Disgrace: Chapter 6

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Summary – Chapter Six
The chapter begins with David’s hearing. He does not feel nervous and does not care that he is going into this with the ‘wrong spirit’. He is facing two charges; one is for harassment and the other is concerned with the validity of the records he kept on Melanie.
 
He pleads guilty to both charges immediately and asks them to pass sentence. Hakim says how this is an inquiry and not a trial and asks if he wants representation. David says he does not and on being prompted he tells them he has not read Ms Isaacs’ statement but accepts it as he does not think she will have lied. One of the committee members asks if he would be prepared to have counselling and he bristles at this and asks in turn if there is any reason why this debate should continue. He is then asked to step outside while the committee deliberates.
 
On his return to the room Dr Rassool objects to his responses and accuses him of being evasive. She also accuses him of ‘subtle mockery’ and says he accepts the charges in name only. When he questions this, she argues that the ‘wider community’ is ‘entitled’ to know what he acknowledges and what it is that he is being ‘censured’ for.
 
He questions her points again and she says that if he is only going through the motions she urges they impose ‘the severest penalty’. Two of the men present urge David to help himself and silence follows when David says how in this ‘chorus of goodwill’ he hears no female voices. 
 
He then makes his required confession of how when he talked to Melanie in the college gardens, ‘Eros entered’. Dr Rassool argues that he is not confessing to the ‘abuse of a young woman’ and he thinks how he has been waiting for the use of this word abuse. Dr Rassool and ‘the businesswoman’ (who teaches in the Business School) think they should proceed to a decision, whereas Swarts wants David to subscribe to a statement. Swarts reminds them of the media interest and David says he took advantage of his position. Once again, Dr Rassool questions his sincerity.
 
David says this demand for sincerity is ‘beyond the scope of the law’ (as he becomes increasingly impatient) and has had enough now. He adds that this is as far as he is prepared to go. When he leaves the room, he is followed by a gathered group and his jacket is grabbed by someone and another person takes his photograph. A girl with a tape recorder asks him if he regrets what he did and he says no, and tells her that he was ‘enriched by the experience’.
 
His photograph appears in the student newspaper the following day and in it a young man is holding a waste paper basket over his head like a dunce cap. It is also reported that the committee was ‘tight-lipped’ about their verdict and David is quoted as saying that the experience was enriching.
 
He receives a call at home and is told the Rector wants David to issue a ‘satisfactory’ statement to avoid ‘extreme measures’ being taken. He is read the prepared statement, which means he would acknowledge ‘without reservation serious abuses of the human rights of the complainant’. If he accepts this, he will be asked to take a leave of absence. He will be able to return when he, the Dean and his head of department decide. They want repentance from him and he says his plea of guilty should be enough. According to David, ‘repentance is neither here nor there. Repentance belongs to another world, to another universe of discourse’.
 
He is asked again to acknowledge his ‘fault in a public manner’ and to ‘take steps to remedy it’, and he says he cannot do this.
 
 
Analysis – Chapter Six
The public denouncement of David is depicted in exaggerated terms and is done in a way that reflects both the absurdity of the public confession of ‘sincerity’ and of the lack of understanding of what has passed between him and Melanie. His abuse of his position of power is barely referred to, but is instead described as ‘serious abuses’ of Melanie’s human rights. It is ironic that David recognizes the fallacy of the situation, where he is asked to act more sincerely, as he is the one deemed to be amoral. It is possible to argue that by refusing to pretend to need counselling he is behaving with more morals than his accusers.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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