Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Detached, Erudite, Matter-of-Fact, A Little Gloomy and Brooding
The narrative of Disgrace is pretty straightforward, with very little side commentary. Even in moments of high tension, the narrator stays out of it, instead reporting to us precisely what David hears, sees, thinks, and feels. Take, for instance, the moment in which the tall man kills all of the dogs: "There is a heavy report; blood and brains splatter the cage. For a moment the barking ceases. The man fires twice more" (11. 91). We just hear it like it is, and it is the detached tone of Coetzee's writing that makes this possible. In spite of this matter-of-factness, however, the tone of the novel takes on a certain dark, gloomy quality – but how could it not, given the seriousness of the events of the novel?