Short Fiction of DH Lawrence
The Covenant Of The Rainbow: The Ultimate Sign Of Hope
For many stories, the meaning changes drastically when read through different lenses. Looking at the context in which Thucydides writes might lead one to see it as a warning to the Athenians not to repeat the mistakes of the past, while looking at the text as a separate entity reveals a depressing commentary on the predictability of human nature. But the covenant of the rainbow in Genesis 9 seems less fickle in interpretation. On every level of analysis, from the word choice to speculations about the author’s motives, one can see the same underlying message. Perhaps it is because of the universal assurance this message provides. For the rainbow is the ultimate sign of hope in forgiveness, one that existed long before organized religion. The rainbow, and the covenant it represents, can give hope to many generations that God’s wrath will eventually subside, no matter how severe the crime.
When comparing translations of the Bible, there are remarkably few major variations in translation. Because of this, it is ironic that the biggest discrepancy comes from the most famous word in this passage: rainbow. While translations such as the New International Version and the New Living Translation use the word “rainbow”, the King James Bible, the American Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version all use the word “bow.” The word in Hebrew, qeše?, usually refers to a hunting bow. The word also shows up figuratively in several other places in the Bible. In books such as the Psalms, Hosea, and Jeremiah, it is used to represent “the judgment of God”. In the flood, God’s judgment had come down on the people in the form of rain (thence, the rainbow). But the bow is nothing to fear, since it is “now ‘put away,’ hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the “battle,” the storm, is over.” God’s weapon is no longer pointed at humanity. Instead, it is facing away. While his wrath was severe, it is finished. Now is the time for mercy. At the simplest level, the words of Genesis 9 provide hope that God does relent from punishing his people. In the Bible, the story of the rainbow seems to be a simple etiological legend.
Genesis chapter 9 provides a very easy explanation for why rainbows exist. But the covenant it represents is much more meaningful when taken in context. The covenant in chapter 9 is the first one mentioned in the Bible. It seems odd then, that in the New Living Translation, God says that he is “confirming” his covenant with Noah (most other translations use the word establish).2 The Hebrew word, “kum,” can be translated either way. But how could God confirm something that did not exist yet? The answer lies in Genesis 1, with God’s initial command to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth” (Gen 1:28).2 This command is then repeated in Genesis 9:1 to Noah and his sons. Despite the evil that had been committed before the flood, “The old Adamic Covenant would be established (heqîm) with Noah, and all that the Lord had entrusted to and required of Adam would devolve on Noah and his descendants.” This is the same God who had just destroyed almost all of creation! But now his anger seems to have dissipated. He lets humans start over again from before the fall, before the wickedness of humankind doomed it to almost complete destruction. God gave all of creation back to humanity. He recanted from his anger, and even “blessed” Noah and his sons.5 The hope provided here in not just hope for a partial absolution, but for complete pardon. This story not only establishes the rainbow, but also the idea of total forgiveness to start over, whatever the scale. It is the message of God’s mercy that would have been a powerful source of strength to the original Jews reading it.
This section of Genesis is often attributed to the P source, which is believed to have been written after the monarchy fell in 586 BCE. During this time, many ancient stories were written down or copied by former royal scribes in order to give hope to the Jews living in exile in Babylon11. This story probably resonated with its early Jewish readers because they felt that their exile was punishment for their sins. The prophet Jeremiah writes that they are conquered “because they have perpetrated outrage in Israel,” such as committing adultery and blasphemy (Jer 29:23 NRSV)5. Surely many must have wondered if God would ever restore the people of Israel. Since the royal scribes also transcribed down Genesis 1, they could use the same language to remind the people of the new beginning after the flood. Their desire to provide hope followed the story of the flood as it has spanned the ages, from when it was written, even to the present.
No matter what the problems facing a generation, everyone is always looking for a reason to hope for a better day. Perhaps that is why the message of forgiveness in Genesis 9 is so prevalent, no matter how one looks at it. From the smallest word choice to the entire context in which it was written, its purpose does not change or diminish. It remains the first promise, made to all of humanity, that God’s wrath is not eternal. It is a story not only for an ancient Jewish nation, but also the rest of humanity, both past and present. It is for this reason that it has endured the test of time and is still studied from so many different perspectives today.
American Standard Version. Bible Explorer. 4th Edition. Web. 6 October 2011 Brettler, Marc Z. Forward. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th edition. Ed. Michael D Coogan. Oxford University Press, 2007. Print. Freedman, David Noel., Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck. “Bow and Arrow.” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000. 195-96. Print. Geerhardus, Vos, Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954. King James Bible. Ed John Bois, John Ward. Bible Explorer. 4th Edition. Web. 6 October 2011. Life Application Study Bible. Wheaten IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005. Print. New International Version. New Living Translation. Trans: Daniel I. Block, Allan Ross, Gordon Wenham. Bible Explorer. 4th Edition. Web. 6 October 2011. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th edition. Ed. Michael D Coogan. Oxford University Press, 2007. Print. Young, Robert. Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible: Based upon the King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1982. Print. Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:40. Young, Robert. Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible: Based upon the King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1982. Print.
