Allegory in Disgrace by Coetzee



The story Disgrace by Coetzee is full of imageries including allegories, which describe a period that marked South Africa’s transition from apartheid. There was no confidence in the police and law because everything was restructuring. Criminals got away with their mischievous ways, especially against the white settlers as power had shifted from the Whites to the Blacks. The author features Lurie and his daughter Lucy who are ready to stay in South Africa and protect whatever they have left, amid violence and injustice on them. The novel is a clear and concise representation of the post apartheid reactions and transitions in South Africa. The novel shows an allegoric representation of a shift in political power from the Whites to the Blacks. This paper seeks to examine the use of allegory throughout the novel (“Disgrace Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory”).


The author uses a protagonist known as Lurie to convey disgrace. First, at the university, he receives full punishment for alleged sexual harassing of one of his students. Further, disgrace follows him in the countryside where his daughter is gang-raped and car stolen. He moves from his high social status to the low life and has no other option but to accept it. In sharp contrast, the native who lives with Lucy gains dominance; this may be seen as an allegory to represent blacks’ dominance in power (Langa, “Disgrace – by J.M. Coetzee: Reviewed by Naval Langa”).

Use of Allegory in Disgrace

Allegory is defined as a figure of rhetoric that uses a figurative mode of expressing something through symbols instead of providing the verbal meaning of things. Allegory is used throughout this novel as Coetzee tries to express the real meanings of the actions in South Africa in the post apartheid era. For instance, Petrus, Lucy’s assistant, is very influential in the countryside. He utilizes his political influence to show Lucy that if she wants to live, she has to be ready to leave the land. This is evidenced in the novel when his close allies rob and gang-rape Lucy while stealing Lurie’s car. Lucy later finds out that she is pregnant of one of the rapists and works on to protect herself. This is an allegory which states that rape and robbery are aimed at giving clear signs to Lucy that she should live a new lawless way in the countryside or leave land to Petrus (Coetzee 55-69). In addition, Petrus wants to marry Lucy as a second wife to keep rising the social ladder (“Disgrace Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory”).

Allegory is also used when Lurie encounters his first disgrace. He gets sacked for alleged sexual harassing. The student was not forced, although she remained muted throughout the process. She then registers complaint, and the same thing is not really perceived in a similar sense. In essence, when the weaker partner feels cheated, disgrace falls on Lurie. This symbolizes transition in the system where the law is still in the process of reformation


The author describes the post apartheid transitions and occurrences in South Africa to the readers with the help of his allegoric techniques. Such people like Lurie and Lucy move to the lowest social status while the Blacks begin dominating society gaining more power. The novel conveys a shift of authority from the Whites to the Blacks (Langa, “Disgrace – by J.M. Coetzee: Reviewed by Naval Langa”).

Works Cited

Coetzee, John. Disgrace. London: Penguin Books, 2000. Print.

“”. Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., n.d. Web.

Langa, Naval. “Disgrace – by J.M. Coetzee: Reviewed by Naval Langa”. Rev. of Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee n.d.: n. pag. Web.

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