Dogs and Rape in Coetzee’s _Disgrace_ and Ngugi’s _A Grain of Wheat_
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How do we see justice in lands once colonized and torn by racism and oppression? When does crime, particularly against animals and women, indicate a change in power? How do we punish the criminals when the rules of what is “just” have changed irrevocably? What do crime and justice have to do with decolonization? One of the common threads tying together Coetzee’s Disgrace and Ngugi’s A Grain of Wheat is the representation of rape coupled with the mutilation of dogs. For Coetzee, the rape of Lucy comes along with the splatter of “blood and brains” of the dogs Lucy keeps in kennels outside her South African home. Ngugi’s scene, though rewritten to exclude direct reference to rape after initial publication, sees Dr. Lynd attacked in her home, her dog torn to pieces before her eyes.This essay will examine the broader implications of these shared acts of violence: the coupling of violence against women with violence against dogs, and the coupling of woman/dog violence in two of the African continent’s most famous novels. Part of the conjecture at play is an idea that the indigenous men who commit these acts are not assaulting the weakest links in the colonial chain (women and animals who have accompanied the masculine colonial powers to the African shores), but instead are directing these acts of violence in efforts to recolonize their own land. In other words, the slaughter of dogs, animals used to promote fear, and the rape of women are direct assaults on colonizing power. Destroying fear in the form of dogs, and actually or potentially inseminating colonial women in acts of rape, suggest acts of violent reclamation—though maybe not justice in its purest sense. Perhaps, too, the reactions of the women attacked suggest something about the changing face of decolonization. Ngugi’s Dr. Lynd lives in fear and misery, injured whenever she sees a dog and remembers the day of her attack. Lucy, on the other hand, remains resolute, decides to remain on the land, fall under the family of a neighboring Black man, and carry the child thrust upon her to term. The results from each novel are mixed, but what is clear is that the face of justice changes when colonial power wanes—whether the true sense of justice is obeyed or not.