The Familiar and Disgrace- Dogs

Dogs are a huge part of J.M. Coetzee’s character David Lurie in Disgrace and are mentioned prominently in Luther’s storyline in The Familiar.In both cases, it is interesting how all-around amoral characters are associated with dogs.

In The Familiar, dogs are most important in the narrative of Luther. Luther owns pit bulls that were for his dog-fighting. He has shut down his operation, (for selfish reasons, not out of care for the animals), yet kept the dogs. This could be one of his few ‘redeemable’ features- the dogs have no practical use for him, yet he keeps looking after them, rather than putting them down or selling them to another dog-fighter.

David Lurie is, much like Luther, a womanizer with little care for anything other than his own pride. He goes through a series of traumatic events throughout Disgrace, and though there is evidence that much of his personality has not changed, like his objectification of women and his racism, his attitude towards animals certainly has. He volunteers at a animal shelter, where he has to deliver dogs that have been put down to be burned. He insists on operating the crematorium so that the dogs are treated with respect, even though it is painful for him.

Both characters have a very unusual relationship with the dogs. While Lurie is acting out of a sense of empathy, it is possible that Luther is acting out of a sense of repayment. Or maybe he keeps them around purely for intimidation, so they serve a duty.

While dogs help redeem Lurie, it is unclear what they do for Luther. They could either help redeem him or help prove that he is a monster.


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