Chapters Eighteen & Nineteen

Summary: Chapter Eighteen 

Police in Port Elizabeth phone David to tell him they have found his car and arrested two men. David and Lucy drive to a police station in New Brighton only to discover that the car isn’t David’s and conclude that the arrested men likely aren’t those who raped Lucy. The scene prompts a discussion about the attacks. David argues that Lucy should move away from the farm and start a new chapter. Lucy disagrees, however, and says she can’t explain her decision and how she feels because of who she is, and who David is. Lucy also insists that David can’t truly understand what happened to her. She reiterates to David that she wants to decide what to do on her own. As Lucy cries on David’s shoulders, David feels indifference and wonders how a man in his state can help.

Lucy tells David she believes the men are likely serial rapists who were exacting a tax from her, and even wonders if she should accept that. Lucy also expresses hurt that the rape was committed with such hatred and wonders if hatred somehow makes sex more exciting for men, adding that as a man, David would know. Lucy concludes that the rape was about subjugation and David pictures the rapists driving off in his car and likens their penises to weapons. David also thinks of Bryon and all the women he “pushed himself into.” 

Despite their talk, David presses Lucy to change her mind, saying she should listen to reason. David adds that if Lucy doesn’t pursue justice and leave the farm, she won’t be able to live with herself. Lucy later slips a letter under his bedroom door, saying he’s not listening to her and that she’s currently “a dead person,” but that she won’t leave the farm defeated. Lucy also tells David that she cannot be a child forever and he, in turn, can’t be a father forever.

At the clinic, Bev and David continue to euthanize unwanted dogs and have more sex. David later thinks about his Byron opera, and the poet traveling to Greece, where he’d die after his scandals in Italy, knowing he’ll have Bryon use the words Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt. Bev comforts David as he tells her he can’t imagine not being Lucy’s father. 

Summary: Chapter Nineteen

David travels to Melanie’s home in George, where he encounters her younger sister, Desiree, dressed in a school uniform. He immediately desires her and is reminded of the sex he had with Melanie. David asks to speak to Mr. Isaacs, but Desiree informs him he’s at school, where he works as a principal. David travels to the school. There, David tells Mr. Isaacs he was passing through George and wanted to explain his side of the story and offer a self-defense. David downplays his responsibility and the severity of the matter, however, simply saying Melanie sparked desire in him. Mr. Isaacs senses David might want to say more and invites him to his home for dinner. 

David brings wine to dinner but quickly discovers the family doesn’t drink and is religious. His desire grows when he sees Desiree again and he also senses Mrs. Isaac’s displeasure with having him in her home. Later, David eventually offers a vague apology to Mr. Isaacs, but Mr. Isaacs is skeptical. He wonders if David has learned anything and if he knows what God wants from him. David is unsure but admits he’s in a state of disgrace and that he lied about simply passing through George. Mr. Isaacs then questions whom David truly came to see. David later bows to Mrs. Isaacs and Desiree and leaves as Mr. Isaacs tells him that God has ordained the path that he’s on.

Analysis: Chapters Eighteen & Nineteen

Lucy’s insights on her rape provide a window into all its wicked motivations, including hatred, violence, and a man’s desire to dominate. Lucy knows that the men, using their penises as weapons as David envisioned, meant to deny her of her humanity. She knows that their act meant to subjugate her and bring her under their control. It’s especially telling that although Lucy repeatedly tells David he can’t understand what happened to her, she says he likely does understand her speculation here that for men, hating a woman might make sex more exciting. Lucy’s likening of rape to a certain type of sex, using phrases such as “trap her,” “put all your weight on her,” and “[p]ushing the knife in,” all recall David’s sex with Melanie. The word “pushing” is especially significant here and speaks not only of rape, but coercion for sex and a desire to enforce one’s will on others. David “pushed” himself on Melanie. Byron, considers, “pushed himself into” legions of women. And even as David tells Lucy it’s best for her to move away from the farm, she insists the decision is hers to make and that she won’t be “pushed” into making it.    

As David continues to ponder his work on Byron, the similarity between their characters grows, and the line between David’s life and his opera blurs. When Lucy cries on David’s shoulders outside the police station, David questions if he can even help in his state.  David’s question recalls his previous thoughts of how his opera will revive Byron, his mistress, Teresa, and her humiliated husband, but also reflects his desire to help Lucy rise out of her own darkness. Later, at the animal clinic, surrounded by death and saddened that Lucy is no longer a child he can protect, David envisions giving Bryon the line Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt. The line from Virgil’s Aeneid, meaning “There are tears for things and mortal thoughts touch the mind,” is equally fitting for David given his role at the clinic and current events that have caused so much pain.

David’s difficulty to fully accept that Lucy has grown into a full-fledged adult, and to adapt his parenting style accordingly, further cements his stubborn aversion to change. This major character flaw reveals itself again when David visits Melanie’s home in George. Despite all recent events have shown him, his visit makes it clear he still has not acknowledged his wrongdoing or accepted responsibility for the affair. He has no qualms about looking at Desiree, Melanie’s younger sister, in a sexual way. What’s more, he’s still unrepentant when he visits Mr. Isaacs at his school and offers only a hollow apology and later, a bow, at dinner. Mr. Isaacs is no fool, however. He sees through David’s act, knowing that David wasn’t simply passing through George, but that his visit was planned, perhaps to see Melanie. Mr. Isaac’s comment about the “mighty fallen” recalls Satan’s fall from heaven and, similarly, David’s from the University, and his initial encounter with David where he referred to David as a “viper.” It’s no wonder, then, that Mr. Isaacs mentions God, as he can see that David still hasn’t changed his devilish ways.