David Herbet Lawrence (1885-1930), was born in a colliery village in Nottinghamshire, England. His mother was a former school teacher whereas his father was a colliery miner. Their marriage was not smooth because his father was a drunk but his mother was too refined. D.H. Lawrence also had serious love affairs and his attitude towards sex therefore was reflected in his novels and writings. Most of his writings focused on relationships established between men and women. Some of his famous novel and short story that have relationships between women and men as central theme are The Rainbow( 1915 ) and Odour of Chrysanthemums (1909 ).
The novel , The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence , formerly known as The Wedding Ring, "traces the history of three generations of the Brangwen's, a vigorous farming family, living on the Marsh farm in Derbyshire in south England" (Lawrence 15). The Rainbow, specifically focuses on the marital life and relationships of men and women of Brangwen's on Marsh farm. In the first chapter itself "How Tom Brangwen Married a Polish Lady", we can clearly see that men and women are totally different beings or of two polar opposites of one another. For example unlike the men who were quite satisfied with chores on the farm, " the women were more ambitious. They were not content with the heated blind intercourse of farm-life and looked towards the far-off world of cities and governments where secrets were made own and desires fulfilled" ( Lawrence 17). Mrs. Brangwen, Tom's mother for instance was fascinated by the life led by the Vicar who were far richer than them. She understood that knowledge was the key for a better life and so decides that she wanted to educate her children. Since the differences between men and women in Brangwen family was evident in the first chapter itself, so coming together of both sexes will not be easy. Yet , Lawrence in this novels stresses that for a happy married life, husband and wife should not merely get reconciled to each other but should allow each partner to retain their individuality. For example "Mr and Mrs Brangwen were two separate beings, vitally connected, knowing nothing of each other, yet living in their separate ways from one root" (Lawrence 27).
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The same situation also occurred in the marriage life of Tom Brangwen and Lydia Lensky. Tom and Lydia had hard time getting comfortable of each other, for they were totally different not only in behavior but also in origin and language. Lydia was from Poland and a widow of the diseased Paul Lensky who has a daughter and had a rough life before meeting up Tom, whereas Tom was born and brought up in Marsh farm. Lydia usually keeps most of the time to herself, which emotionally drains Tom Brangwen and makes him feel that he does not own her and she is the "other" whom he find hard to comprehend totally yet she completes him. " Tom's anguish and pride, his dissatisfaction and self- awareness give him a stature to match Lydia's fierce self-possession and mysterious serenity"( Smith 17). Women according to Lawrence are said to be eternal waters and men "perfect premises of fires" (Lawrence,Moore and Warren 234). Coming together of both sexes " maybe soft delicate union or tremendous conjunction of polarity" (Lawrence,Moore and Warren 234). Tom Brangwen and Lydia growing awareness of each other made their relationship more enduring then other couples in the novel the Rainbow. This is because the readjustment efforts made by them to build their marriage were successful. Especially after they had a one to one talk with each other after Tom visited his brother Alfred and his lover in Nottingham. Tom wanted a life of sophistication and richness like his brother and despised his poor way of life. However Lydia realized this and started asking questions that made both Tom and Lydia understand more about themselves as two very different individuals. Therefore they must treat each other with equality and not try to dominate one another for a successful love and marriage. "She waited for him to meet her, not to bow before her and serve her. She wanted his active participation, not his submission. And it was torture to him, that he must give himself to her actively, participate in her, that he must meet and embrace and know her, who was other than himself" (Lawrence 41). It was after two years of marriage that they realized about each other and the key to happy fulfilling marriage was treating each other with equality and it had made their life ahead more wonderful and each day was a new discovery. "They had passed through the doorway into the further space, where movement was so big, that it contained bonds and constraints and labors, and still was complete liberty. She was the doorway to him, he to her. At last they had thrown open the doors, each to the other, and had stood in the doorways facing each other, it was the transfiguration, glorification, the admission"(Lawrence 41). As a result of Tom and Lydia coming together was in harmonious way, their daughter Anna was at peace between them. Anna felt safe and free for her parents marriage was established and
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"She played between the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud in confidence, having the assurance on her right hand and the assurance on her left. She was no longer called upon to uphold with her childish might the broken end of the arch. Her father and her mother now met to the span of the heavens, and she, the child, was free to play in the space beneath, between".(Lawrence 42)
After Tom Brangwen passed away drowning in a flood, Lydia tells her granddaughter Ursula that her first marriage with Paul Lensky was a failure because she was not allowed to be her true self; "she lived in a kind of doll's house"(Lawrence 78) where her status was lower then Paul's in their everyday life. However Tom allowed her space and protected her individuality, therefore she is forever will grateful to him. Thus it is evident that establishment of a new relation, or the readjustment of the old one, between men and women without severing each others individuality are important to have a successful reunion, marriage and relationships.
