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Disgrace Analysis

1637 words - 7 pages

Racist Modes of Representation in J.M Coetzee's Novel DisgraceIdeology, a term first introduced by Louis Althusser, refers to a governing system of values and beliefs that favors a certain group of people and enables them to manipulate people subordinate to them. Through the view of colonies, ideology helps colonizers construct inferior identities for the colonized and compartmentalize the latter for their own pleasure. As a result, the racial, gender, and sexual oppression tends to be internalized and accepted as true. Even though laws are simple to rewrite, racist modes of representation are actually much harder to change. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, through stereotypes of South Africa as ...view middle of the document...

On the other hand, Melanie and Lucy, the two victims, are to remain silent and remain vulnerable to sexual violations.Deconstruction of the 52-year-old professor's sexual relationships with two women of color effectively corroborates this viewpoint. He has reckless sexual encounters with young, exotic prostitutes to counteract the issues of aging and not being able to be sexually dominant. However, after Soraya, the prostitute, avoids him and asks that he harass her no more, Lurie seduces and even rapes Melanie for "damage control." One thing to highlight is that although Melanie's actual ethnicity is not overtly stated in Disgrace, Lurie racializes her and fantasizes her as being foreign, as he describes her as "small and thin" and having "wide, almost having Chinese cheekbones" (Coetzee 11), and refers to her as "Melani: the dark one" (Coetzee 18). Whether or not Melanie is white no longer matter, so long as in Lurie's mind, she is this petite, exotic and thus docile, vulnerable object for him to gain pleasure from. The power dynamic is revealed when Melanie's objection to Lurie's coercion is hopeless and her account of the incident is nowhere to be found. However, there is detailed and vivid portrayal of Lurie's hearing, and he manages to choose when to speak and justify his actions the entire time. According to Lurie, "a woman's beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it" (Coetzee 16). Since a woman's exterior, her body inclusive, is a public property, it is not guilty of him to possess her for gratification and he has done nothing wrong because she is seducing him being so beautiful and young. Although he is "the intruder who thrusts himself upon her" (Coetzee 24), he rationalizes this sexual encounter as consensual and not coercive since "she does not resist [and] all she does is avert herself" (Coetzee 25); this is not rape but only an "undesired" intercourse. The division between men and women is clear here: regarding sexual violations men have rights to power over women as well as to freedom of silence, while women are men's channel to desire and their one and only option is silenceYet, the most prudent evidence regarding Melanie's ill fate and the little chance she stood against it can be found in Crenshaw's work. Intersectionality is the notion that women of color are alienated from both conventional feminist and racist defense, and therefore more subject to attack, due to the fact that few people consider the category of being female and black (Crenshaw, 541). Yet there are certain facets of Melanie's situation and her relationship to Lurie that doubly underscored this concept in relation to her character, as the following quotation evinces.Patterns of subordination intersect in women's experience of domestic violence. Intersectional subordination need not be intentionally produced; in fact it is frequently the consequence of the imposition of one burden...

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