 Life Application Study Bible. Wheaten IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005. Print. New International Version. p 34.  New Living Translation. Trans: Daniel I. Block, Allan Ross, Gordon Wenham. Bible Explorer. 4th Edition. Web. 6 October 2011  King James Bible. Ed John Bois, John Ward. Bible Explorer. 4th Edition. Web. 6 October 2011  American Standard Version. Bible Explorer. 4th Edition. Web. 6 October 2011  The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th edition. Ed. Michael D Coogan. Oxford University Press, 2007. Print. p 22.  Young, Robert. Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible: Based upon the King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1982. Print.  Freedman, David Noel., Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck. “Bow and Arrow.” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000. 195-96. Print  Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:40  Young, Robert. Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible: Based upon the King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1982. Print.  Geerhardus, Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), p. 64.  Brettler, Marc Z. Forward. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th edition. Ed. Michael D Coogan. Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Mind Over Matter: A Close Reading of Character Contrasts in The Rainbow
Early in The Rainbow, D. H. Lawrence introduces the farm laborers and an intellectual vicar through the eyes of Mrs. Brangwen, describing the characters’ distinct lifestyles. Lawrence establishes a contrast between the two types of men to illuminate the significance of knowledge over physical ability. To construct this hierarchy of values and virtues, Lawrence pays special attention to imagery and word choice. He accomplishes much through powerful turns of diction, which place the two sets of men (those defined by brute strength, and those defined by knowledge) in direct yet intriguing opposition.
The motif of blood compares farming and battle, painting the laborers as warriors whose physical strength exceeds their mental capacity. The text states that “they know in their blood” about the land and nature (Lawrence 8-9). Through the connection of the land to blood, Lawrence expresses the Brangwen men’s familiarity with farming, and presents them as more physically than mentally oriented. Their innate connection to blood emphasizes the men’s association to battle, thus demonstrating their inclination to more tangible possessions, as they value body over mind. Lawrence also explains that the Brangwen men’s faces are always “turned to the…blood” (12). This statement depicts the men in constant admiration of the land, without consideration for expanding their knowledge. With the men looking to blood, Lawrence illustrates the men’s attraction to battle and their role as a warrior whose only value lies in physical exertion. Their position indicates a strong embracement of the rural farming lifestyle that neglects the importance of mental development, which characterizes them with purely physical ability. The men also possess “blood-intimacy” as a form of life, which implies that they have an intimate understanding of and relationship with blood, presenting them with a sense of aggression important in battle (16). Since farming and labor distinguishes the Brangwen men from the more knowledgeable men of the world beyond the farm, the battle that blood represents displays their appreciation of the strength that battle requires. Through the motif of blood, Lawrence examines the relation between farming and battle, casting the Brangwen men as warriors with the sole ability of physical strength, to communicate their disinterest in expanding their knowledge and thus the inferiority of physical prowess without intellect.
The diction describing the Brangwen men emphasizes the physical aspect of their characters to establish them as lesser beings. Lawrence describes the men with their “senses full fed” (11-12). The diction of “senses” identifies the men with their bodies’ physical responses to the environment, and the state of “fully fed” illustrates their satisfaction with mere physical sensations. The statement further demonstrates the men’s disinterest in mental fulfillment and pursuit of knowledge, thus placing the significance of the men at the hands of their physical, rather than mental, abilities. The men’s lack of knowledge reflects an incomplete fulfillment of the complex human experience, which develops them as simple beings. Through expressing the simplicity of physical ability, Lawrence lowers its significance in relation to intellect. The Brangwen men are also “lacking outwardness,” instead living “faced inwards” (47, 28). The diction of “in” signifies a limited mindset of the men who exist within fixed boundaries and choose to remain stationary. Lacking the quality of continual development and evolution that makes people distinctly human, the characters are monotonous and unexciting. This dullness suggests that the men do not completely embody all the qualities of full human beings, and thus they are inferior to those who possess intellect. The narrator also describes the men as “dull and local” (50). The diction of “dull” depicts the Brangwen men as uninteresting, while “local” similarly characterizes them as old and unappealing. The men’s lack of complexity and appeal devalues them as human beings, as the text portrays their characters with little substance, affirming their position as lower and inferior. Lawrence’s diction characterizes the Brangwen men, having physical strength yet limited mental abilities, as simple and lacking the totality of human qualities and thus as lesser human beings. Therefore, Lawrence elevates the importance of intellect over physical ability.
Lawrence’s repetition of certain words establishes the relationship between the Brangwen men and the vicar to display the superiority of intellect over physical prowess. Lawrence repeats the word “craved” to portray the woman’s desire to obtain the knowledge that the vicar possesses (56). The repetition conveys the woman’s persistence to know about the vicar and also illustrates the intrigue of the vicar that inspires this craving, which the Brangwen men lack. The woman’s need to know about the vicar and his knowledge asserts the vicar’s position above the simple men due to his mental superiority. Comparing the physicalities of the vicar and the husband, Lawrence repeats the words “strong” and “little and frail” (58, 59). These descriptions display the power relation between the vicar and the man, illustrating the vicar’s power over the man despite his weak build. This reveals the superiority of intellect over physical abilities, as the text establishes the vicar as a figure of great knowledge without superior physicality. The repetition of “master” as the vicar’s title further demonstrates the relationship in status between the men (64). “Master” suggests control and dominance, which affirms the vicar’s power over the Brangwen men, who are below the master in status. In repeating this, Lawrence magnifies the difference in superiority between the vicar and the man, and between intellect and physical abilities. Through the repetition of particular words, Lawrence demonstrates the power of the vicar’s desirable knowledge over the laborers’ mere physical strength. Without intellect, the Brangwen men remain cemented in their positions below the vicar, emphasizing the importance of mind over body.
