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This essay is a comparative study between Marry Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and J. M . Coetzee’s novel Disgrace. In this study I will explore these literary works in relation to two themes, “Grace/Disgrace” and “Monster. ” I will discuss the nobility from which each of the main characters comes from. I will discuss their individual vices and how these vices reduce them to being characters full of grace to being disgraced. I will also examine how their relationship to other characters changes as they become preoccupied with their obsessions.
Finally I will examine and discuss how they try to amend their behavior when they finally are able to admit the effect of their obsession. Both main characters are reckless males, Frankenstein’s point of view is “first-person narrators and Lurie’s is a combination of “free indirect discourse” and “Third person limited” perspective. ” David Lurie who is the main character in Disgrace and Victor Frankenstein the main character in the novel Frankenstein both possesses a venturesome nature, and for these two men this leads to their demoralization and destruction.
Both characters, in their quest for satisfying their inner desires reduce themselves from grace filled gentlemen to disgraceful members of society. Their inner monsters takeover their ability to rationalize and they both become victims, and must stand the consequences. David Lurie is first presented as a member of the academia, a fifty two year old respected professor of Communications at Cape Town University. He has mixed his literary words with his real life, and because of his absence of real friends he has created a relationship with the likes of William Blake and Byron.
Lurie is twice divorced and has one grown daughter named Alice. At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Lurie as he attends on of his regular weekly visit to Soraya who is his private prostitute. We understand the character to be one which desires some sort of regular female company in order to feel a sense of sexual worth. His meetings with Soraya soon end after she informs him that she will be away for a while. Lurie is left abandoned, and like a hungry dog, begins his quest to satisfy his hunger for sexual contact.
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He soon befriends a young woman in his class name Melanie Isaacs and this relation acts as the catalyst of the story. Victor Frankenstein is a much younger man than Lurie, in fact Victor is a mare Swiss boy. He is fascinated with the natural sciences and soon learns everything his professors at The University of Ingolstadt have to teach him. He becomes obsessed with “the secret of life” and decides to attempt to create a living being. His youth and inexperience blurs rational and Frankenstein does not consider the consequences of such success.
Not long after his creation is completed he quickly understands why the secret of life should have been left alone. Lurie like Frankenstein felt that he was invincible. Lurie seems to think that women can be bought with nice wine and small presents. After having sex with both Soraya and Melanie, Lurie seems to feel the need to reward them for the satisfaction which he achieves, he gives them presents. Lurie has no interest in a long term relationship, when his young lover asks, “Can I stay here a while? ”(27) he very quickly replies with a question, “Stay here? ” (27).
His plan for young Melanie was “a quick little affair”(27) and despite the fact that he enjoys her young body, he does not want a wife. Lurie becomes a bit reckless and rather than considering his event with Melanie as a onetime deal and resisting her when she visits, he embraces the visit and uses it for self-satisfaction. Melanie, reports Lurie to the University and he is disciplined, he makes no real attempt to justify his actions nor does he condemn Melanie. He does not believe that he is guilty of anything and feels that he has nothing to be sorry about, ”No animal will accept the justice of being punished for following its instincts. His instinct (90) leads his discipline to be very severe and he is asked to resign . In a conversation with Rosalind one of his ex-wives, she tries to understand the situation, and clearly expresses her point of view to him. “An inglorious end to your career, don’t you think? I won’t…this girl was worth the price”(44).
Rosalind at this point attempts to pull him away from romantic poetry, and back into his present situation, she says: “The whole thing is disgraceful from beginning to end. Disgraceful and vulgar too. (45) Disgrace and Frankenstein are set in two different parts of the world, and under two different political situations. The character Lurie is set in South Africa shortly after post-apartheid. This time is very important for the progression of the novel since it is a time when “blacks” have been given a status of equality and this paves the way for their reckless behavior. This is also a time in South Africa when the government and institutions make great efforts to demonstrate equality between the newly freed black as well as giving females more recognition than before.
The character Lurie was accustomed to the old South Africa where blacks had no rights and their movement was restricted to their townships. The south African landscape plays a very important role in the progression of the novel as Lurie’s daughter Lucy lives on a farm which she operates with the help of a sly free black man named Petrus. Petrus continues to maintain his old way of life where he has two wives and two lives. He does not consider women as equals, he is not directly disrespectful to neither Lucy nor his wife, but shows his superiority in other ways. Petrus has his own goals and that is owning Lucy’s land.
The incident with Lurie and Melanie leaves him looking like a dirty advantages old man, he is excommunicated by his coworkers and the new papers have labeled him as a ”Professor on a sex charge” (46) Lurie flees to his lesbian daughter in the country. Frankenstein is set in the a Swiss alps in the Geneva area. Shelly uses the mountainous landscape and the lakes to create an environment where such a monster is able to hide and enjoy the seasons as they change. The monster is able to withstand the harsh coldness of the Swiss Alps, and find lots of shrubbery to hide amongst.