William Brangwen and Anna Brangwen represent the second generation of the Brangwens . Lawrence used symbolism of light and dark (duality) to represent both of these characters. "Anna fair, bright, quick" (Smith 19), whereas William "dark, vital and intense" (Smith 19). These lovers nevertheless faced the same problem of establishing successful relationship and readjusting themselves to make their marriage life harmonious as well. This is because their interests differ from one another. For example, Will loved wood carving, spirituality, Christian myths, legends and Christian architecture. However Anna did not believe in them, ridiculed Will and her answers towards his faith were sarcastic and it wounded him badly. She purposely destroys his devout absorption by comparing them to mundane everyday reality. "If she tried to get out of him, what he believed, then they were both soon in a white rage"(Lawrence 54). Furthermore, Will Brangwen, tries to dominate Anna and her free spirit which further brought misunderstanding and quarrels between them which were not pretty. For example,
" he went on trying to steer the ship of their dual life. He asserted his position as the captain of t he ship. And captain and ship bored her. He wanted to loom important as master of one of the innumerable domestic craft that make up the great fleet of society. It seemed to her a ridiculous armada of tubs jostling in futility. She felt no belief in it. She jeered at him as master of the house, master of their dual life. And he was black with shame and rage. He knew, with shame, how her father had been a man without arrogating any authority" (gutenberg.net.au).
This example of Wills behaviour of dominating Anna contrasting to Tom Brangwen's equal treatment of Lydia also suggest that retaining individuality of partners is important in a marriage to be successful. Relations between men and women must never dominate one another and therefore, Tom Brangwens Marriage to Lydia was a better reunion then Anna and Will. Anna always feel stressful when Will was around even though she loves him. She can feel his dominance and expectations over bearing her. As time goes by she realized he remained the same , trying to gain power over and he was " the dark opposite to her, that they were opposites, not complements"( Lawrence 53). Even though both Anna and Will understood that they are of polar opposites, yet they do not let each other to be their true self. They fail to transcend their opposing point of views or duality within themselves which was one of the important point stressed by Lawrence for happy marriage. Will and Anna's marriage only focused on sexual gratification. Since their marriage was not very successful, Anna begun focusing and feels content in child labour whereas Will on his work. Thus, their marriage becomes a door and a threshold for the third generation of Brangwen to continue their creation for a perfect arch which Anna and Will failed to create.
