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The short stories of D. H. Lawrence are many and varied; he wrote them throughout of his working life and the complete edition fill three volumes. In many of his works, Lawrence uses identical situations, plots, images, and themes, often reflecting the journey of the author's life. It could be described as four distinct stages he went through. The first may be indicated as the Nottingham or Eastwood the former years before 1912, when he represents his young views describing a lyrical beauty in intimate relation until his marriage to Frieda, a German woman who inspired him in many ways, especially in physical and spiritual one, reflected in his works. The next period lasted until the World War I, unable to publish, living in dire poverty in cottages and on funds lent by friends, because of his works were rejected by the British censors due to his frank portrayal of sexual relation. Years of wandering characterize the third period, when he visited various Italian towns, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Mexico and America. The last period deals with the experience of dying, which reflect Lawrence's preparation for his own death, from tuberculosis, in March 1930.
In many of the short stories, there are represented themes of sex or sexuality, manners, individuality, emotions, England and English people, cruelty, contrast between good and evil and uses of natural elements effecting the psychological status of an individual, supported by strong symbolism. The author lays the question of the confrontation of primitive culture with civilized corruption. In these stories, character serves a double function, that of realism and that of symbolism. One story that serves to indicate this fact is "The Woman Who Rode Away".
In this story of initiation, a woman from Berkeley, the reader never learns her first name, the mother of two children, is restive and dispirited; her marriage to Lederman, a strong-willed rancher twenty years older than her, has long since lost its physical and spiritual vitality. Devoted to work, Lederman once morally swayed her, "kept her in an invincible slavery." Now she yearns for adventure. Beyond the borders of her ranch live the Chilchui Indians, and she determines to ride out, alone, to wander into the secret haunts of these timeless, mysterious, marvellous Indians of the mountains.
Alone on horseback she travels through the wild nature where she encounters with three Indians. One of them with "quick and black, and inhuman eyes", who agree to lead her to the Chilchui shelter. After a sleep in the "long, long night, icy and eternal," she is aware that she has died to her former self and can never again return to her civilization. When she arrives to the camp, she is asked by a medicine man whether she is willing to bring her heart to the God of Chilchui. After giving her assent, she is stripped naked and the medicine man runs his fingers all over her body and then she is offered new clothing. Later, while naked, she is given a liquor to drink, made with herbs and sweetened with honey. At first ill from the potion, she soon lapses into a "higher" consciousness in which her senses are sharpened and purified. She is given this drink regularly to cleanse her body and soul in order to prepare her to learn the mysteries of the Chilchui people, who await the sacrifice of a white woman to their gods. Gradually she becomes more and more distant to her former self and reconciles with her fate. Dressed in blue, the colour of wind, which drifts away and never comes back, she is wary, drugged but unafraid she is ready to sacrifice herself so the Indians must give the moon to the sun. She is laid on a flat stone in a cave curtained by an icy slope and she is watching the sunset.
Unlike most of Lawrence's stories "The Woman Who Rode Away" is not one of those of erotic selection but one of spirituality on the psychological level revealing the mysteries of primitive religion. As per Shirley Rose "they never saw her as a personal woman". Although the woman from the story has observed the strength and beauty of the Chilchui Indians, it never resulted in physical attraction. In other aspect it points at the discrepancy between the Indian religious values to the western culture. Those values of spiritual enlightenment are superior to that of the fulfilment achieved through erotic bonding. As the reader may ask what kind of forces led the woman to leave her children and husband behind? According to Shirley Rose, who wrote in the Contemporary Literature: "The story is solely that one of an ego, her life is exhausted of all nourishment. This is followed by the inevitable swing to the other extreme - a life solely of the id." An ego, according to S. Freud, stands for "I", the real consciousness; the wants are practical ones and become a real fulfilment of one's need. Despite id represents instincts, they are irrational. The reader is asked by the author to approve and sympathize with this sort of acquiescence in the women's act of her own sacrificial slaughter in order to appease the primitive gods. To achieve the task Lawrence creates a perfect psychological pattern, which develops throughout the story, and prepares the reader to accept the inevitable ending. Although still shocking.
Not only the author's brilliant usage of psychological progress makes the audience understand, but also through the accumulation of a detail, often hypnotically repeated. For instance, mentioning the internal death of the woman during her journey before her physical death.
"It was very cold before dawn. She lay wrapped in her blanket looking at the stars, listening to her horse shivering, and feeling like a woman who has died and passed beyond. She was not sure that she had not heard, during the night, a great crash at the centre of herself, which was the crash of her own death. Or else it was a crash at the centre of the earth, and meant something big and mysterious." (D.H.Lawrence, Stíny Jara, pg.346)
Another way how to impose on the reader the approval of sacrifice is the use of images and symbols. As an example serves symbols of the sun and the moon, presented in other Lawrence's stories namely in "The Sun", where the sun is described as a rejuvenating, powerful symbol. But in "The Woman Who Rode Away" the sun is a challenge needed to be pulled down by men to empower themselves with the mighty strength of rebirth. The moon is representing woman's womb, waiting to be illuminated by the sun through a man.