The moon and stars provide the light needed for him to maintain his nocturnal life, and Shelly uses the seasons to demonstrate the year as it passes. In Frankenstein, the Monster also flees from situations which bring disgrace to him. The monster observes a family which he hopes to become accepted by, he secretly helps them gather wood and do other chaws in hopes that they can look beyond his physical ugliness and accept because of his kindness. “The more I saw them, the greater became my desire to claim their protection and kindness. He planned strategically, and when the other members were away on a forest walk he approached the blind father. The meeting went well until the children returned and they saw him, he was beaten and like Lurie he had to flee and hide himself. This left him angry with a feeling of revenge, but despite bearing the face and body of a monster he still gave human being yet another chance for redemption. While hiding in the forest, the monster saves a small child from drowning and he is also left disgraced and treated like an outcast. It is after this that his anger overwhelms him and he commits his first crime the murder of William Frankenstein.
Then for the first time he flees the scene as a true criminal. The monster demonstrates truly human instinct by butting a picture found on his victim’s person in the pocket of a graced an innocent woman Justine Moritz, who is disgraced in death. ”I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins. ” (56) The many monsters in both novels come in many different forms. Lurie a monster in his own right he has the knowledge needed to make correct decisions, but he is unwilling to conform as an educated middle age man should.
Victor Frankenstein is an unethical monster who has the knowledge within the field of science, and uses it to test his ability as a scientist and go beyond the ethics of science. The monster created by Frankenstein acquires the knowledge need to confront his maker and present the possibility of living in exile if he is given a partner. As an adult creature he has used his knowledge positively. The monster aims at being grace filled. He has taught himself how to speak, basic social skills, and dealing with emotions. “I am alone, and miserable;…This being you must create. Everything is new for this creature but he soon shows that he has the capacity to use his knowledge much more effective than both Lurie and Frankenstein. “The three men who attacked Lucy and Lurie are monsters, who acted with the knowledge that Lucy was alone on her farm and she had no one to protect her. They treated Lurie in a barbaric way when they not only locked him away but they also set him on fire. After moving to the country, Lurie gets a lesson on “what goes around comes around” when Lucy and him are attacked in their own home.
This has a major effect on Lurie as he begins to think more about people and animals, he develops a fondness for Katy, “Abandoned, are we? ” (78). Lurie begins to volunteer at the local animal shelter where he learns how to feel sympathy for others. He begins to gain knowledge, thus understanding that not only perfect beautiful objects need to be loved. Lurie also begins to have a more bird’s eye view of his daughter way of life and the people involved in it. Coetzee portrays Lurie as a sometimes stubborn character who often slips back into his old way of thinking.
When he is together with Bev Shaw he does not recognize that he is a disgraced unattractive man, a man who would not be attractive to a young tight woman, he describes her as “having no breasts to speak of. ” “like a squat little tub. ”(149) Coetzee narrates; “He lets her do it, as he has let her do everything she has felt a need to do. ” The disgrace brought upon the main characters by their behavior, has caused life changes. In the novel Disgrace Lurie attempts to meet Melanie’s parents in hope of getting some sort of understanding of the situation from them.
He is invited for dinner but is met with great coldness by the young girl’s mother and sister. Lurie does not really apologize; he does however take a bottle of wine, since he is a present giver. He seems to hope that things have blown over, however such is not the case. When he returns to his house the garden seems quite over grown and the house is broken into. His job has been given to a younger male teacher and he has no position at the university. He meets with Rosalind and she tells him who badly he looks, he has lost his grace. The society still remembers what he has done and he has no place there.
Strangely he feels that there is a change for him and Melanie but Ryan’s watchful eye is still there. Lurie, calls Bev to inquire about Lucy and senses that there is something. He returns to find that Lucy is pregnant for the rapist, the disgrace continues since the child which she carries if for a black South African, Further Lucy is considering Petrus’ proposal of marriage. This would make her his third wife. Victor Frankenstein has made a deal with the monster which he has created. The monster compares himself to Adam, the first man and wants Victor to create an Eve. At first Victor agrees, but starting his work he had a change of heart.
This angered the monster but in fact he had become a monster himself. As promised the monster took Clerval’s life for which Victor was blamed and shortly imprisoned. Elisabeth’s life was taken on their wedding night, and this lead to the death of his father. Victor Frankenstein was left alone and disgraced. He was now a monster and his main thought was on ending the life of the monster he had created. On reading both of the novels they seem very different at first, but on exploring the characters in relation to the themes there are many similarities. These novels show how glory and grace may be take away based on unfortunate circumstances.
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