In J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, literary devices are used to communicate the theme.

Disgrace is a work of fiction written by J.M. Coetzee that tells the story of David Lurie, a fifty-two-year-old professor. According to the storyline, David made a series of mistakes that resulted in a metaphysical account of disgrace. Many of his acts were the polar opposite of what the general public expected from a professor. As a result of this disgraceful act, the novel’s central theme of irony was introduced. As a consequence, the iron theme for such is described as a result of events that go against expectations. Throughout the novel, irony is used to create a sense of suspense and satire. In the novel, there happens to have a sealing relationship between love and iron; hence, there are various forms of love and irony, and both are interlaced vigilantly in the novel. First, there is the passionate irony of romantic love, where Eros demonstrated to a partner and to a lover. On the other hand, Ludus is given an iron of a casual lover, where sex is the order of the day without commitment. David attempts to pardon his affair with Bev, the daughter’s friends, persuades himself of having done charity work. He shows verbal irony, telling off himself issues which are not in agreement with his actual actions. For instance, the famous prostitute, Soraya, when she left their array, David said that he would let her go; nevertheless, David goes ahead sending her a confidential detective to investigate where she stays. This is used in the novel to expose on how human beings are social animals that cannot honor words of their mounts; and that, their statuses are not directly related with their actions. Additionally, there is as well situational irony throughout the novel. For instance, after the affair of David with Melanie reported to a school board, David is expected to apologize, but he instead proclaims himself being at fault and affirms it with no regrets.


The roles of animals in the novel were literary used as imagery in Coetzee’s Disgrace. Coetzee’s Disgrace uses animals in making a number of statements about Professor David Lurie; the main character in the novel. Dogs that David interacts with are imageries of his transformation to be more passionate. When David describes sexual link with a prostitute, he refers himself as a snake, relating his lovemaking as “absorbed, lengthy, abstract, and rather dry” (Coetzee 13). Thus such a snake comparison reveals his life position with love at one point in the story; and snakes are usually signified as an emotionless, cold creature in literature. Being reptile, they lack emotional complexity, which is observed in many mammals. Furthermore, David went ahead and compares himself with a butterfly. This insect represents an element that lacks emotional response with passion (Moffat 420).


In his narration, Coetzee’s Disgrace applied a number of symbolisms. The message was well sent within the scope and the disposal of the author, characters and a larger capacity of audiences. However, the most common one is the symbolic form of the dog. A number of times dogs are mentioned in the novel; David illustrates how dogs were packed down when especially female dogs when are in heat. The narrator brought out issues that surround dogs as they undergo reproduction course of action and problems experiences with the owners. For such, whenever there happens to have a bitch in the surrounding area such dogs get excited; then the owners would beat it up; “thus the deprived dog hates its own scope of nature” (Coetzee 90). Thus David indicated dog-like actions when sending his apologies to Isaac after getting down on his all fours. It is like a dog doing such actions before the master as a show of remorse. By so doing, David feels negative about dogs and perceives them lacking pride and agency; thus dogs are deemed disgraceful.

Uses of Metaphor

Maltreatment of animalsThe consciousness shown by nature of David as an animal with the cruelty experienced is raised throughout the novel. Similarly, a partial transformation of David’s attitude could be interpreted as means for outlining his amounted distress for himself. Thus Coetzee avoided providing a simplistic transformation of a selfish protagonist. However, by portraying his decision honoring dead dogs, for instance, it is likely to see a transformation in David, which even he seems to be not aware of it.Professor of CommunicationsThe new position of David is both symbolic and ironic. It is more of ironic since the position illustrates his failure rather than the capability to communicate (Gibson 432). Lack of communication is more highlighted in the course of the book when words like apartheid and rape are infrequently mentioned; although both are central storyline concerns. The position of Professor of Communications is figurative, then, as such, it signposts the futility of such kind of academic arrangement due to flawed David’s characterization. Thus when examining David’s character and his role more broadly, it shows how few people communicates their fears and desires.ReparationsThere lacks direct analogy between the committees of truth and reconciliation during South Africa post-Apartheid and the committee which David supposed to attend after charged with the sexual nuisance. However, in the novel, there is an indirect allusion which invites questioning of a genuine sorry for the past crimes. The perception of public sincerity, penance, and forgiveness are analyzed when David’s guilty appeal is not satisfactory to people who deem him as being more abject.


In the novel, the author used intensely foreshadowing to bring out an imperative image of the narration. In a number of ways, foreshadows is deemed to be David’s life. He is a disappointment person and at the same time is a failure in love (Farrant 111). Similarly, the new position is another form of David’s foreshadowing since it illustrates his failure rather than the capability to communicate. Coetzee drew parallels among different instances of powerlessness and power.

Work Cited

Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print. McNamara, Donna, and Bonnie Clairmont. “History of Sexual Violence.” Aaron Propes, 2000. Web. 5 Dec. 2017.

Farrant, Marc. “‘Very Much the Tortoise’: A Review of The Slow Philosophy of JM Coetzee.” Brief Encounters 1.1 (2017).

Gibson, Suzie. “The Power of Literature in JM Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello.” Australian Folklore 30 (2017).

Moffat, Nicola. “Rape and the (Animal) Other: Making Monsters in JM Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 43.2 (2017): 401-423.

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