Study Guide

Disgrace Violence

By J.M. Coetzee


At times, the violence in Disgrace hits you right over the head – we mean, it's hard to ignore it when David gets knocked out and, you know, lit on fire. Then there is the violence we don't see but know happens, like Lucy's rape. We also see extreme violence acted upon the dogs in the kennel when the tall man slaughters them one by one. But then there also actions that are characterized as violence even when the person doling it out doesn't realize that it can be viewed that way; for example, David is stunned to hear the committee refer to his affair with Melanie as an instance of abuse; he certainly hadn't seen it that way. Violence can be intentional or unintentional, but in either case, it permeates this text.

Questions About Violence

  1. Why do you think the tall man executes all of the dogs? How does this add to the horror of the scene?
  2. David sees Pollux as a "violent child in the body of a young man" (23.18). Do you think Pollux is inherently a violent person, or is his violence a product of examples given to him by the society he lives in? Or is it both?
  3. How do the intruders use violence as a means of asserting their own power and place in society?
  4. Do you think the intruders intended to kill David or merely to maim him?

Chew on This

The characters in Disgrace use violence as a way to make up for past wrongs.

In Disgrace, violence isn't personal; instead, it pits people of one big group against another big group.