The motif of knowledge conveys the power of intellect over physical ability, reflecting the hierarchy that Lawrence creates. Describing the vicar’s intellect, Lawrence states that the vicar “passed beyond her knowledge” (52). “Beyond” indicates an expansive, even endless, range of knowledge that surpasses both the limits of the Brangwen men’s knowledge and the woman’s understanding. Not specifying the extent of the vicar’s intellect, the woman’s inability to comprehend adds an element of fascination of the unknown to the vicar’s character. This contrasts with the Brangwen men’s simplicity and dullness in a way that places the vicar above the men, establishing the vicar’s higher status. Lawrence further displays the hierarchical structure when presenting the way the woman “craved to know” and “to achieve this higher being” (55, 56). The woman compares knowing to achieving a higher being, which highlights the power of knowledge to elevate one’s status in the hierarchy. “Higher” raises the vicar above the other men due to the superiority of knowledge over physical strength, as the text portrays knowledge as desirable. Because the vicar possesses substantially more knowledge than the Brangwen men, he is superior in nature. Through the close relation of knowledge to position in the hierarchy, Lawrence proves the significance of knowledge over physical prowess. The text presents the motif of knowledge a final time as the answer to the woman’s questions about the vicar with “a question of knowledge” (66). Despite declaring knowledge as the answer, the woman’s decision lacks specificity, suggesting that she still does not fully understand the concept of the vicar’s knowledge. Designating this statement as the conclusion of the passage and of the woman’s inquiry, Lawrence links the characters and positions of all the men to knowledge, proving that the hierarchy hinges on this factor. Through the motif of knowledge, Lawrence constructs a hierarchy according to mental capacity, placing intellect above strength.
Lawrence establishes intellect as superior to physical ability through the contrast he creates between the two types of men. The motif of blood portrays the Brangwen men as laborers with only physical strength. Diction describing the men further develops them as lesser human beings as he illustrates their boring, simple nature. In addition, the repetition of words regarding the husband’s and the vicar’s relationship assert the significance of intellect over physical prowess, while the motif of knowledge reiterates the hierarchy. Through the two distinct types of characters, Lawrence reveals the limiting nature of simply physical ability, and contrastingly, the freedom and dominance that mental ability provides. He proves the superiority of knowledge to physical prowess to express the restricted capacity that physical ability grants in living a fulfilled human experience, and the need for individuals to pursue development beyond the body in the endeavor for a more meaningful existence.
Presentation of Sexuality in The Fox
Throughout D H Lawrence’s The Fox, the protagonist March is repeatedly represented as ‘a shadow’. This not only suggests March and Banford’s marginal status as unmarried women in a 1920s society, but represents a tension between what can be seen and what cannot. The presence of a shadow must automatically assume an absence of light. If this light is representative of March’s sexual epiphany, the construction of her gender is dependent on the influence of others, who produce this overarching ‘shadow’ that keeps March’s true sexuality in the dark. There is also a sense of what Butler describes as a ‘performance’ throughout the novel; March constructs her identity to portray different shadows, depending on the needs of the audience. Before Henry, her femininity had to be subdued to allow for a ‘more robust’ figure that could do a man’s work and run a farm (Lawrence, p.11). When Henry arrives, her identity, and thus femininity is dependent on a figure that demands a truly typical feminine sexuality. This perhaps prompts the question: does March’s sexuality ever truly ‘exceed’ her performances, or does it all remain an act?
Walt Whitman suggests that ‘the unseen is proved by the seen’. This suggests that outward actions are inevitably caused by inward psychology; the ‘seen’ is the truth of the ‘unseen’. Yet, Lawrence challenges both Whitman and Butler with this simplistic and direct link, proposing that outward actions can be a performance, subverting this idea that the ‘seen’ is a direct consequence of the ‘unseen’. This is complicated further through the blurred boundaries that occur in the space between the conscious and subconscious. When conscious, March can control how her public actions, and therefore how she ‘performs’ to both Banford and Henry. Yet, when she then becomes a ‘dreaming woman’ at night, it allows the fox – an undeniable symbol of male sexuality – to penetrate her subconscious. As March realises her sexuality when unconscious, it is questionable as to whether this can ‘exceed’ her externalised performance of gender. This symbol presents the process of March’s sexuality transitioning from masculine to feminine:
She stretched out her hand […] whisked his brush across her face, and it seemed his brush was on fire, for it seared and burned her mouth with a great pain. (Lawrence, p14)
An evolution in action can be seen here, and is extremely important to note. In reality, March’s interaction with the fox is accompanied with a gun, and he is her prey. In her dream, she subconsciously renounces the role of hunter in instead attempting to ‘[stretch] out’ to the creature. This implying not only a fundamental need for physical touch that Banford, as her friend, cannot sate but also curiosity in exploring her emerging sexuality. An undeniable tension also lies between the fox and his dream parallel. In reality, he is a physical representation of Henry’s patriarchal dominance. So, when this symbol –that originally could only exist in March’s waking hours –passes to the mental, it suggests an even greater authority in seeing what others cannot, and ultimately going beyond her conscious ‘performance’ to witness her true sexuality. Additionally, the motif of fire represents a passion that is limited in its expression through the medium of a dream. This concept of sudden, unexpected pain in being ‘seared’ is extended to pre-empt March’s future pain that is not ignited by repressed passion, but a disappointment in what is eventually found upon sexually awakening. To conclude, this concept of performance casts doubt on whether actions –the ‘seen –are an accurate representation of inner emotion, the ‘unseen’. It is possible that Lawrence suggests that March has performed this masculine role her entire adult life, and that this has consumed her outward identity. This would also imply that any realisation could only occur within the subconscious, as her outward identity seems fixed. Arguably, March’s sexuality exceeds any outward performance, as her epiphany occurs in her subconscious, where performance is seemingly impossible. Therefore, the ‘unseen’ cannot be proven by the seen if it is indeed a ‘performance’; thought will not translate directly to an action, but is instead altered, depending on which audience March is performing for.
