Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!


Susan Anderson's picture

While reading The Lives of Animals, I thought to myself, "Well this is a let down.  I thought this was going to be more of a novel.  It's just a lot of little essays crammed into a book with a sham of a narrative to bookend them." However, having accepted this about the "novel", I began to see the genius of the author framing his argument in this way.  

I see the son as neutral.  He is in the middle of the extremes of his mother and his wife.  Sure, he argues against them, but he does so as much with his mother as with his wife.  This is why he is the narrarator.  He should be likened to us, the persuadable.  Then Coetzee spews many arguments at us, from many different sources.  The constant debate makes the overall book very neutral.  We should identify with whichever of the arguments makes the most sense to us.  

Most of the arguments are based on reason, except for Elizabeth Costello's.  So, while the narrative is a forum for all ideas (past the first lecture) to be debated, it also establishes that the emotional argument should be considered when we are making up our minds about what we think about the lives of animals.