The Familiar and Disgrace

One thing that The Familiar and Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee have in common is their use of animals as complex symbols. In Disgrace David Lurie identifies with a dog that is pretty much on its last leg, just as he has essentially lost everything he’s worked toward. This dog serves as a mirror for Lurie. He feels compassion (and eventually love) for this dog because he knows exactly what she’s going through because the exact same thing has happened to him.

Similarly, I believe that Xanther’s endeavor to rescue the kitten shares an analogous effect. It reminded me of the raindrop pages early in the novel. Xanther feels all of these raindrops all at once at all times. In a similar way, the cat is left in the rain, damaged and wounded. Perhaps this was Danielewski’s intended effect. Xanther is in the rain and so is the cat. Could it be that she saves the cat because she see herself in it?

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