David Lurie as a Byronic Hero in J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace
The Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee is known for addressing uncomfortable and unanswerable questions through his novels, often having autobiographical traces and staunch protagonists dwelling in solitude and emptiness. The protagonist of Disgrace is one such character who, in the face of both private and public ignominies, refuses to change his ideals that are fairly identical to the Romantic poet Lord Byron only to reject them in the end after his transformative exploits and emerge as a remorseful yet stolid hero. The novel’s honest and relentless probing of character while keeping the impulses and crimes of passion and the inadequacies of justice at the focal point makes it a bleak allegorical work of brilliance. The multiple variations of disgraces mentioned in the novel tend to sublimate and synthesize the identity of David Lurie into a cathartic sense of dislodgement and to regenerate as a Romantic paralysis of the self. This paper aims to explore the influence of the Romantics on David Lurie, specifically the European Renaissance legacy of the autonomy of the individual, as well as the deliberate or unconscious similitudes with the Byronic hero archetype. It will also investigate the nature of the legacy of the Romantic self that David Lurie leaves behind and the role of imagination in addressing themes such as guilt, redemption, and alteration of realities.
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