Disgrace: Chapter 13
Summary – Chapter Thirteen
Before they leave, Bev changes David’s dressings. He tries to raise the subject of rape again with Bev as well as the risks of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and Bev says he must ask Lucy about this.
As he waits for Lucy, it is described how he feels shocked ‘to the depths’ and for the first time he has a taste of what it feels like to be old. He feels his pleasure in living has been ‘snuffed out’ and is full of ‘despair’.
Two policemen arrive and they follow when Bev drives them back to the farm. The bulldog Katy is still about but is keeping her distance, and there is no sign of Petrus.
David lets Lucy explain to the police what happened. She does not mention the rape and as she talks he remembers the rhyme from childhood of two old ladies locked in the lavatory. He thinks of this memory as coming back ‘to point a jeering finger’. He also thinks of the line, ‘oh dear what can the matter be?’, and sees the answer as being Lucy’s secret and his ‘disgrace’.
After the policemen leave, the telephone repairmen come and then Ettinger pays a call. In reference to the absent Petrus, Ettinger says, ‘not one of them can you trust’ and when he says he will send ‘a boy’ over to fix the Kombi, Lucy does not react (as she usually would when someone uses the term ‘boy’ for an adult African man).
When David and Lucy are alone, he asks why she has not told the whole story. She replies, ‘the whole story is what I have told’. He does not press further and goes outside to bury the dead dogs. He comes back in after this and finds Lucy moving a camp bed into the pantry. He insists that she has his room and he moves into hers.
That night, he asks again why she has not reported ‘the crime’ and she tries to explain that what happened to her was ‘a purely private matter’. She adds that in this place, South Africa, and at this time, it is her business alone. He tells her she cannot set herself apart and says vengeance does not work like this. He compares it to the plague, and then a fire in that the more it devours the hungrier it is. She tells him to stop speaking of plagues and fires and says she is not acting in terms of abstractions (such as guilt and salvation) and stops the conversation. He is shaken and thinks they have never been so far apart.
Analysis – Chapter Thirteen
Silence and the absence of communication are central themes in this chapter as David refers to ‘the crime’ rather than being explicit and saying rape, and Lucy refuses to tell the police about her ordeal. This has echoes of David’s behavior in the inquiry in that he refused to explain himself fully or communicate his perspective in more detail. In this case, both father and daughter revert to silence rather speaking openly and this is made all the more ironic as he is a Professor of Communications.