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My Journey I went straight from the flames of floral, rural passion in The Rainbow, to this often brittle discussion of the abstract, set in a more mechanical age, where animals - metaphorical and literal - are key, and deaths shadow hovers hungrily. It seems to ask: Must the rainbow hues leach out of life (Gudruns ever-colourful stocking notwithstanding)? There was so much to wrestle with, I was stripped bare by the dizzying mix of themes, language, passions, lives - and deaths. It has the self-consciously clever dialogue of the first and last, in the context of warring relationships: all conflicted between love and hate, artifice and instinct, life and death - murderous desire, even. Then the audience departs, the mask falls, and naturalistic passion, action and imagery blossoms, such as the blissful release for Birkin, rolling naked in the primroses. Gudruns art typically features animals and birds, her friendship with Loerke is kindled by a picture of his statue of a naked girl on a horse, and there are actual animals at key points in the story: Ursula and Gudrun watch Gerald violently beat his horse to submission, when it is terrified by a train. Birkin and Gerald have a deep and conflicted relationship with each other. Ursula and Gudrun are fiercely independent women, in thought and deed, including their relationships. I really dont want to be forced into all this criticism and analysis of life. It was the daughters of men coming back to the sons of God, the strange inhuman sons of God. Homosexuality, bisexuality, and non-monogamous relationships suffuse the story. to make it complete, really happy, I wanted eternal union with a man too: another kind of love." Conflict and duality are present in all the main relationships (love, hate, and whose will will triumph), violence and coercion too. It was rather delicious to feel her drawing his self-revelation from him And her dark eyes seemed to be looking through into his naked organism She wanted the secret of him, the experience of his male being. Her being suffused into his veins like a magnetic darkness. It was a sunny, soft morning in early summer, when life ran in the world subtly like a reminiscence. They sounded also like strange machines heavily oiled. He saw her face strangely enkindled, as if suffused from within by a powerful sweet fire. The earth was spread with darkness, like lacquer, overhead was a pale sky, all primrose, and the lake was pale as milk in one part. The men were satisfied to belong to the great and wonderful machine, even whilst it destroyed them...Their hearts died within them, but their souls were satisfied. Wrestling, They became accustomed to each other, to each other's rhythm, they got a kind of mutual physical understanding...as if they would break into a oneness working into a tighter closer oneness of struggle, with a strange, octopus-like knotting and flashing of limbs in the subdued light of the room the strange sound of flesh escaping under flesh. Often, in the white interlaced knot of violent living being that swayed silently, there was no head to be seen, only the swift, tight limbs, the solid white backs, the physical junction of two bodies clinched into oneness The earth seemed to tilt and sway, and a complete darkness was coming over his mind. She reached up, like Eve reaching to the apples on the tree of knowledge touching his face with her infinitely delicate, encroaching wondering fingers Her soul thrilled with complete knowledge. His heart went up like a flame of ice. The first days passed in an ecstasy of physical motion, sleighing, skiing, skating, moving in an intensity of speed and white light that surpassed life itself, and carried the souls of the human beings beyond into an inhuman abstraction of velocity and weight and eternal, frozen snow. Moony One of my favourite passages, from the chapter titled "Moony": Throwing stones at the moons reflection: Darts of bright light shot asunder, darkness swept over the centre. Shadows, dark and heavy, struck again and again across the place where the heart of the moon had been, obliterating it altogether.
This is a problem in this novel the characters do not effectively dramatise Lawrences lofty ideas. Lawrences mouthpiece in this novel is Birkin. In every novel he wrote he had to have a mouthpiece and usually this is the character you most feel like slapping in the face. On the positive side Lawrence can be brilliant at understanding women. I noticed Lawrence has a habit of placing opposition in his characters feelings. One of the reasons I loved this novel in my youth was that I idolised Katherine Mansfield and Lawrence uses her for the character of Gudrun and her husband John Middleton Murray for Gerald. Lawrence met Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry when they wrote to him in 1913 to ask for a story to publish in Rhythm - the magazine they edited together in London. So, Women in Love: heavy on verbiage, rubbled with repetitive pseudo philosophy, burdened with three of most unlikeable characters youre likely to meet in a novel all year and yet here and there dazzlingly brilliant as Lawrence was when he stepped down from his tiresome soapbox.
All of these folks can agree that they strongly dislike to read Lawrence's books, but from hearing them converse, one might almost conclude that the entire group can hardly be discussing the works of a single author. I think it is just this pattern of polarized criticism of his work that ought to point us to the obvious power Lawrence held as a novelist. First, the fact that Lawrence wrote a lot about women, love, the self, and sex proves nothing whatsoever about his being gay. Lawrence's descriptions of nature are often so powerful because of the barely restrained beauty of his objects, and because just as you are beginning to enjoy the ride, violence spills onto the scene and you are swept onto the next chapter. The scene where Gerald is trying to impress his girlfriend by riding his horse up to the edge of the train track as the engine flies past is a perfect demonstration of this ability Lawrence posesses. Read the book.
