Appetite for Allegory

Disgrace attends to the reverse case. In the old South Africa, no one could escape signifying beyond himself, belonging to a racial and a political collectivity. On the other hand, one of the freedoms of a free society is the freedom not to mean anything, not to suffer official categorization. But when the individual's rights are restored to him, so is his smallness. His life does not go beyond itself. The chill of extinction enters in.

So it is in Disgrace, where David Lurie finishes by becoming a volunteer in an animal shelter, euthanatizing dogs. He has come to feel akin to the dogs—reduced to the body, a packet of flesh without transcendent meaning. In this he is, of course—allegory entering in through the back door—a kind of representative man.

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