Study Guide

Disgrace Genre

By J.M. Coetzee


Literary Fiction

Let's be honest – some really shocking things happen in Disgrace (to say the least). What sets the novel apart from your typical page-turner and makes it a work of literary fiction is the way that Coetzee writes and describes these events. Let's just say he's a sophisticated guy. Works of literary fiction tend to focus less on "first X happened, then Y happened, and then oh, look out, Z happened," and more on the style in which the work is written and on the psychology of the characters.

Ever notice how David practically lives in his own brain? Sometimes it's hard to separate David from the narrator, or the narrator from Coetzee himself until you really stop and think about it. In fact, the writing is so fluid that you sometimes forget that there's a narrator in the first place – you're just there in the middle of everything. The whole process seems effortless. As a work of literary fiction, Disgrace dives deep into David's psyche via our third person narrator, focusing on how David perceives things, how he feels, how he remembers, what he imagines, how he connects his own experiences to other works of literature, what he worries about…well, you get the idea. This isn't to say that nothing happens in the novel plot-wise; it just goes to show that Coetzee has honed himself some really fine writing skills, making the plot move forward by exposing the deeper inner workings of his protagonist's mind.