Ursula Brangwen, eldest daughter of Will and Anna, represents the third generation of the Brangwens at Marsh farm. Now Ursula is a very passionate, adventure and knowledge loving spirit. She, like her father in the beginning was interested in religion and Christian faith. Yet many questions about religion were not answered for her which led to only confusion and her hatred towards it. Next, her relationship with Anton Skrebensky (engineer in the army) was purely physical. "like all physical relationships, it dries up after a while if there are no emotional, intellectual interests between the partners" (Lawrence 101). The establishment of their new relationship from the beginning itself depended on sexual fulfillment only and therefore did not last and their views opposed as well. For instance, Skrebensky felt it was his duty to serve the country in war and wants to get married and settle down. Ursula on the other hand feels there is more to life then marriage. She wants to continue her studies till college and work. The idea of domesticity in her opinion restricts her ambitions. "How Ursula resented it, how she fought against the close, physical, limited life of herded domesticity! Calm, placid, unshakeable as ever, Mrs. Brangwen went about in her dominance of physical maternity" (Lawrence 107). Ursula's relationship with her father was not smooth as well. William Brangwen does not only try to control his wife but his daughter Ursula as well "Slowly, slowly, the fire of mistrust and defiance burned in her, burned away her connection with him" (Lawrence 80). After her studies in school, Ursula wanted to work as an assistant mistress at Wellingborough Green Schools. Her father, refused the very idea of it. He felt women ought to be at home and not work. Finally, out of Ursula persistent urging, he allowed her to work in Brinsley Street school which was a in a poor quarter. Thus it is clear that equality and transcending duality between men and women are the keys to a successful marriage and relationships. Since Ursula's relationship with Skrebensky did not adhere to these principles which Lawrence himself felt important, their relationship broke and they drift away apart. The rainbow in the novel The Rainbow is a beautiful union of water and fire which symbolizes a perfect establishment in the relationship of men and women (marriage or love) . At the end of the chapter, though Ursula sees a rainbow far away which tells us that, even though she failed to create a rainbow for herself now but there is possibility for her in the future. Which she establishes in the following novel Women in Love. It is clear however, Ursula Brangwen unlike the other two Brangwen generation before her, bravely chooses a life that she wants and hopes to establish a new relationship (life partner) in the future for a more successful union.
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Besides novels, D.H.Lawrence also presents the theme of relationship between men and women in his short story Odour of Chrysanthemums. It is about Elizabeth Bates, the main character of the story, who was married to a coal miner Walter Bates. They have a son name John, daughter Annie, and Elizabeth is pregnant as well. Though both Walter and Elizabeth are husband and wife and have a family of their own, yet their marriage life was not happy. Elizabeth was dissatisfied with her marriage. She kept on brooding of how irresponsible drunkard Walter was and never took the chance to know him, his true self and so did Walter. After Walters death at the colliery his body was brought back home and was laid at the parlor of the house. As she wiped his corpse for proper burial, Elizabeth realized that she was one of the cause of their unsuccessful marriage.
"She looked at his naked body and was ashamed, as if she had denied it...She looked at his face, and she turned her own face to the wall. For his look was other than hers, his way was not her way. She had denied him what he was she saw it now. She had refused him as himself... She was grateful to death, which restored the truth. And she knew she was not dead" (shortstoryclassics.50megs.com).
Failing to comprehend that both her husband and herself of opposite polarities and not taking chances to transcend their dual life had made her feel ashamed of herself. Elizabeth felt anger and disappointment that all her life, she wanted him to be somebody that he was not which contributed to their failure in happiness and relationship.
In conclusion, D.H. Lawrence strongly feels that a successful relationship or marriage between men and women should be based on equality, freedom in retaining each other individuality and understanding or transcending their differences(duality) to avoid quarrels and misunderstandings which are unnecessary. Lawrence writes his stories based on his principles of dualism and so both of his writings above The Rainbow and Odour of Chrysanthemums further proves his statement that "I can only write what I feel pretty strongly about and that, at present, is the relations between men and women. After all, it is 'the' problem of today,the establishment of a new relation, or the readjustment of the old one, between men and women."
Hough, Graham. The Dark Sun: A Study of D.H. Lawrence. London: Gerald Dukworth & Co. Ltd., 1956.
Lawrence, D.H., Warren Roberts, and Harry.T Moore. Phoenix II: uncollected, unpublished and other prose works by D. H. Lawrence. London: Heinemann, 1968. 226-37. Print.
Lawrence, D.H. The Rainbow. A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook, Dec. 2001. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. <http://www.gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100341.txt>.
Lawrence, D.H. The Rainbow. 1915. Reprint. Ram Printograph ,Delhi: UBS Publishers Distributors Pvt. Ltd., 2006.
"Odour of Chrysanthemums by D. H. Lawrence." Short Story Classics. 5 Dec. 2003. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. <http://shortstoryclassics.50megs.com/lawrencechrysanthemums.html>.
Smith, Frank Glover . D.H.LAWRENCE: THE RAINBOW. London: The Camelot Press Ltd, , 1971.