"The sun is alive at one end of the sky," he continued, "and the moon lives at the other end. And the man all the time has to keep the sun happy in his side of the sky, and the woman have to keep the moon quiet at her side of the sky. All the time she have to work at this. And the sun can't ever go into the house of the moon, and the moon can't ever go into the house of the sun, in the sky. So the woman, she asks the moon to come into her cave, inside her. And the man, he draws the sun down till he has the power of the sun. All the time he do this. Then when the man gets a woman, the sun goes into the cave of the moon, and that is how everything in the world starts." (D.H.Lawrence, Stíny Jara, pg.359)
These two main symbols exploit the final scene, where the woman is placed on a flat stone in a cave curtained by an icy slope and she is watching the sunset. As the sun descends, the rays penetrate deeper into the cave, and the old priest, who holds two knives above her, strikes to accomplish the sacrifice to regain back their power of the sun.
To understand fully the extent to which Lawrence imposes on his reader a different, and for most unsettling, consciousness of morality, one should compare "The Woman Who Rode Away" with "The Princess". Both stories originate from a core idea of a setting that is being represented in them, which could be viewed as a reflection on his stay in Mexico.
In "The Princess," Dollie Urquhart travels, after her aristocratic father's death, to a ranch in New Mexico. There, she is drawn to Domingo Romero, a guide at the ranch and the last of a line of great Native American landholders. Romero is himself unfulfilled and waits for one of two Lawrentian fates: to die or to be "aroused in passion and hope."(enotec.com) One day, Dollie arranges a trip, with a female companion and Romero as guide, over the Rockies to a spot where animals can be observed in their "wild unconsciousness." Even though the companion's horse is injured, Dollie and Romero continue the trip. The cold mountains both terrify and seduce Dollie, as Lawrence makes the mountains represent what she is seeking, he uses the settings as symbols. The guide and his charge spend the night in a miner's shack. Frightened by dreams of snow, a symbol of spiritual death, Dollie goes to Romero for "warmth, protection" and to be "taken away from herself," and Romero obliges. The next day, when Dollie tells him that she does not like "that sort of thing," Romero is broken and angry. He argues that Dollie's coming to him has given him the right to marry her. When she refuses, he strips her and violates her repeatedly, but she refuses to relent. Romero had successfully reached some "unrealised part" of her that she had never wanted to feel. Soon, rangers rescue Dollie and kill Romero. Unable to find her old self, "a virgin intact," she goes "slightly crazy."
Both Narratives concern women who escape from a Western ranch and ride off in the company of a Native American guide, in the search for adventure. They both look for the cleansing effect of high mountains, away from the distraction of civilization; the natural attraction passes between people. In "The Princess" it is between Domingo Romero and Dollie Urquhart. In the "Woman Who Rode Away" it is the spiritual growth gained from the Indians when becoming their moon goddess resulting in extinction of her ego. Unlike Dollie's, whose experience of passion is shallow and unpleasant and has failed to function as a ritual of passage to erotic fulfilment, she resembles in neurotic retention of the old ego till the rest of her life.
"The Princess" is one of the stories of the theme of sex, physical violence and wisdom. To fully understand Dollie's posture it is important to mention, that she grew up under a strict protection of her "little bit mad" father, who believed that he was a descend of royalty, and therefore she was not to open her inner self to anybody, because they were inferior to them.
"My little Princess must never take too much notice of people and the things they say and do," he repeated to her. "People don't know what they are doing and saying. They chatter-chatter, and they hurt one another, and they hurt themselves very often, till they cry. But don't take any notice, my little Princess. Because it is all nothing. Inside everybody there is another creature, a demon which doesn't care at all." (D.H.Lawrence, Stíny Jara, pg.295)
Therefore the lost of her virginity she perceived as a failure, she could have never reconcile with. Dollie lived with her father too long to break the thick wall, protecting her inner self, unable to receive or give any sort of emotions.
Physical violence along with sexual theme is one of the most criticized ones in Lawrence's works. In "The Princess" physical violence is Romero's reaction to repulsive behaviour of Dollie's after sexual intercourse. Also Romero's death at the end of the story leaves Dollie emotionless and distant to all what has happened.
Wisdom as such plays a minor and usually negative role in Lawrence's stories. Dollie was sophisticated young lady speaking many languages, but it was no use to her as she could not combine it with her emotional state. The author created her as a role to be laugh at. To prove this statement there is a quote from Shirley Rose, who said: "The wise are associated with shrewdness or knowledge. The term in this sense is used pejoratively or cynically. For example in "England, My England" and "The Princess". ( Shirley Rose, Contemporary Literature, Vol.16)
Lawrence's greatest contribution to us as an artist is that in his work of art, he helps us in our search for the answer to the question, "What do I live for?" This is found not by falling into an inert day-to-day dayness but by achieving what Lawrence called"spontaneous-creative fullness of being."(P.Nazareth, D.H.Lawrece and Sex)