Butler suggests that sexuality not only exceeds performance, but also ‘presentation’. Whilst seemingly extremely similar, they must first be differentiated. As previously stated, a ‘performance’ assumes a certain sense of untruth, whereas ‘presentation’ assumes a primitive, unaltered translation from private emotion to public action. Whilst March’s sexual epiphany begins in her dreams, she eventually portrays her sexuality aesthetically; as Whitman specifies, the seen does in fact become evidence of the unseen. In this instance, sexuality does not exceed presentation. There is a period of time between March’s internal realisation and her outward proclamation. This state of awareness means she holds a temporary power of knowing her true identity:
No, she was another being […] Now it came upon him. She had a woman’s soft, skirted legs, and she was accessible. (Lawrence, p.40)
It is assumed that March transitions from male to female. Yet, she is instead labelled as ‘another being’, presenting an elevation to an almost celestial identity, suggesting also a male superficiality in being enchanted by only the physical. Yet, this epiphany not only belongs to March, but Henry also. ‘It came upon him’, not her. The ambiguity of ‘it’ can be translated as almost a burden. In accepting March’s public show of womanhood, Henry must now fully accept the sexual responsibility of manhood; he is no longer merely a suitor, but a mate. Now that March is physically ‘accessible’ as a woman, it is suggested that Henry also sees March as surrendering her previous masculine independence. Lawrence’s choice of verb ‘accessible’ is almost violating; it implies that Henry takes pleasure in not only being now able to dominate her in a sexual manner, but her occupation as the wife role. She is now has ‘skirted legs’, synonymous with femininity, as opposed to masculine overalls that repel any sensual possibility. This vulnerability is continued in the sibilance of ‘soft, skirted legs’, mirroring the previous idea that sound can influence, as Henry’s ‘soft’ and ‘courteous’ tones do to May (Lawrence, p.16). This femino-centric identity is not only defined through what is worn, but constructed also through the absence of masculine wear. The act of physically adorning the dress strips March of the gun that she uses to protect the chickens− a collective symbol for women, including herself− from the fox. This focus on the aesthetic is a reminder that, despite March’s conflicting thoughts, her outward presentation as the perfect woman and wife is enough to sate Henry. Is then, a woman only a true woman if she declares it so publically? Therefore, this presentation of March’s gender is almost a social obligation. She appears as a woman, and Henry is wholly contented with this conclusion, even if she is unsure of her sexuality. Thus, her sexuality does not exceed presentation here; Henry sees what he wants to see, and not the sexuality that she truly presents.
Milne states that ‘Lawrence focuses on moments of individual recognition within conflicts of love and family.’ In The Fox, the focus extends to a society of three: March, Banford and Henry. In such an enclosed society, each of their genders and sexuality are constructed that assumes none of the social expectations present in wider twentieth century society. Throughout the novel, there are undertones of homosexuality; the possible relationship between March and Banford would traditionally be viewed as the ‘other’ in conventional society. Yet, in the boundaries of the novella, Lawrence constructs the definitions of normality wholly. It is only through Henry and March’s relationship that we then have a definition of love to compare their relationship to. March is separated from the narrator through the act of writing; she in turn temporarily exceeds the narration as she constructs her sexuality differently: I know what love means even in Jill’s case, and I know that in this affair with you it’s an absolute impossibility. (Lawrence, p.48) The transition between the narrator’s third person and March’s first suggests a new confidence in the protagonist. However, it is still questionable whether March can accurately understand what love ‘means’, despite her assertions of ‘[knowing]’; the established norms of ‘love’ are given by society. One is defined not only by how they feel, but how they should feel. Through detaching March from social expectation, ‘Jill’s case’ no longer becomes the homosexual ‘other’, but instead just another construction of love; the protagonist describes her moments of ‘individual recognition’ based on emotion, and not social expectation. There is therefore a certain truth in March’s assertion of ‘knowing’; she knows this version, her type of love. This contrasts with the remaining narration, where March actively lacks these moments of individual recognition in her relationships, concluding that ‘something was missing’ (Lawrence. p.50). Therefore, in this act of writing, March’s narrative temporarily displaces the narrator’s authority as key storyteller, allowing for this moment of recognition that truly comes from March, and not told through another. There is also a distinct difference in the language used: her relationship with Jill is seen as ‘love’, even if purely platonic, whilst her dalliance with Henry is an ‘affair’. The latter is ultimately associated with sin, whilst the former is seen as a pure, and good emotion. In suggesting the possibility of homosexuality, the boundaries between ‘love’ and ‘family’ are undeniably blurred. Yet, this is acceptable within an enclosed society through the realisation that the best existence may revolve around comfortable routine and not passion. Despite a suggested independence in the act of writing, March still seems to be influenced by Banford. The echoing of ‘impossible’ from the previous narration (Lawrence, p.27) almost suggests an inevitability in the marriage failing through a restriction of sexuality. March once again must exist as a character that adheres not only to the social norms of ‘love’, but what both Banford and Henry impose upon her. Therefore, this narrative only temporarily exceeds the sexuality constructed in the remaining narrative. Once March is once again being written about, as opposed to writing, she exists as the ‘other’ and her sexuality is once again be repressed.
