The Control Men Have Over Women in Disgrace

Let’s talk feminism. I just finished reading the book Disgrace and I have a mix of emotions; it was a rollercoaster! Throughout the novel, there were so many clear points and examples of feminism that I didn’t really end up noticing until the last section of the book. Remember in my first blog post, I talked about how David lost his job over an affair he had with a student of his? Well all of that comes back as it connects to Lucy’s rape. To refresh everyones memory, Lucy and David were robbed and during that robbery, Lucy was raped . This reminds David of his affair with Melanie, his former student. Was that an affair or was that more of a rape? There were times where it seemed like she did not consent to it and it leaves David thinking if he raped her. Just because Lucy’s rape situation was much different compared to David and Melanie’s it doesn’t really mean David didn’t rape her.


David’s attitude toward many of the females in the text is negative. We meet a woman at the beginning of the novel who was a prostitute that he would see once a week. We then learn about Melanie and as well prostitutes from his past. Later into the novel, David meets another prostitute in the street who gives him oral sex then he proceeds to drop her off where he found her when she is done. David seems to treat the women in this novel as solely a sex object. He is different when it comes to Lucy when she is raped by these men as he is angered by it but he realizes through that, that he has not been treating women right and begins to re-evaluate himself because of that.


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Lucy throughout the novel was portrayed as a strong, independent woman who did not need anybody to take care of her. In this section of the novel, it changes. David goes back to Cape Town for some time but when he returns to Lucy, he discovers she is pregnant. Not only is she pregnant, but she is considering marrying Petrus; her neighbour. Keep in mind that Lucy is a lesbian and Petrus already has two wives. Lucy tells David that this marriage is more of a business deal, that is an alliance for protection and not for love. Lucy is choosing to marry someone she does not love for the purpose of him being able to protect her.

David explains to Petrus that Lucy does not want to marry him:

“Lucy does not want to marry. Does not want to marry a man. It is not an option she will consider. She wants to live her own life” (Coetzee 202)

Petrus claims he understands and replies “But here it is dangerous, too dangerous. A woman must be marry” (202)

Petrus claims that a woman has to marry a man because it is too dangerous for her to be alone, as if a woman would not be able to protect herself without a man in her life; as her husband. It portrays and represents the women as weak, who need to depend on men for their safety which is not the case at all. David finds this situation humiliating, and even though Lucy agrees, she does not do anything about that or the fact that she no longer has rights or dignity. Lucy was stripped of her freedom and is forced to marry Petrus even though it is something she does not want to do. Although she realizes how humiliating it is, she goes through with it; choosing not to exercise her power that she has.

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