Disgrace: Chapter 14
Summary – Chapter Fourteen
On what is described as ‘a new day’, Ettinger rings to offer to lend them a gun and David says they will think about it. David thinks of turning the farm into a fortress, but wonders if Lucy would agree to this as she is here because she loves the land ‘and the old, ländliche way of life’. He thinks that if this way of life is ‘doomed’, ‘what is left for her to love?’
Katy is coaxed out and is subdued and timorous. Life has changed and they feel constantly on the alert. Petrus returns with his wife and a load of building materials. David tells Lucy and asks if she finds it ‘“fishy”’ that Petrus disappeared precisely at this time. She replies that she cannot order him about and he is his own master; David lets this pass.
Lucy spends hours lying on her bed looking at magazines and David attempts to help on the farm. When he sees Petrus, he notices he does not ask specifically about Lucy. Petrus does ask if she is going to the market, though, and says how she might lose her stall if she does not. David tells her this, and she says she does not feel up to it. He thinks she is hiding her face, ‘because of the disgrace. Because of the shame’. He sees the ‘visitors’ as the owners of her story: ‘How they put her in her place, how they showed her what a woman was for.’
David and Petrus go to the market instead and David reads the newspaper report of what happened. They are referred to as ‘Lucy Lourie and her elderly father’ and he is glad a connection has not been made between her father and David Lurie from Cape Technical University. As for the trading, Petrus does most of the work while he sits and warms his hands. He thinks how it is like ‘the old day’, except he does not presume to give Petrus orders.
He thinks how Petrus has still not accounted for his absence and how ‘in the old days’ he could have had it out with him and even sent him packing. Although Petrus is paid, he is a neighbor rather than a hired help and this is ‘a new world’ they live in and all three of them (including Lucy) know it.
Despite these thoughts, we are told David feels at home with Petrus. He would like to hear his story one day, but not in English: ‘More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa.’ His thoughts then turn to how Petrus represents ‘honest toil’ and this appeals to him. He also has ‘suspicions’ that Petrus would like to take over Lucy’s and Ettinger’s land one day.
He does not think that Petrus engaged these three men ‘to teach Lucy a lesson’, but thinks he knew something was going to happen, and this is why he continues to nag Petrus. When they clean the dam together, he tells Petrus he finds it hard to believe these men were strangers. He also asks Petrus if it is wrong to want justice. Petrus says no, he is not wrong, and a flurry of anger runs through David. He wants to hear Petrus say it was a violation, but they carry on working in silence.
David spends his days working on the farm and does what Lucy no longer does. He also helps Bev at the animal clinic. His eye, which was damaged in the attack, heals in a week but his ear and scalp are still injured and he has to get used to looking ‘repulsive’.
Lucy is not improving and he has to tempt her to eat. He feels he is losing himself ‘day by day’ and has nightmares. One night when sleepwalking he strips his bed and turns his mattress over to look for stains.
With regard to his Byron project, he has only two volumes of his letters left as the rest were in the trunk of the stolen car. In truth, he has been putting off beginning writing and wonders if this ‘dark trio’ (the implication being these are Byron, Teresa and her husband) will be brought to life ‘in old Kaffraria’ not Cape Town.
Analysis – Chapter Fourteen
Apartheid is not mentioned by name, but is referred to as ‘the old days’ as David considers how then he and other whites had the power to fire and hire Africans at whim. It is telling that Apartheid is not named and is given this euphemism as it reveals once again how David fails to communicate the truth of what has happened. It perhaps also reflects the inadequacy of the medium that he criticizes when he considers how he would like to hear Petrus’s story but not in English.