If youve already experienced gag reflex, then you know what to partly expect from this book. This is considered the most important work by the most important twentieth-century English novelist most likely because of the way Lawrence tends to write about desire and passion. To think, this was first published in a 1916 male repressive society, and yet these are female characters making such radical lifestyle choices, like Gudrun leaving home to live in London as a single artist. Though I saw him strike some universal themes with this work, I preferred the characters and story of Sons and Lovers, especially at those moments when the prose here deviated to this sort of madness: his body stretching and surging like the marsh-fire, stretching towards her, his hand coming straight forward like a stem. In her literary critique of this book, Virginia Woolf wrote, one feels that not a single word has been chosen for its beauty, or its effect upon the architect of the sentence.
H. Lawrence, a sequel to his earlier novel The Rainbow (1915), following the continuing loves and lives of the Brangwen sisters, Gudrun and Ursula. Gerald will inherit a colliery, and since coal-mining takes a hit in The Rainbow as an emblem of industrializations defiling of natural midland England, we really struggle to see how this relationship between art and coal could possibly work. Lawrence contrasts this pair with teacher Ursula Brangwen and Rupert Birkin, an alienated intellectual who articulates many of the opinions on men and women, love and democracy associated with the author. Lawrence/Birkin and Ursula debate for hours the nature of love, on this kind of near-Buddhist, unknowing level: You've got to lapse out before you can know what sensual reality is, lapse into unkowingness, and give up your volition. Gerald and Rupert also have a strong attraction to each other: Theres a naked wrestling scene, evidence of Birkins feeling that he needs an intensethough differentlove of a man as much as he needs the love of a woman. This is Lawrences favorite of all his novels, and the one most drawing on his life, Ursula's character based on Lawrence's wife Frieda and Gudrun's on Katherine Mansfield, while Rupert Birkin's has elements of Lawrence himself, and Gerald Crich is partly based on Mansfield's husband, John Middleton Murry. Also early on the two best and quite different friends, Rupert and Gerald, have a similar conversation about women and love as superfluous, but then Gerald sees Gudrun, and they eventually develop a relationship, a case of opposites attracting. The two couples take a holiday together in the Alps where Ursula and Birkin resolve some of their basic differences, and Gudrun and Gerald decidedly do not resolve their differences. Gudrun, the artist, sees this, is nevertheless confusedly attracted to him (he's a rich and powerful and repellent alpha male, in the way of bad boy romances), though she also fears he will dominate and possibly destroy her will. *Geralds father, the owner of the coal mine, dying, refusing to give in to the dying of the light, produces some small but important vulnerability in Gerald, that leads him in the middle of the night to sneak into Gudruns house, and bed. Women in Love is a novel of ideas, but Lawrences lyrical prose is also Expressionistically emotional, supercharged with erotic energy.
H. Lawrence, despite writing constantly about men and women in a risqué manner for his time, is gay. Because of the three Lawrence novels I've read to date in only one does he even get close to writing an authentic relationship between a man and a woman. In each book during the sensual scenes (because honestly there is no real sex in Lawrence's books and I'm really at a loss why everything he wrote was deemed pornographic, even for the tighter laced post-Victorian era he wrote in) between a man and a woman I really expected him in earnest to write that women have teeth down there. Oh, and before I start the review proper the one novel that he seems to write women well is in The Rainbow, the first novel in the Trilogy that follows with Women in Love and ends with Aaron's Rod. But, as one last pre-review aside, The Rainbow could have just been called Jude the Obscure - Part 2 since it read exactly like a Thomas Hardy novel. So, anyway Women in Love is by some strange group of polltakers considered the most widely read English novel of the 20th Century (2011 addition: I have no idea where I came across this fact). The story involves two sisters (the women who will fall in love), and two men (the recipients of this affection). Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, the daughters of the protagonist of The Rainbow, begin the novel by having a discussion about marriage. Gudrun was an artist of some merit that fluctuates throughout the novel to fit the scenes, but by an average account she made a modest success during her time in London. The reader after awhile has to wonder if Lawrence just happened to put words into the character's mouths to play devils advocate, or if he is trying to say something like women have a flippant nature. The real characters are the two men, Birkin and Gerald. Gudrun falls in love with the other man, Gerald. He's just about as flippant as the women are though (as fitting the bottom to Birkin's top). One other thing about Gerald, Birkin loves him quite passionately and believes that a pure love between two men is stronger than any love a man and a woman can share. If you've ever read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged take away the plot, keep the characters and everything about them, then remove the strong capitalist overtones but keep the strong individualism, bull headedness, and the way the strong characters dominant and lay themselves prostrate to each other and you've got the general idea of this novel. If those descriptions don't help basically Birkin believes that everything in modern society is diluted, horrible, weak and wrong. Both scenes are quite homoerotic and added to my feeling that Lawrence only included the women to the novel as a social convention. I'd highly recommend The Rainbow to people interested in trying out Lawrence though. Actually I would recommend reading Thomas Hardy to anyone interested in the topics of pastoral English life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it's interplay between tradition and modernity as it relates to individual versus society. This wasn't much of a consumer review, but basically I'd say if you are interested in reading the canon of 20th century English novels then you should check this out.
With Women in Love (1921), D.H. Lawrence continues his look at marriage and the relationships between men and women. On the other hand, her younger sister Gudrun Brangwen--a young teen at The Rainbow's end--now a sculptor, embarks upon and survives a fateful relationship with the indifferent industrialist Gerald Crich, an affair damned to failure by the uncompromising constitutions of each.
He is now generally valued as a visionary thinker and a significant representative of modernism in English literature.