Disgrace: Metaphor Analysis

Maltreatment of animals
David’s consciousness of animals and the cruelty they undergo is raised through the course of the novel. This partial transformation of his outlook may be interpreted as a means for highlighting his increased concern for those other than himself. Coetzee avoids offering a simplistic transformation of this mainly selfish protagonist, but by depicting his decision to honor the dead dogs, for example, it is possible to see a change in David that even he appears to be not fully aware of.
Professor of Communications
David’s new position is both ironic and symbolic. It is ironic because it represents his inability rather than ability to communicate. This lack of communication is further emphasized in the course of the novel when the words rape and apartheid are rarely mentioned although these are both central narrative concerns.
The post of Professor of Communications is symbolic, then, in that it signposts the ineffectiveness of this type of academic position because of the flawed characterization of David. If one examines the role, and David’s character, more broadly, they both serve to illuminate how limited we are in communicating our desires and fears.
There is not a direct analogy being made between the truth and reconciliation committees in the post-Apartheid South Africa and the committee that David has to attend after being charged with sexual harassment, but there is an indirect allusion to these earlier inquiries that invites us to question the possibility of being genuinely sorry for past crimes.
The notions of public penance, sincerity and forgiveness are scrutinized most obviously when David’s guilty plea is not deemed sufficient for those who want him to be more abject. Through the depiction of the workings of this committee, Coetzee is able to query the Kafkaesque quality that is tied in with the demand for public penance.