Thus far, March’s, and subsequently Henry’s sexuality has been examined in terms of presentation. Yet, after they are presented, a conclusion must be considered. However March presents her sexuality, it appears any outcome is not enough. March attempts to satisfy both Banford and Henry, yet neither framework where she performs as masculine or feminine is enough to sate her need for ‘something more’. Arguably, this ‘something’ is not an issue that can be satisfied by a person. When it was only Banford and March, she was plagued by dreams of the fox. When Henry appears, March suddenly begins to conform to this over-exaggerated female image. This lack of satisfaction perhaps stems, once again, from lack of certainty, as Lawrence perpetuates throughout. March is not wholly this feminine ideal, and she is not wholly the ‘other’. Almost as if stemmed from Eve’s original sin, the only conclusion that can seemingly be drawn is the inevitable disappointment of women. Therefore, perhaps the only ‘something’ March can strive for is ‘the awful mistake of happiness.’
Lawrence, D. H., The Fox, the Captain, The Ladybird, ed. by Dieter Mehl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)
Milne, D., ‘Lawrence and the Politics of Sexual Politics’ in The Cambridge Companion to D. H Lawrence, ed. by Anne Fernihough (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)
Whitman, W., ‘Song of Myself’, The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1995)
Dark Beginnings and Light Endings in Two Short Stories
The death of a man and the birth of a love affair are the subjects of two short stories by D. H. Lawrence and though their plots vary greatly, similar patterns of dark and light imagery, renewal and rebirth reinforce Lawrence’s theme of regeneration. In his short stories entitled “The Odour of Chrysanthemums” and “The Horse-dealer’s Daughter,” Lawrence makes use of dark and light image patterns to represent the stages of transformation undergone by Elizabeth and Mabel, the female protagonists of these two stories. Dark imagery illustrates the starting place of each woman – stale, stagnant, physically alive but nearly dead inside. Light imagery represents the finalization of their transformations – regeneration, rebirth. The tone of these stories correlates with the journey of their characters. Indeed, even more than correlation, the tone appears to represent directly the situation of Elizabeth in her story and Mabel in hers.
Elizabeth’s story begins with shadows. “Miners, single, trailing and in groups, passed like shadows diverging home” (2483). She tells her little son to come inside because “it’s getting dark” and when she looks over across the tracks, she describes the darkness “settling over the spaces of the railway and the trucks: the miners, in grey somber groups” and her husband is not in one of those groups, he does not come (2484-2485). Even something beautiful, like a bouquet of flowers, is portrayed negatively. When her daughter murmurs that they “smell beautiful,” her mother laughs and says, “No, not to me. It was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when you were born, and the first time they ever brought him home drunk, he’d got brown chrysanthemums in his buttonhole” (2487). Her beginning is so dark that even a bunch of flowers is not able to brighten it.
Mabel’s story has a similarly dark beginning. The breakfast table is “desolate,” the dining room is “dreary” and “waiting to be done away with,” and Mabel is alone – she does not “share the same life as her brothers” (2496). Her brothers are irritable towards her, she does not answer them, she averts her eyes and one of them calls her “the sulkiest bitch that ever trod” and it is apparent that her mood is very dark. Her house is no brighter. It is described as “servantless” and desolate,” a home that she has kept together “in penury for her ineffectual brothers” for all the months since her father died (2499-2500). Her mood is bitter and her surroundings are bitter, so it is no surprise that her story begins so blackly.
Before she has reached regeneration but long after her desolate beginning, Elizabeth in “The Odour of Chrysanthemums” gains a little light in her life. When she hears of the death of her husband, she “lighted a candle and went into the tiny room” and the candlelight glitters while her mother in law moves to sit next to the lighted fire (2492). The room is dim, but not dark, as she and her mother in law begin to wash his dead body and Elizabeth embraces “the body of her husband, with cheek and lips” and when their work is finished, he appears to be “a man of handsome body, and his face showed no traces of drink. He was blond, full-fleshed, with fine limbs” (2494). The process is not a cheery one, but there are glimmers of light and hope as she takes care of her husband’s body and comes to terms with his death. The realization that her life will never again be darkened by worries about his drinking and his continual absence in the lives of her and her children is enough to begin the process of bringing her back to life.
The middle of Mabel’s story is brightened as well. When she goes to visit her mother’s grave, she arranges flowers around it and cleans the marble headstone in a “state bordering on pure happiness.” By cleaning and taking care of her mother’s grave, she feels intimately connected to her – more connected to her than to any of the live human beings in her life. When she leaves her mother’s grave and walks into the water in an effort to end her own life, she is saved by the doctor and, once again, we see the word ‘dim.’ He pulls her out of the water and looks across onto the “dim” world and when he gets her back to her house, there is a fire burning in the grate (2503). Though her surroundings are still dim, there are no longer completely dark; she has gained some bit of light. Because the doctor has saved her, it is understood that he feels some attraction to her, some connection to her; there is a possibility that she will experience the connection that she feels with her dead mother with a person who is actually alive. This possibility fills her story with hope.
The brightest imagery concludes Elizabeth’s story and is symbolic of her final rebirth. As she cleans and wraps the dead body of her husband, he is “clear and clean and white, beautiful as ever a child was made” (2495). She looks at his body with all of the smokey life gone from it and she understands that “they had met in the dark and had fought in the dark,” but this episode of her life is over (2495-2496). It is not the death of her husband that brightens her life; rather, it is the change in her mind, the realization that even though he was flawed, she had a husband with whom she would always be connected through their children. She no longer sees a man who is flawed, a man who was worn down by the daily grind of his life and work and who had turned to alcohol to find relief; she sees a changed man, a man who she had not understood while he was alive because she was too busy denying him and being angry with him. But now she sees a different man. She sees a man who will no longer disappoint her, but whom she will remember as the father of children and as a fellow human being struggling through a hard life. She had not loved him in life because she had never tried to know him, but this is all over now. All she has to focus on is life – her life and the life of her children and so, she covers him with a sheet and she peacefully sets about to “tidy the kitchen” (2496).
