Power Imbalance In J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace

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Throughout, Disgrace, J.M Coetzee utilizes a white male characters to display the power imbalance that exists between genders and social classes to display its impact on an individual’s human values. At the beginning of the novel the readers are introduced to the main character, David Lurie, who is a 52 year old man who has “solved the problem of sex rather well”. (Coetzee, 1) It is his interaction with woman that stands out the most about his character. He is a white man who has been divorced twice, has a lesbian daughter, has had a sexual interaction with a bawd for over a year, and has been accused of sexual misconduct with one of his female students. It is his interactions with women that lead him feeling powerless, and makes the decision…show more content…
Although their first encounter is at the university campus. Lurie crosses a professional boundary when he invites her over to his house. Lurie might not know consciously why he did it, but is aware that she is a young woman and that he is her professor. This is further escalated when Lurie makes love to Melanie. Her first instincts are not to reject David’s actions, but also does not seem to be enjoying the encounter. Some readers can argue that her actions leads to the conclusion it was consensual; nevertheless, when Lurie invades Melanie’s privacy by showing up at her house and having sexual relationship there it becomes clear that Lurie is abusing the power given to him by his age and gender. When the allegation of harassment is filed, it is never known to the audience what Melanie’s point of view is. David’s decision to accept the charges without reading her statements is an indication that he does not care what she felt, but saw her as a sexual figure. The descriptions of Melanie and other female figures within the novel coincide with the objectification theory. As Szymanski explains “women’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person”, thus it demonstrates the manner in which David views women. Ultimately, although it lead to the termination of his professional career, Lurie is unremorseful of…show more content…
This decision baffles David as he was never fond of Petrus, and the relationship he has with Pollux. In Petrus’ character we can identify the power he obtains gender wise, but also the lack of power David has against him socially. Petrus is absent when the home invasion occurs, and also ignored Davis’s plea of reporting Pollux to the authorities because Pollux is family. Nevertheless, he offers Lucy protection by agreeing to marry her even though he already has two wives. “Patterns of plural marriages also overwhelmingly attest to the dominance of males”, we see the exchange of women between men but not vice versa. (Harris) This further illustrates Petrus’ power over the female figure that he was once employed by, and will now be her superior and owner of her land. David’s opinion on the subject manner is irrelevant to his daughter, as his daughter states “Objectively I am a woman alone. I have no brothers. I have a father, but he is far away and anyhow powerless in the terms that matter here.” (Coetzee, 86) As a father whose daughter’s experiences has modified his view of woman, he is worried about his daughter’s safety and well-being, yet has completely lost all the power he once felt he
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