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|← The Odyssey and Gilgamesh||Philip by Dick Valis →|
David Lurie is a professor of communications, who is a self centered man, going through midlife crisis. He believes he is at the comfortable place in his life. He is a self proclaimed romantic, and he also teaches romance literature. David is a man in his fifties who is lonely, but has lived his life fascinated by women. He has extremely intriguing relationships with women. His strong desires for women were so strong; he used to visit a prostitute every week. The prostitute he used to visit quitted her job at the brothel that David used to visit.
He has, however, been in quite a number of failed relationships, with two past divorces, frequent visit to the brothel and a sexual abuse to one of his students, Melanie. Melanie is a student in his class who he notices and calls her to his office often. He develops an infatuation towards her and starts treating her different from other students. David forces himself on Melanie and makes love to her on numerous occasions not taking into consideration what effects it would have on her. He only seeks to satisfy his own urges. He does not realise that Melanie is unhappy with his actions. She starts skipping classes and skipping CATS. He, however, is oblivious to the fact that Melanie feels uncomfortable with the way he treats her. Despite the fact that she missed her CATS, he still gives her a high grade to try and impress her and get her to continue his filthy habit.
When Melanie reports him to the school board, he faces disgrace in front of his peers and the community. He is, however, not apologetic for his actions. He does not apologize for what he did. When asked by the school board of his actions, he says that he is guilty as charged. He admits the accusations against him, not to be sincerely apologetic and remorseful, but he says that he is trying not to waste everyone’s time by denying and going back and forth arguing about the issue. David here displays a character of arrogance. He did not respect the board, and neither did he respect Melanie. He did not care about his actions, and how they affected the people around him.
At this point, he feels the urge to leave the community and hides out in the country with his daughter. He lives in the country with his daughter in their small farm that his daughter owns. At the farm, David encounters Petrus. Petrus is a black South African man, who works for Lucy at her farm. David is not particularly fond of him, and he, in fact, thinks that Petrus has a lot of freedom. He is also racist against him. He volunteers at an animal clinic where he takes care of unwanted dogs. At first, David is not too thrilled about the idea of working at an animal clinic. He then warms up to it and volunteers to work there. He, however, develops a relationship with Bev Shaw, who is a woman working at the health center, and has an unusual connection to the animals she treats.
After some time in the farm with his daughter, Lucy, they are attacked in their farm. His daughter is raped by three men. They are attacked and left there miserably. The men also kill all the dogs in the farm. This experience changes the relationship between father and daughter. When David encourages his daughter to talk about what happened to her, he refuses to talk about it, saying that he would not understand what she was going through. This brings about a strain tin their relationship. They argue about selling the land and her choice to stay in the farm, and her idea of keeping Pertus in the farm.
When Petrus takes advantage of the situation by obtaining part of her land, the mistrust grows even more. David believed that Petrus was taking advantage of his daughter. He offered Lucy his hand in marriage so that he could help her raise the child that she was expecting after the rape. David gets extremely angry and beats up Petrus’ nephew because he believes that he was one of the men who raped his daughter.
At this point, we see David becoming a totally different person. He becomes more and more compassionate. Seeing what happened to his daughter, he feels remorseful and remembers what he had done to his student Melanie. He sees how affected his daughter is and decides to go back to the parents to Melanie to apologize. He meets her father, who he had answered rudely and arrogantly. He accounts for what he did; reasons for what he did, why he refused to be apologetic, and how sorry he was for putting him through what he did. He related to how he felt pain for his daughter and thought of how Melanie’s father and family felt. This showed that David had grown into a compassionate man. He had an unpleasant experience that changed his perspective of life and began being empathetic towards others, whereas he was not before the rape.
David’s taste in women or choice in women is also seen to change when he gets into a relationship with Bev Shaw. First of all, she is in her fifties, almost the same age as David. In his past life, David only went after young women. He, however, stars a relationship with Bev, a much more mature woman. It is not clear whether this relationship is just sexual or whether it has a deeper impact. Shaw shows David how to communicate with the dogs in a way that they would understand each other. David has now grown up, into a mature man, and into a man who can control his urges.
It is; therefore, correct to conclude that David changes at the end of the novel. He becomes compassionate and mature. He, however, still remains a racist as he treats Petrus with hatred and distrust.