Similarly to the conclusion of Elizabeth’s story, D.H. Lawrence employs light imagery in the final moments of Mabel’s story when she is reborn. Light from the street lights shines through the windows and the doctor lights the gas with matches and she has on her best dress and her hair is tidy. They have kissed passionately many times because Mabel has come to realize that the doctor loves her. She knows that he loves her because he has saved her. He had been stagnant, isolated and had witnessed real, raw emotion only through his patients and their interactions with the people in their lives. He had lived vicariously through them. And Mabel’s only connection was with her dead mother. But they connect with each other. The doctor is finally directly involved with the emotion that he has always witnessed from the outside. And she has finally found the connection she had with the grave of her dead mother in a living, breathing human being. She is no longer alone, and neither is the doctor. These are two seemingly isolated individuals who have finally found one another. When they come up out of the water together, it is a kind of rebirth for the both of them and the romantic connection that follows only accentuates the awakening of these two individuals. As the two of them sit together in her house, the doctor stokes the fire and lights the gas to keep the room bright. As the room gets brighter, their intimacy seems to grow stronger. They hold each other and cry together. The doctor says that he has to go, but Mabel begs him to stay and he does. “I want you, I want you,” he tells her blindly (2507). The rescue and its aftermath has resulted in a human connection that neither Mabel nor the doctor has ever experienced before.
Throughout the course of both of these stories, the total transformation of two characters is witnessed. Elizabeth’s story is gloomy, broken and dark when we first meet her. But through the death of her husband, she learns to accept what she never had when he was still alive and thus she gives herself the chance to be reborn. The connection that she will always have to him through her children concludes her story with exceedingly bright light. Mabel’s story begins just as gloomily. She has no family, no friends and no life outside of tending to the grave of her dead mother. She has no light in her life. But when the doctor saves her and the two of them come up out of the water, they are finally able to leave their lives of isolation and to find comfort and company in one another. This connection awakens love in Mabel and the experience of this raw emotion transfigures her life. Though these two women have dark beginnings, their endings are indeed very bright.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Horse-dealer’s Daughter.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. 2496-2507. Print.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Odour of Chrysanthemums.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. 2483-2496. Print.
The Use of Allegory in D.H. Lawrence’s ‘The Man who Loved Islands’
In D.H. Lawrence’s ‘The Man who Loved Islands’, the plot is used as a vehicle for an allegory about different ideals in life – ‘community, marriage and independence’ (Franks 121), as represented by the three islands. Through the use of an allegory, Lawrence delivers a cautionary tale that goes beyond the plot of simply a man who lives on three different islands, warning against the ‘idealization of solitude’ (Son 156) and emphasizing that socialization is a necessary part of our humanity.
The first island, which represents a creation of the ideal community revolving around oneself, is a resounding failure. The problem with such a community is that Mr Cathcart sees the island community as ‘a world of his own’ (210), ‘the perfect place, all filled with his own gracious, blossom-like spirit’ (212-213), ‘Paradise’ (213). In essence, he sees the island as an idealization of a heaven on earth, and him playing God at the center of his utopia. He assumes a fantasized role as ‘the Master’ (214), ‘Our Saviour’ (215), and ‘the fount of this happiness and perfection’ (214) on this ‘Happy Isle’ (212). Thus, although there is a community around him, Mr Cathcart is not properly socialized into it, rather he focuses on minimizing or negating the other islanders, exerting his egotistic and self-centered vision and ideal, which is contrary to the spirit of community in the first place. Hence, it logically fails as his ideal conception of a community precludes the interests of the islanders, in fact, it is the lack of self-awareness in relation to other people that leads to the failure of his own perceived vision of this community. Thus, Lawrence underscores the need to respect the social order and equality of a community, and illustrates the physical alienation and ostracization that is the consequence of not doing so.
The second island represents the married life, which can be seen in the settling down of ambitions, when the man no longer attempts to pursue an ideal vision of his world. He sees the second island as a sort of refuge, ‘as if he and his few dependents were a small flock of sea birds [that] alighted on this rock’ (221). The rock is an image that speaks of settling down and stability in life, while the sea birds, which are migratory by nature, have found a resting place on this rock away from harsher climates. Here, it seems like he has attained some sort of happiness, when he thinks to himself ‘I feel nothing or I don’t know what I feel. Yet it seems to me I am happy.’ (222) The island characterizes for him a slow transition from the ‘material island’ (212) to that of simple pleasures, ‘without desire, without ennui’ (222). Even as he attempts to publish his book, he realizes that the book for him is of no importance, as it represents ‘the race of progress’ (222), and he is more than happy to drop such a worldly pursuit and need for recognition. However, the love between him and Flora is characterized as ‘mechanical, automatic’ (223), and ‘driven from the will’ (224), it ‘shattered him, filled him with a sort of death’ (223-224). While the stability of the married life appeals to him, the passion that is lacking between both of them proves to negate all the happiness that he had found in this ‘new stillness of desirelessness’ (224). As a result, the island is now ‘smirched and spoiled’ (224), and he can longer stay on the island. In illustrating the island as a metaphor for married life, Lawrence seems to equate this stability and peace as true happiness in life, while warning against marriage in the absence of love, which proves to adequately negate the peace of the married life.
