Chapters Four–Six 

Summary: Chapter Four 

Again, David has sex with Melanie, this time in the bedroom that was once his daughter’s. Afterward, Melanie asks David a series of personal questions, including if he regularly sleeps with his students, why he’s divorced, and if he is collecting her as a woman or type of sexual conquest. David denies her last inquiry, then watches Melanie and studies her young body as she dresses.

Later that afternoon, a young man clad in a leather jacket and pants arrives at David’s office. Brash and cocky, the young man takes a seat without being invited and then surveys the room. He makes it immediately clear that he knows Melanie, and that he is aware that David has had sex with her. The young man then grows combative. He mocks David and promises him he’ll be sorry. Later that night, David finds that his car has been badly vandalized. 

Melanie doesn’t return to David’s house, but does return to class the following Monday, accompanied by the young man, her boyfriend, whose name is later revealed to be Ryan. David’s students sense something is amiss, and though David is uncertain about how to deal with the intruder, he proceeds with his lesson on Byron, speaking of the scandals that affected the poet’s life. His lesson also explores Byron’s poem “Lara,” which speaks of the fallen angel Lucifer and his exile from heaven. David also asks his class to examine Lucifer’s character. Surprisingly, it is Ryan who responds with an accurate assessment that Lucifer acts on impulse without regard for good or bad. 

At the end of class, convinced his students can’t tell the differences between Byron, Lucifer, or Cain, David ends class early. He calls Melanie to his office. David tells Melanie her boyfriend can’t disrupt his class again and that she will need to work harder on her studies, including making up her missed mid-term exam. Melanie is confounded by David’s words, knowing their relationship now far exceeds that of teacher and student, and tells David says she’s not prepared to take the test. David tells her to just get the test behind her, though, and not to make the situation more complicated.

Summary: Chapter Five 

Melanie fails to take David’s exam the following Monday, and instead, withdraws from the University. David then receives a call from Melanie’s father, phoning from their home in George. Melanie’s parents are in shock that she would drop out of college after doing so well there for three years. Melanie’s father then asks that David speak with his daughter and try to dissuade her from leaving school. David knows this would be futile, however, and that he’s the cause of Melanie’s distress. Later that week, attendance drops in David’s class as rumors spread of the affair. Melanie’s father visits the University, where he confronts David, referring to him as a “viper.”

The next morning, in a memorandum from the office of the Vice-Rector, David learns that a complaint has been lodged against him regarding Article 3.1 of the University’s Code of Conduct, concerning victimization and harassment. Later at the Vice-Rector’s office, David meets with Aram Hakim, along with Elaine Winter, the chair of the Communications department, and Farodia Rassool from Social Sciences. Elaine immediately challenges David’s false recording of Melanie’s attendance, but Aram intervenes and attempts to calm the situation while informing David that a committee will be set up to see if discipline is required. Later, outside at David’s car, Aram, a colleague with whom David used to play tennis and has known for years, tells David he has his sympathy and tries to help, but David continues to be difficult and combative. 

Soon, colleagues begin to ignore and shun David. To help calm the situation, David’s lawyer advises him to take sensitivity training, provide community service, and seek counselling, but David insists he needs none of those things. Later, David and his ex-wife, Rosalind, discuss Lucy, David’s adult daughter, named here for the first time, from his first marriage who now lives on a farm in the Eastern Cape. David learns that Rosalind, too, has heard of the affair. She berates him for having sex with a younger woman and says it’s disgraceful that his career would end this way. Rosalind also discloses that she heard Melanie took sleeping pills, presumably to kill herself, and the next day, calls David to inform him that the local newspaper has published a story about the scandal. 

Summary: Chapter Six 

David’s hearing with the committee is held in Asam Hakim’s office and chaired by Manas Mathabane, Professor of Religious Studies, who says the committee will make recommendations to the Rector concerning David’s fate. On hand also are Asam’s secretary, a female student from the Coalition Against Discrimination, and the committee’s three members: Farodia Rassool, Dean of Engineering Desmond Swarts, and an unnamed professor from the Business School. Coupled with Melanie’s complaint, David faces a second charge from the Registrar regarding false records pertaining to Melanie’s attendance and test score.

