David Lurie’s life reminds me of a rollercoaster. Think about it. It’s always going up and down. At some points he reaches peaks in his life where it seems like things are finally going well for him, then the rollercoaster drops and David reaches rock bottom. His life is thrilling but at the same time it’s scary. What I’m trying to get across is that his life is pretty unstable.
David is jobless, he lost his respect and dignity in Cape Town, and his relationship with Lucy was hanging on by a thread. He is lost, figuratively speaking of course. He’s 52 and divorced. He sleeps with prostitutes, with his student, with Bev (Lucy’s friend). He struggles within himself, with who he is as a person and I think throughout the novel he really doesn’t know who he is or what kind of person he could be. He moves in with Lucy and on her farm and that is when his journey really begins.
David faces life’s harsh realities when he moves onto the farm, which is the realization of the way he is living his life. Living with Lucy is a whole different story than when he lived in Cape Town. The people have different lives here; he is surrounded by people he doesn’t know and with people who live a much different life than his. He really begins to understand what kind of man he is here.
He goes through some difficult experiences. His daughter is raped and there wasn’t anything he could’ve done to stop it because at the same time, he is brutally beaten and hospitalized by the men who invaded Lucy’s home. Not only that, but almost all of Lucy’s dogs are shot and killed by the invaders. So far, nothing is going right for him. David is going downhill (back to my rollercoaster reference). BUT, even though he is going through some tough times by living on the farm, the farm is part of the reason in how he truly learns about his character.
We can all agree that life isn’t perfect. We’re never going to live a life where every experience we go through is positive. Bad things will happen and we’re all going to face harsh realities of life at some point but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome them We live, we learn, we grow. That is exactly what David does. He goes through several negative experiences; such as his experiences with women and his obsession with them. Positive aspects however do come out of his experiences with women as he learns about himself through the difficult times.
David is so obsessed with the thought of women and is so caught up in his own sexual feelings that it takes over him. His affair with his student was a negative experience however it ultimately leads him to where he is now which is on the farm and living with Lucy. Would David have learned about himself if he never lived on the farm and got to experience what life is like here? I want to say no. If he stayed back in Cape Town, and didn’t get caught with his affair, chances are he would’ve continued his act.
But, he moved to the farm, moved with Lucy and faced the harsh reality of the rural area. There was one positive thing that came out of that affair and it is that it brought David to where he needed to be in order to find himself and that is the farm.
“The truth is, he has never had much of an eye for rural life […] Not much of an eye for anything, except pretty girls; and where has that got him? Is it too late to educate the eye?” [Coetzee,218]
The line that stands out to me in that quote is “where has that got him?” It’s a great question. Where has his obsession with women got him in life? Nowhere really. At least David realizes that for himself now.
Living on the farm and facing the difficulties on this land is what gives David a wake up call. He learns that there is so much more to life. In Cape Town, David was a professor. Here, he works in the hospital with Bev, helping her put animals to sleep. That’s definitely not something he expected to be doing but you know what? It gives him a purpose. He finds peace within himself in the end and learns that his old lifestyle, back in Cape Town is not a lifestyle he should be continuing to live. Maybe some of us can relate to David. I know that in my life, when things seem to be going completely wrong, I still manage to learn something from it. Life isn’t always negative. We live and we learn and we overcome struggles because that is what we, humans, are capable of doing.
Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. London: Vintage, 1999. Print.