In Disgrace, how does David Lurie exemplify change?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that David Lurie is the embodiment of change as he is forced to accept the fact that the South African dynamic is one that no longer favors someone like himself.  The established white male had dominated South African social and political spheres for so long that he had understood his own position as one that almost existed beyond change.  In David Lurie's case, his means of communication included patterns of recognition where change was not needed. From being a professor of communication, David is forced to change to becoming a student of it, seeking new and effective ways to communicate the new realities that besiege him.  Over the course of the novel, he is forced to accept that there is change both outside of him and inside his own sense of self.  He is forced to accept his own "disgrace," in that he is not the embodiment of Byronic womanizing with which he might have viewed himself.  Additionally, he is compelled to understand that his own position in the white male reservoir of power is something that has undergone change as the fabric and landscape of South Africa changes.  David is forced to accept the change that happens when one becomes victimized and is unable to fully grasp or understand the extent of the victimization.  When Lucy contends that he will never understand what happened, it is a signal to change that reflects how much the dynamic within which he lives has changed and how he must adapt to that.  In that, David Lurie exemplifies change on multiple levels.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the initial chapters of the book, David Lurie is portrayed as an arrogant individual who believes in white supremacy as well as male dominance. His character is demonstrated through his devotion to western literature, divorces, and sexual encounters. He views women as objects of beauty to be enjoyed by all. It is no wonder that after his escapade with the prostitute Soraya, he selfishly lures his student, Melanie, into an illicit sexual affair. He does not mind that she is half his age nor that his actions contravene his professional code of conduct. He shows no remorse for his actions and instead justifies them using religious overtones and quoted western literature. He finally resigns due to disgrace.

His turnaround comes after the attack by three men who rape his daughter. He felt helpless that he could not protect her and further frustrated because Lucy refused to report the matter to the police. The experience reminds him of his actions with Melanie and his lack of remorse for what he did. He feels guilty and regrets his actions. Lurie eventually goes back to Cape Town and apologizes to Melanie’s father.

Lurie also becomes compassionate and believes that all creatures should be treated with dignity even after death. His belief is demonstrated by his keen interest in the manner in which the dogs’ bodies are handled during cremation.