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by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace Theme of Contrasting Regions

In Disgrace, David's experiences in the city and the country are like night and day. He knows the city, and he has a place in it. There are set rules, even if David doesn't always follow them. Life is more private in its own way. Then we get to the country, and everything changes. Life isn't necessarily simpler. There are new rules to get used to, including an entirely new social hierarchy. David is also confronted with new problems in the country that escaped him in the city. Though it was barely on his radar in Cape Town, the legacy of Apartheid is still fresh in rural South Africa. As a result, David finds that entering the country is like playing a whole new game.

Questions About Contrasting Regions

  1. How does the fact that Melanie and her family are also from the Eastern Cape complicate the divide between country and city that we encounter throughout the book?
  2. David refers to the "hardheartedness" of the country in 15.30. Is the country really hardhearted? What aspects of it are hardhearted? What examples might disprove this idea?
  3. At the end of the novel, David notices that the country seems to be creeping into the city. To what extent do you think his judgment might be influenced by his personal experience of the country?
  4. Which area is harsher – the city or the country? In which ways are they both harsh?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

People from the city and people from the country cannot inherently understand one another; their experiences are too different.

For David, becoming accustomed to life in the country requires completely starting over and leaving behind the person he was in the city.

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