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Book Club Wed Nov 07 2007

Disgrace Discussion Questions

Below are the questions we'll use to discuss Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee. Feel free to post any responses in the comments - spoilers are allowed and exist below - or share your thoughts with us at our meeting on November 13 at the Book Cellar. It's a complex story that doesn't have the happiest of outlooks, so I'm looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts on it.

  • Can David’s affair with Melanie be considered abuse? How do you read her character? Does Coetzee give us enough of her character to be able to make an informed decision?
  • Why do you think David immediately relinquishes his teaching position upon hearing that charges are being brought against him? Why does he accept all responsibility without even hearing what those charges are?
  • Why do you think David chooses to have an affair with Bev Shaw? How is it different from his previous affairs as they’re described in the book?
  • Do you think Petrus had anything to do with the attacks? Does he believe that Lucy and David, being white, owe a debt to the society in which they live?
  • Does Lucy’s homosexuality affect David’s perceptions of her decisions? Why do you think she’s so bent on staying in her house?
  • Why does Lucy take Petrus up on his offer of marriage? Is this a rational decision? Are we meant to understand her reasons?
  • How do David’s views of women change throughout the book? Think of his interactions with different women – Soraya, Melanie, Bev, and Lucy. How does his opening thought of having solved the problem of sex prove troublesome for him?
  • What does David’s visit to the Isaacs’s house accomplish, if anything? What is he hoping to accomplish by visiting Melanie’s family?
  • Is it possible to sympathize with David? Does Coetzee write him as a sympathetic character or are we supposed to feel something else toward him?
  • How is David affected by his work in the animal hospital, taking it upon himself to put the deceased dogs in the incinerator? Why does Coetzee choose to end the book on this note? Did you find it a satisfying ending or were you looking for more?
  • By the end of the book, what do you think is meant by the word “disgrace”? Who experiences the greatest disgrace in the book – David, Lucy, Bev, Melanie or anyone else?
  • Is there a purpose in any of the suffering David has endured? Has he changed at all by the story’s end?
  • Could this story have taken place in the US?
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