David Lurie is a Professor in a University at Cape Town, South Africa. He is married twice, divorced twice. He lives alone. His sexual desire is not calmed down. It was fine when he was buying it. But he takes the risk of seducing a student of his. When the young girl (Melanie) comes to know that old David is not interested in committed relationship, she breaks it. News spreads and a scandal breaks out. David accepts his faults before an inquiry committee, resigns from the job and leaves the place to visit his daughter, Lucy.
Lucy lives in the countryside, runs a farm with the help of Petrus, a local Negro. She earns a living by selling the farm produce. When George comes down, he finds life calm and quiet there. He helps his daughter in small things and thinks of beginning to write an academic book he had in mind. But a disaster strikes his family. Three strangers attack the house, loot the valuables, put George on fire, rapes his daughter, shoot the dogs and escape in George’s car.
Both George and Lucy recover physically but are completely shaken psychologically. There is not much to do for the white westerners in a foreign land outnumbered by the locals with their own set of regulations. When the incident had happened, Petrus who guarded the farm was away. It creates a suspicion in George. Petrus comes back soon after. Petrus throws a party on the farm for his relatives and there in the party, George identifies one of the three attackers. He checks with Petrus and learns that he is a relative of Petrus but nothing can be done. Laws do not help to put the young wrongdoers behind bars. They (George & Lucy) either have to leave the place or tolerate their misdoings. And maintain the silence.
Lucy advises to George to leave the place as he is not unable to come to terms. What George did to a young student, in a way happens to his own daughter. Both incidents were disgraceful. On the way back, he goes on to visit the parents of Melanie (the student he had affair with). But the development in the life of his daughter brings him back to Lucy soon.
Lucy has become pregnant. Petrus offers to marry her but George disapproves. Efforts of George to convince his daughter to move away fail again. He finds another place to live by near to his daughter and begins to assist a white veterinary doctor who treats injured animals. There George giving up the effort to lengthen a dog’s life by another week reflects his changed mindset.