps the writer resist getting lost in summary. If you move directly to interpreting the quotation to prove your point, you won’t be tempted to summarize. Keep this goal in mind: prove your point through interpretationIt is crucial to have a clear, direct and specific thesis with specific points in each body paragraph.They create a solid argument throughout your essay.


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