How is the theme of change explored in the novel Disgrace?
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This prize-winning novel focuses on the way in which circumstances force David Lurie to change from the rather arrogant, selfish middle-aged man who begins the narrative to the somewhat more sensitive and more self-aware individual that we recognise at the end of the text. If we consider how David Lurie is presented at the beginning of the novel, we can see him as a man who is annoyed at his old age and how it means he is unable to enjoy himself sexually as easily as he was able to in his younger days. However, throught the course the novel, David as a character is shown to change through his dismissal and then through his relationship with his daughter. This is symbolically represented through the opera that he writes. Initially his plan was to tell the tale of a middle-aged Byron and his affair with a young beautiful woman. The parallels are clear. However, note how the text describes how his plans for the storyline change as his own character develops:
Byron, in the new version, is long dead; Teresa's sole remaining claim to immortality, and the solace of her lonely nights, is the chestful of letters and memorabilia she keeps under her bed, what she calls her reliquie, which her grand-nieces are meant to open after her death and peruse with awe. Is this the heroine he has been seeking all the time? Will an older Teresa engage his heart as his heart is now?
David shows his maturity and his increased self-awareness through his understanding that he is perhaps seeking a woman his own age and also through his empathy with the woman as she herself faces aging. This represents his change from a hedonistic, pleasure-seeking and ultimately selfish male to a man who is able to give as well as receive pleasure and love. You would do well to explore the opera as an important symbol in the text and consider how its changes mirror the changes in the central character.
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