The Change of David Lurie
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
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