Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1404
Three months later, in the fall, Amir is drinking alone on the terrace of his apartment. Suddenly he smashes his glass on the floor. Then, apparently unaffected by this violent outburst, he goes inside the apartment and pours himself another drink.
Emily enters. She has been shopping for a small dinner party that night, to which they have invited Isaac and his wife, Jory, who works at the same law firm as Amir. Amir tells Emily about a meeting with two of the partners at work that day. They quizzed him about his background, having discovered that he was born in Pakistan, not India, and that his family is Muslim, not Hindu. Amir is convinced that they have been looking into his past because his name was associated with the trial of Imam Fareed.
The intercom announces the arrival of Isaac and Jory, who are a little early. Emily goes to the bedroom to change while Amir welcomes them. Jory is an African-American woman in her thirties with a commanding presence. They make small talk about sports, and then Jory and Amir discuss work while Isaac goes to the restroom. Amir proposes that the two of them should start their own firm rather than waiting for promotion to partner at Leibowitz, Bernstein, Harris. Before Jory can respond, Isaac returns and Emily joins them.
Isaac confirms that Emily’s work will feature prominently in “Impossible Heroes,” the exhibition he is putting together. He says that he will include four or five of her paintings and wonders out loud whether the portrait of Amir in the style of Velázquez should be one of them. He says that despite Amir’s obvious prosperity, the portrait, like Velázquez’s painting, raises the question of the subject’s place in society. Amir evasively responds that he prefers Emily’s earlier work.
Emily talks about the humility she sees in Islamic art, which, unlike the Western tradition, has not “put the individual at the center of the universe and made a cult out of the personal ego.” The conversation moves on to Isaac’s upcoming trip to Delhi, and he asks Amir what it is like for him to go through airport security. Emily says that Amir volunteers himself to be searched, and Amir confirms that he believes this makes matters easier for everyone, as they all suspect that the next terrorist attack will come from someone who looks like him.
Emily and Jory go to the kitchen to prepare the starter, leaving Amir alone with Isaac. The two men begin to discuss Islam, and by the time Emily and Jory return with the salad, they are still talking about the dichotomy between the religion and the artworks produced by its adherents. Isaac thinks Amir is too dismissive of Islam, while Amir believes that Isaac is selective in his view of the faith and does not really understand it. He points out that the Prophet Muhammad condemned painting and adds that “what a few artists are doing, however wonderful, does not reflect the Muslim psyche.” Islam is a faith that comes from a tough-minded group of people who saw life as “something to be suffered.” This is why their religion emphasizes submission, which is what “Islam” literally means.
Isaac says that Islam is not a problem but that Islamo-fascism is. Amir scornfully retorts that Isaac has cribbed his information about Islam from popular authors such as Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens, but he has not even read the Quran, which Amir says is “like one very long hate-mail letter to humanity.” He talks about the Quran’s mandate for wife-beating, though Emily counters that the Arabic verb in question can mean “leave” as well as “beat.” Jory sides with Amir, saying that she understands why the French government banned Muslim women from wearing veils. However, she says this is because she thinks order is a more important value than justice, whereas Emily, a liberal, cares more for justice.
The argument becomes more heated. Jory says that the veil is evil, erasing the individuality of women. Isaac accuses Amir of being “full of self-loathing,” which motivates his condemnation of Islam. Amir says that none of the others understand what it means to be a Muslim or even a Muslim apostate who is now highly assimilated. He then admits that he felt pride on September 11. For a moment, he forgot his own values and felt only a tribal elation that “we were finally winning.” He also admits that he sometimes likes to hear rhetoric from Muslim leaders about the destruction of Israel. Isaac is outraged by this, and Emily firmly asks Amir to join her in the kitchen. After they have left, Jory and Isaac argue, with Isaac referring to Amir as a “fucking closet jihadist.” Jory is concerned, because there is something she needs to tell Amir, but he and Emily return before she can say what it is. Amir, who is obviously drunk, says that he is going out to get some champagne, and Jory volunteers to go with him.
When Isaac and Emily are alone, Emily refers to a brief affair between the two of them in London, calling it “a mistake.” Isaac then reveals Jory’s secret, which he assumes Amir already knows: that she has been given a partnership in the firm, while Amir has been passed over. He adds that this was at least partly because of Amir’s involvement with the Imam, which horrified the Jewish partners. He then says that he knows Emily will not be able to remain faithful to Amir and that he is in love with her. As he makes this declaration and moves to kiss her, Amir and Jory return. Jory has told Amir about her partnership, and he is fuming. However, she now sees the intimacy between Emily and Isaac and asks if they are having an affair. Amir is more concerned with his job, explosively declaring that he has worked much harder than Jory and for twice as long.
Amir spits in Isaac’s face, and he and Jory leave hurriedly and in anger. When Isaac and Jory have left, Amir asks Emily if she is sleeping with Isaac. She says that she is not but admits to their affair in London. Amir hits Emily in the face and proceeds to beat her. There is a knocking at the door, and Abe enters and sees Emily on the floor, her face bloodied.
This is the pivotal scene in the play. It is full of incidents and revelations and is longer than the other three scenes put together. Despite its length, the descent from civility and intellectual disagreement to harsh discord and physical violence is remarkably fast, culminating in Amir’s brutal beating of Emily at the scene’s end. This violence is bitterly ironic, given Amir’s disgust at the Quran’s support for wife-beating, which he alludes to earlier in the scene. Although only Amir is physically violent, both he and Isaac revert to tribalism and race hatred. At the beginning of the scene, Amir clearly prefers Judaism to Islam, asserting the superiority of the multi-faceted Talmud over the narrowness of the Quran. Isaac, for his part, defends and celebrates Islam. These intellectual and aesthetic preferences are stripped away, culminating in an alarming display of bigotry on both sides. Amir admits to feeling pride in Islamic terrorism, while Isaac, who has previously undermined Amir behind his back, departs with the line “There’s a reason they call you people animals.”
The way in which the debate between Amir and Isaac devolves into personal insults and violence reflects a tension within the drama. Before the eruption of violence at the end of this scene, Disgraced is very much a drama of ideas. Its tone is cerebral, and its characters seem intended to represent different perspectives and backgrounds, as seen in the racial, cultural, and ideological diversity of the four figures at the dinner party. However, Akhtar demonstrates in this scene that the characters are more complex than the opinions they voice. Isaac’s initial open-mindedness gives way to feelings of rage towards Amir that take a distinctly racist form. The dichotomy between intellect and emotion is starkest in the case of Amir, the representative of secularism and reason, who ends up beating his wife for her infidelity despite his outspoken contempt for such violence.
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