The Lives of Animals

Voiceless creates high-quality, free, Animal Protection Education(APE) resources for high-school educators.

The lives of animals

Works of fiction, whether novels or plays or films, have a long and proud history of providing us with avenues by which to explore real-world issues, and specifically the human dimension of real-world issues.

(J.M. Coetzee in conversation with Voiceless, 2018).

The Lives of Animals centres on the fictional character of Elizabeth Costello, a well-known novelist with strong views concerning human treatment of animals. 

Invited to speak at a prestigious university lecture series, Costello uses the event as an opportunity to discuss the human/animal relationship. Different perspectives on the issues raised are explored through the responses of other characters, including Costello’s son and daughter-in-law.

This novella is an ideal text for secondary school English, demonstrating the power of language and the art of literature. It invites students to consider how:  

  • Attitudes towards animals are reflected in language choice; 
  • Authors can influence audience perceptions of animals through metaphor and other language choices;
  • Fictional texts can be persuasive, and how they influence audiences differently from non-fictional texts. 

Voiceless has three Loan Kits (each containing up to 30 copies of the novel) available to Australian high school teachers free-of-charge. Please email [email protected] to apply for a Loan Kit of The Lives of Animals

Read a preview of the text below.

Lives of Animals

Excerpt from The Lives of Animals by J.M. Coetzee, edited and introduced by Amy Gutmann. Copyright © 1999 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission. 

J. M. Coetzee

John M Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature and is a two-time winner of the Booker Prize and winner of the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the 2010 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. He is a Patron of Voiceless.

Coetzee has two honours degrees, and holds ten honorary doctorates. He has taught English literature at the State University of New York, Buffalo and the University of Cape Town where he was the Distinguished Professor of Literature between 1999 and 2001.

Coetzee is the author of numerous novels (Disgrace, Elizabeth Costello), fictional autobiographies and non-fiction publications.



Access our Unit of Work designed to accompany this text, for Year 10 English Advanced. This Unit of Work has been created and reviewed by Australian high school teachers, linked to the Australian Curriculum, and aligned with the Inquiry Learning Model.

Lesson Set 1: Metaphors and Meaning 
Click here

Lesson Set 2: Animals and the News 
Click here

Lesson Set 3: Fact as Fiction 
Click here

Lesson Set 4: Poetry and the Animals
Click here

Lesson Set 5: The Author’s Thoughts
Click here

Assessment Tasks
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