Study Guide

Disgrace Chapter 2

By J.M. Coetzee

Chapter 2

  • David feels like nothing exciting happens in his week now that hanky-panky Thursdays are a thing of the past. He spends a lot of time in the library doing research on Byron for the opera he wants to write.
  • One Friday he's walking home and notices Melanie Isaacs, one of the students in his Romantics course. He says hi. We learn that David has a bit of a crush on her.
  • David and Melanie start making small talk, and then he takes a leap and invites her to his apartment for a drink. Melanie hesitates but then agrees. David can't stop staring at her.
  • At David's place, Melanie checks out his bookshelves while he cracks open a bottle of wine, gets her some cheese and crackers, and puts on some Mozart. He thinks about how this is all a ritual that men go through to seduce women.
  • He wonders whether he will be OK with seeing her in the classroom as just a student after this evening is over.
  • They chat about his class. Melanie says she liked Blake but didn't like Wordsworth, who happens to be David's favorite.
  • David goes on about how the way poetry hits you is like falling in love with someone, and then he gets self-conscious about whether or not he sounds like an old man saying that.
  • They talk about how Melanie used to write poetry, as well as about her favorite authors (Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, and Alice Walker).
  • David offers to make dinner. Melanie agrees with some hesitation and then disappears to go make a phone call.
  • We learn that Melanie is a drama student. She's taking his Romantics class for a "change of atmosphere" and because she "didn't want to take Shakespeare again" (2. 41).
  • When they eat dinner, we also learn that she has a healthy appetite.
  • Melanie polishes off her wine, and then David puts on an old movie about dance. He gets the feeling that Melanie isn't really into it.
  • After the movie, Melanie checks out the piano and then notices all of David's books on Byron. He gives her some background on Byron's love scandals (we recommend keeping these tidbits in mind – they'll come back later in the novel).
  • David offers her some liqueur. She says no but lets him pour a shot of whiskey in her coffee.
  • As Melanie drinks her coffee, David strokes her cheek and then asks her to spend the night. She asks him why; he notices that she "does not withdraw, but does not yield either" (2.16). He recites a couple of lines of Shakespeare to sweeten the deal. This backfires.
  • He awkwardly hugs her. She leaves.