Disgrace Questions


Describe the systems of control in South Africa.

     The blacks had successfully overthrown the dominant, oligarchic white government, and Nelson Mandela had been elected president.  While blacks were the majority, many of them were still living in poverty because of how, historically, the whites had taken advantage of them and kept them oppressed.  David said that while the blacks had achieved their political goal, they were still counting reparations for the decades of abuse and oppression (hence why there were street thugs and thieving rapists).  (more info below)

Who are the guardians of the old system? What is their stake in old system?

     The whites were the guardians of the old system.  Their stake is a lot of money, and a lot of concentrated power.  There are two groups of white- the Dutch (Bohrs) and the British, both of whom were fighting for power over everyone else before Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994.  Early on in South Africa's history, there was violent tension between the British and the Dutch whites.  In the late 1600's, the Dutch East India Company made settlements in the country, and the Dutch ruled over the Bantus until the British arrived in the late 1700's.  Then. the war for power was between the Dutch and the British-- especially during the Anglo-Bohr War, where more than 500,000 Brits fought 65,000 Bohrs, who were strikingly outnumbered.  From the South African gold rush to the discovery of valuable diamonds in the mid-to-late 1800's, the whites of South Africa (British, Bohr, and Afrikaner alike) all had a heavy economical stake in the country.  This greed fueled their wars against one another, and also the heavy oppression of the apartheid that was established in 1948 and didn't see any relief until 1994.

Who are the guardians of the new system? What is their hope for the new South Africa?

     The majority, the blacks, are the guardians of the new system.  More specifically, though, the revolutionary freedom-fighter blacks are the ones running the country (ie. Mandela) so there is hope because the government is no longer corrupt, and it can serve to the majority and not feel the need to steal and oppress the opposing class or party.  Once the oppressors are overthrown, the oppressed can run the country freely because they have power in numbers.  The government understands what it means to be politically overpowered, and they take a more pacifistic attitude than the whites did, because they don't fear for their power.  They know that they were in good shape because the majority of the people want them to be in good shape. 
     More specifically, though, in 1990, right before Nelson Mandela was freed from jail, FW de Klerk lifted the aparteid that had oppressed blacks in South Africa for so long.  Discussions commenced, and the new political parties formed that would later be running in 1994, including the ANC and PAC parties. 

Which elements of the novel resonate with the documentary, Amandla! How? Why?

     The view of whites as superior or more intellectually structures in comparison to blacks seems to be a stereotype that both Amandla and Coetzee used.  While the blacks interviewed in Amandla were insightful and intellectual, the opposing whites interviewed were intellectual, but in a bad way.  They were snobby and controlling in their endeavors, especially the military and political leaders that did such horrible things to the black population during their reign of power.  In Disgrace, David is a pretentious, independent, and somewhat of a poindexter type.  He is wise, but book smart at most, and is more focused on his own unimportant thoughts than the feelings of others.  He feels superior, but when it comes down to it, he is lesser of a man than most.  As a white professor, everything David does involved him being the minority.  I've deduced that his class is mostly black, and while his wives are white, the other women he deals with are not.  We see with the black and coloured characters, like Melanie and Petrus, that there is a transition period occuring in South Africa.  While interracial relationships, especially of a professional nature, were probably denounce before apartheid ended, David didn't even seem to think twice about doing what he did with Melanie.

Part II
  • Describe each character; what do you not know about each that you want to know? Why do you want to know this information?

  • Find one quotation by each character (something they said) and one quotation about each character (indicate if the commentary is by another character or the narrator).
  • Explain why each of these statements is important. How does each statement further Coetzee’s considerations of the evolution of South Africa?
  • Ask a question of each of these characters.



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