Disgrace: Chapter 16

Summary – Chapter SixteenLucy avoids David the next morning and in the afternoon Petrus comes and says he wants to lay piping from the dam to his new house. He wants to borrow tools and asks David to help him fit the regulator. David does so and Petrus says nothing about the party or the presence of the boy: ‘It is as though none of that had happened.’ David finally raises the subject and asks who he was. Petrus says the boy is angry at being called a thief and goes on to say the insurance will pay for David to get a new car. David questions this and says there is a principle involved. Petrus then ignores the question as to whether the boy is a relative or not, and says instead that he is too young and cannot be put in jail. The conversation turns to Lucy and Petrus says she is safe and is alright now. Neither of them mentions rape, but Petrus insists the boy is too young and is not a thief, and David says it is not just thieving that he is speaking of. David talks to Bev about how Lucy will not be persuaded to leave and will not listen to him. Bev says he can depend on Petrus to look out for her and tells him how he slaved to get the market garden going for her. David says he thinks Petrus turned a blind eye to what happened to him and Lucy, and also took care to not be in the area when it happened. He says he (David) knows what Lucy went through, and Bev answers ‘“but you weren’t there”’. He is baffled by this and is also ‘outraged at being treated like an outsider’. He continues to stay at the farm despite Petrus’s assurance and Lucy’s obstinacy. He works in the garden and broods over his Byron project. He also goes to the animal clinic as often as he can. Dogs are often brought in to be disposed of, for Lösung, and on Sunday afternoons the doors are locked and Bev puts down the ‘superfluous’ ones. He fetches them one at a time and Bev gives each one her fullest attention. He then holds the dog while she injects it. The more he does this, the more ‘jittery’ he becomes. This leads him to think that he does not have ‘the gift of hardness’. He is convinced the dogs know what is going to happen to them and it is worse when some of them try to sniff and lick him beforehand. He does not like this, but lets them do it anyway. He also disposes of the remains and takes the bodies to the incinerator of the Settlers Hospital. He avoids taking them there on a Sunday as they will be left with ‘the rest of the weekend’s scourings’ and thinks this will inflict ‘dishonor’ on them. So, he leaves the bags of corpses in the Kombi overnight and takes them on Monday. He loads them one at a time because on the first Monday he went there he saw the workmen break the rigid limbs with shovels. He wonders why he does this and thinks it is for himself, and for his idea of the world where men do not use shovels ‘to beat corpses into a more convenient shape for processing’. He also thinks he is becoming ‘stupid, daft, wrongheaded’. Analysis – Chapter SixteenDavid’s work at the animal clinic is given more detail in this chapter, as is Bev’s role in comforting the dogs she is about to kill. This may be read as wider treatise on euthanasia, but it is perhaps more relevant to think of these passages in terms of kindness and generosity. Related to this is the way David takes it upon himself to transport the corpses to the incinerator and dispose of each one individually. This honoring of the dead is underplayed by him as being ‘stupid, daft, wrongheaded’, but the readers are led again to assume that he is developing into a sentient being.