David immediately tells the committee that he pleads guilty to both charges. His plea, however, comes across as hollow, disrespectful, and defiant, especially when he admits that he hasn’t read Melanie’s statement. The committee follows up with recommendations, but David remains defiant, saying he has no desire for legal representation or any need to see a therapist. 

Farodia protests that David is being evasive, that he accepts the charges only in name, without accepting any real responsibility or providing any honest confession. Desmond Swarts then asks David if he would like a postponement to reflect and that the committee would like to help him keep his career intact, a sentiment that’s echoed by Asam. David eventually offers a confession: During his chance encounter with Melanie in the college gardens, he says, Eros, the Greek god of love, entered, and he was never the same. 

Farodia is concerned that David merely confesses to giving into an impulse, and not to taking advantage of a young female student, however. The committee presses David to offer some contrition for his wrongdoing, but David remains defiant. Ultimately, David does admit that he took advantage of Melanie, but the committee sees his admission as insincere. 

After David’s hearing, students from WAR (Women Against Rape) surround him in the lobby, snapping photos and thrusting a recorder at him. When asked if he regrets his actions, David simply says he was enriched by the experience, a quote that’s repeated in an article in the school newspaper the next day.

Manas Mathabane later calls David, informing him that the Rector won’t take extreme measures if David signs a statement, created by the committee, admitting abuse of authority and Melanie’s human rights. David refuses to subscribe to the statement, however, saying he already pleaded guilty and that his repentance wasn’t required. 

Analysis: Chapters Four–Six

In class, David’s lesson about Byron and Byron’s poem “Lara” lends insight on David’s character and current situation, and prove to be prescient. Byron calls Lucifer an “erring spirit,” or someone, David says, who is reckless and creates danger for themselves, much like David has done, particularly now that Melanie’s boyfriend, Ryan, is threatening him and his academic career is in jeopardy. Ryan sheds additional light on David’s character when he says Lucifer merely acts on impulse, doing whatever he wants. The connection between David and Byron is also made as David speaks of the notoriety and scandal that marked the poet’s life and that now seem destined to change David’s forever. Just as Lucifer was hurled from heaven, David now seems headed for his own major fall and permanent exile as Melanie withdraws from the University and her father angrily confronts David, calling him a “viper,” a term that recalls Satan the serpent, for what he’s done.
Male and female dynamics feature prominently at David’s hearing. It is primarily Farodia Rassool who presses David for a sincere apology and to acknowledge the weight of his actions. Farodia perceives the situation through a particular lens, one with overtones concerning a long history of abuse and exploitation of women at the hands of men in positions of power. Meanwhile, it is the men in the committee, including Asam Hakim and Desmond Swarts, who make efforts to smooth the situation over. Although they also encourage David to provide an apology and to admit wrongdoing, they appear equally concerned with excusing what Desmond refers to as “weak moments” and, as Asam says “to find a way out of what must be a nightmare” so David can save his career. 

David’s defiance throughout the hearing, along with his previous discussion with his ex-wife Rosalind, offer insight into his own conflicting perspectives. David tells Rosalind that Melanie was old enough to make her own choices, though his sentiments contrast with the voice in his mind that previously told him Melanie was too young for him. He believes Farodia’s use of the word “abuse” to be absurd, but then finds he cannot deny that he and Melanie, who is a student, and barely an adult, are in fact unequal. Ultimately, though, when David does offer a confession, he avoids all blame, believing the Greek god of love was responsible. That David refuses to subscribe to and sign a written statement forged by the committee admitting abuse of power is also telling. Despite the path he’s offered, one that would have saved his career, David opts to be exiled from the University, like Lucifer from heaven or Cain from Eden, and “condemned to solitude.” And like Byron, David has decided to let his sexual urges guide him and to accept a life defined by notoriety and scandal.