The third island represents a total renunciation of human civilization, in search for happiness. On this island, he indulges in his own idealized asceticism, ‘wanted so little’ (226), and his complete dissociation from people or even a reminder of them – ‘didn’t want trees or bushes, they stood up like people, too assertive’ (226-227). He finds happiness in the ‘great silence’ (227), which is not even to be broken by his own voice. As a ‘deathly cold’ (230) comes to inhabit the island, this meteorological coldness is an outward manifestation of his emotional coldness, even as he slowly loses all form of desire, and ceases ‘to register his own feelings’ (230). His predicament ironically parallels the journey of Jesus in the wilderness. He describes the satisfaction of being alone as ‘the bread of his soul’ (229), while Jesus renounces bread, which symbolizes worldly needs, in order to subsist on the word of God. The parallel starkly reveals his self-exile for what is – a misguided quest for solitude in pursuit of happiness, in contrast with Jesus’ denial of worldly desires and selfish needs.
However, at the end of the winter, it is suggested that he changes his desire for solitude when ‘Something brought him to’ (232). He inadvertently casts his gaze to the sea, searching for the ‘wink of a sail’ (232), although ‘he knew too well there would never again be a sail on that stark sea’ (232). The island has become ‘unrecognizable’, ‘foreign’ and ‘inaccessible’ (232). The diction that is used to describe the island is that of harshness, barrenness, lifelessness. While the frozen island is the manifestation of his deadened humanity, the ‘stark’, ‘lifeless’ (232) sea surrounding the island symbolizes the loss of society’s connection. Truly, the man has discovered the meaning of what really ‘feels like an island’ (210), one that is ‘[filled] with [his] personality’ (210), which is now cold, emotionless and lonely. The regret of his isolation and resulting hopelessness is encapsulated in ‘He turned’ (232), indicating that he has given up hope of returning to society. In such a poignant conclusion to the man’s journey, Lawrence reminds us of the dangers of the prolonged isolation, which is often motivated by an idealization of solitude, and that such a complete isolation is sometimes an irreversible process.
In the use of the allegory that utilizes the three islands to represent different ideals in life, Lawrence delivers an important didactic message emphasizing the necessity of social interaction and relationship in life. By calling attention to such themes, his narrative transcends the most literal aspects of its plot.
Lawrence, D.H. “The Man who Loved Islands.” The Oxford Book of English Short Stories. Ed. A.S. Byatt. New York: Oxford, 2009. 210-232. Print.
Franks, Jill. Islands and the Modernists: The Allure of Allusion in Art, Literature and Science. North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2006. Print.
Son, Youngjoo. Here and Now: The Politics of Social Space in D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. London: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Unbridled: The Emotional Repression and Evolution of Women in “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter. ”
D. H. Lawrence’s “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” is the story of Mabel Pervin, the daughter of a late horse dealer who has cared for her three brothers since the death of their mother. After the death of their father, the siblings are left in poverty and to figure out what they will now do. Mabel, the caretaking daughter, is described as being short, stoic, and sullen; the woman is so unemotional that her brothers compare the impassivity of her face to that of a bulldog. In the course of the story, Mabel is watched by a family friend, Dr. Jack Fergusson, as she visits her mother’s grave and then attempts to drown herself in a pond. After the doctor resuscitates Mabel after her attempted suicide, Mabel becomes wildly passionate towards the man, causing him to realize that he is in love with her despite the fear she causes him. It is Mabel’s transition from apathy to emotion, and what causes this change, that is of interest in the story. Mabel’s unfulfilling life and obligation towards her family was the cause of her aloofness, and her brush with death and freedom is what causes her abrupt evolution into feeling. If Mabel had not been expected to act as the caregiver of the family because she is the daughter, then she would have most likely not attempted suicide.
From the beginning of the story it is evident that any personality Mabel might have had once has been squashed down by the weight of her brothers’ characters. The author spends nearly the first half of the story describing in detail the personality of each of the brothers and offering meaningless dialogue between them despite their brief presence in the story. This allows the audience to regard Mabel in the same fashion that her family does: with little consideration. In the very first sentence, Joe Pervin, the oldest of the Pervin siblings, asks Mabel what she plans on doing now that they have have lost their means of income and, “without listening for an answer,” (557) the man turns away from Mabel, not actually interested in the answer she might give. The brothers discuss her fate and what they would do in her position as if she was not there because they do not really see her, “They had talked at her and round her for so many years, that she hardly heard them at all.” (557) It is as if Mabel is the idea of a person to them, rather than actually having autonomy. This depersonalization has caused Mable to become out of touch with her emotions; she is trapped under the obligation of caring for the Pervin brothers, stuck in servitude, “keeping the home together in penury for her ineffectual brothers,” and because of this she does not have the means to take care of herself emotionally. (558) Without support from others, the men of the Pervin family obviously cannot take care of themselves; first, the children relied on the mother of the family to tend to their needs, but once the mother passed on, Mabel took up her mantle. All because she was the next female in line in the family. Starting at age fourteen, for ten years Mabel was bridled and worked like one of her father’s horses by her family until she finally gave up. Saddled with the load of her brothers’ business failure and poverty, Mabel decided to free herself from their servitude. She saw no other way out of her unfulfilling and meaningless life except for death.
