In J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace, write a commentary on the first chapter.
Try to include: the character of Lurie, his relationship with Soraya, his attitudes to sex/relationship, the irony of his employment, gender, social context, etc., with quotes.
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In J.M. Coetzee's novel, Disgrace, the main character, Lurie, is a middle-aged divorced college professor. He and his relationship with Soraya are described at the beginning of Chapter One:
For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well. On Thursday afternoons he drives to Green Point. Punctually at two p.m. he presses the buzzer at the entrance to Windsor Mansions, speaks his name, and enters. Waiting for him at the door of No. 113 is Soraya. He goes straight through to the bedroom, which is pleasant-smelling and softly lit, and undresses. Soraya emerges from the bathroom, drops her robe, and slides in beside him. 'Have you missed me?' she asks. 'I miss you all the time,' he replies.
David Lurie is much older than Soraya—actually, he could be her father. The two have a good "working" relationship—after a year, it has become based on mutual "affection." The reader finds that as much as Lurie cares for Soraya, as much as he would like to see her outside of her "professional circle," he knows he would never want to let her see who he becomes in the morning.
He knows too much about himself to subject her to a morning after, when he will be cold, surly, impatient to be alone.
That is his temperament. His temperament is not going to change, he is too old for that...The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body.
Lurie has been married twice. He has a daughter, who has her own problems. Lurie shares a great deal of his life with Soraya, though she tells him nothing of hers. Lurie is in what he would consider good health. He believes he is relatively happy, though he reserves a thought from Oedipus, almost as a footnote:
Call no man happy until he is dead.
Lurie sees himself as a scholar. He works at Cape Town Technical University, in South Africa. And rather than teaching in "Classics and Modern Languages," a major change in the school's structure and academic self-perception has done away with the department; David now works in "Communications."
In terms of his job, Laurie is not teaching because it is his passion; he is teaching without passion the three classes he is allowed to teach, without truly touching the minds or souls of his students. He is an educator, but he doesn't do what one would call teaching. He simply goes through the motions for the salary he "earns." Lurie notes that while paying his bills, teaching brings him to a place of humility—where he is forced to see who he really is. There is, for him, an irony:
The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.
While Lurie seems to think he is happy, it is hard for the reader to be certain, by the end of the first chapter.
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