Comment on the cultural interpretation of Disgrace.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I am going to respond to this question by analysing the theme of culture in this novel through exploring the divide that is created between the different regions where the novel is situated. It is clear that though the action of this novel takes place in one country, South Africa, there are very different regions within this one country that David Lurie experiences. As he moves from urban South Africa where he feels comfortable and knows the rules of how to survive and goes to rural South Africa, he and we as readers have to accept the fact that rural South Africa is a very different place and David Lurie is at sea as he tries to grasp and understand a very different culture.

Consider how this feeling of isolation, confusion and alienation that David experiences is presented in Chapter 9, as he is described watching a football match:

He is sitting in the front room, watching soccer on television. The score is nil-all; neither team seems interested in winning. The commentary alternates between Sotho and Xhosa, languages of which he understands not a word.

Even though David Lurie is South African, for an intellectual academic who has lived all of his life in the westernised city of Cape Town, he only speaks English (and a couple of Romance languages). He has never had to learn any other indigenous languages that are spoken by South Africans. The way that he is confronted by these languages now reinforce his sense of isolation and also emphasise the very different cultures that form the rich tapestry of life in South Africa.

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