Because of her mother’s death, Mabel perceives death as freedom. If her mother died and left someone else her burden, why can Mabel not do the same? Mabel thinks highly of her mother because she knows intimately what her mother endured in her life. They were both chained to the role of caregiver, and as she goes to visit her mother’s grave for the last time we see a glimpse of Mabel’s first emotion, “she seemed in a sort of ecstasy to be coming nearer to her fulfillment, her own glorification, approaching her dead mother, who was glorified.” (560) There is no glory in Mabel’s image as she is now because she is living in “the world of death she inherited from her mother.” (561) When Mabel walks into the pond, she is completely aware of what she is doing; she means free herself into the same ecstacy and glory that her mother has attained. Yet, Dr. Fergusson interferes. Instead of a drowning, Mabel’s excursion into the water becomes a baptism of sorts; in walked a repressed, unfeeling woman and out came one with life and passion. When Mabel awakes after her rescue, there is an immediate difference in her. Before, the doctor did not even acknowledge Mabel in passing, but after he finds that he feels “that her power was stronger than his.” (563) Mabel now has a substance to her that she did not have before; once she decided to give up her burdens and do something for herself, she metamorphosed into a person with actual feeling.
Where once Mabel was aloof and unattached to the world around her, after her resuscitation she is now overflowing with emotion. She awakes to find Dr. Fergusson caring for her and asks him if he loves her with more feeling than she has had in story and looks at the doctor, “with flaring, humble eyes, of transfiguration, triumphant in first possession.” (565) From this description, she is showing passion, curiosity, shyness, and delight all at once. Mabel then embraces the man and kisses him with so much fervor that, “He was afraid, even a little horrified.” (566) Her newfound presence holds the doctor captive and inspires emotion he did not know he had for her, showing that her emotional evolution was so complete that it affects others as well. Once the doctor relents to Mabel’s embrace, she cries. Finally unsaddled of her emotional repression, she is able to express all the frustration and sadness that she has kept inside herself. In her last line of dialogue in the story, Mabel admits to the doctor, “‘I feel awful. I feel awful.’” (568) Even though she is not happy, she still finally can feel.
In conclusion, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” is a story of a woman who has been so over-burdened with the problems of others that she is unable to recognize her own internal problems and emotional turmoil. Thankfully, this is a happy story, and the protagonist lives to become emotionally fulfilled despite her attempted suicide. If Mabel Pervin had not been charged with the duty of caring for her family from such a young age she would not have had to endure the strife that she did go through. It is unfair that a girl should have to tend to the needs of men much older than herself, and this fact is demonstrated admirably in this story.
Gender in The Rainbow
The differences between men and women have been distinguished since the beginning of time. Though traditional gender roles by circumstance often portray the niche best exuded by a gender, it is undeniable that the emblematic characteristics accredited to a specific sex are often false. For example, the belief that men are the true movers-and-shakers of the world is misleading. Gender stereotypes are the most basic form of oppression, for they limit one’s right of choice. D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow characterizes it’s heroine as the master of her own fate by way of juxtaposing the men and the women of the farm, ultimately conveying the notion that women are the foundation of change. The combination of juxtaposing the men to the singular woman, as well as the contrast between the city and the country men, decidedly predicts the use of active voice to empower the protagonist of the piece.
The juxtaposition of the male and female roles of the farm is represented in the use of referring to each gender as “the men” and “the woman”. Not only is the significant approximate number of each sex stated in this terminology, but also their niche. While the protagonist’s husband “looked out to the back at sky and harvest and beast and land”, we as the reader can understand that the environment supporting the story in one that is in the favour of men, being the stronger of the sexes, to farm the land in which the novel is set. Thus, many men are needed, while in comparison, “the woman” signifies her stature and class in the society of the farm. Likely, this woman is the wife of the landlord of the farm, and perhaps these many men are hired hands. We can presume that her life is one that is kept indoors for her work; cleaning, caring, and cooking for the workers is not an unlikely duty for a woman of the time. It is this juxtaposition of roles and stature that is represented by the use of “the men” versus “the woman.”
Another juxtaposition established within The Rainbow is the identities of the different types of men that the protagonist sees. The woman envisions men in “the far off world of cities and governments” while in front of her she can only see that “it was enough for the men … that they lived full and surcharged.” The discrepancy of the men leads her to wonder what is the true difference between them, and eventually comes to the conclusion that “it was a question of knowledge.” Simply put, the men in far off cities knew better so they did better, while the men on the farm were content with their way of life and had a sense of pride about the work they did. This represents the kind of life that the protagonist envisions for herself; she desires knowledge and discovery and wants a man who wants the same things as her. As the wife of a farmer, her frame of knowledge is limited. Her yearning to seek a higher level of understanding, inspired by the contrasting of the men, is what drives the stream of consciousness of the piece.
The syntactical structure of the excerpt characterizes the woman through the use of active voice. Sentences such as “She knew her husband” example this by use of putting the noun before the verb, as is done often with the woman describing her life on the farm. Many of the sentences in the piece do begin with female pronouns, serving to represent the woman’s belief in herself and her understanding of what she desires most in life. From this simple structuring of putting the pronoun before the verb, the reader immediately identifies the woman as the focus of the story and recognizes the woman’s needs as importance. “Her house faced out from the farm-buildings and fields” is an easily identifiable sentence of power. The house is described as belonging to the woman, that which would be uncommon considering the time period. Active voice is the principle identification of the woman’s determination and character.
D.H. Lawrence’s use of juxtaposition and active voice in his novel The Rainbow clearly define the woman’s greatest wishes and characterizes her as a pillar of determination and a bringer of change. Such characterization begs the question that gender stereotypes are more often than not untrue, and that to see a person’s true character you must look past their gender. From this the reader can understand that the differences between men and women are not in their genetics and gender, but in their character.