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The novel “The Virgin and the Gypsy” was found in France after David Herbert Lawrence’s death in 1930. Immediately recognized as a masterpiece in which Lawrence had distilled and purified his ideas about sexuality and morality, The Virgin and the Gypsy has become a classic and is one of Lawrence’s most electrifying short novels.
It has been published as it was found, which was probably incomplete. The story has some rough edges that undoubtedly would have been smoothed with more rewriting. The book raises interesting questions about what love, proper behavior, and life are all about.
In this book, Lawrence is in usual top form in describing the longing of a young girl, a virgin, for the slightly unconventional. Her vision of her future being a stayed and commonplace marriage to one of the local boys of character and money, she longs for something else before that fate befalls her. She does find that love, very much by accident.
She comes across a Gypsy and she falls deeply and viscerally in love with him. Yet, she is coy and she is proper about it. Although she badly wishes to be with him, she understands the potential scandal of such a union. Her father being one that is a non-believer, despite his position as the rector; she sees his revulsion for those things of the body. The rector’s wife had left him for an impoverished boy. She sought something the rector just could not provide to her. Even though she was his everything, he was not able to make her feel the love she wished deeply even to her bones.
Her daughter too felt that there was more than just the future she envisioned. She felt that it was not a matter that could be ignored. It was a matter that had to be satisfied and soon. But how to do so, without being seen as a prostitute by her own family; that was the mystery and the beauty of the book.
Finally, amongst a great flood and terror that is more frightful than can be imagined, she finds herself with the Gypsy in her own bedroom, safe from the outside world of people because of the isolation and protection afforded by an unanticipated flood. Here she makes the passionate love to him that she had heretofore only dreamed about. Here she becomes a woman, and becomes a lover at the same time.
As always, Lawrence fills the text with serious metaphor and memory. He uses symbolism, systematically revealing the undercurrents of his character’s huge love and anticipation with thinly veiled double entendres and images. This book is specifically recommended for Lawrence readers, but in addition, the book is highly recommended to those seeking love and those fulfilled in love.
The gypsy represents her “free-born will,” which separates her from the rest of the Saywells. He is an outsider, “on an old, old war-path against such as herself . . . Yes, if she belonged to any side, and to any clan, it was to his.” Under the influence of the absent mother, an adulterous couple she encounters, and the defiant gypsy who “endures in opposition,” Yvette is forced into a confrontation with her sneering father-a confrontation that brings out his hidden evil and self-righteousness.
Both The Virgin and the Gypsy and “That Evening Sun” deal with characters who are social “outsiders” living under social restrictions. The Virgin and the Gypsy is a picture of the social climate in England. Characters like Cynthia, the Eastwoods and the gipsies are affected by social snobbery. “That Evening Sun” is the portrayal of Nancy, a black woman, who struggles against racism. The outsiders from these selections are physically, emotionally, and socially isolated.
Social isolation affects the characters in The Virgin and the Gypsy and “That Evening Sun”. Nancy experiences social rejection from both society and from the family she works for. She is discriminated for being black and is shown no respect in society. There is also the factor of generational prejudice in the family Nancy works for. The mother is passing on their racial prejudice to their children who will carry on a racist attitude forever. The children uses phrases like “scairder than niggers”(199) as an insult conveying their disrespect of the black culture.
The gipsies are isolated from society because they are different. They lead a different lifestyle and act as individuals. Society describes gipsies as “pagan pariahs”(36), non-Christians and outcasts. Restrictions are placed on people like the gipsies that create a social scale and rank people accordingly.
This novel is very intriguing and teaches lessons of morality, religion, and of life and death intended for those with imagination and insight.
The author’s style contributes deeply to the intrigue and true meaning to this novel. The author’s use of imagery makes tensions in the story vivid and emphatic. In this story there is a re-occurring tension between religion and desire. The tension between religion and desire is most clearly demonstrated between the characters of Yvette and the rector. Yvette was brought up in a world of religious conventions and beliefs, an environment of forgiveness, love, and morality. This world is later realized to truly be a world of repression towards all feelings of passion and desire; not the environment of forgiveness, love, and morality Yvette and the readers are lead to believe. This starts the conflict between religion and desire, and confuses Yvette greatly because her religious upbringing denies and contradicts all her natural instincts of love, passion, and sexuality. The rector and Yvette do not share the same understanding of love. They are both very different in their thoughts and expressions, of what love is. The narrator in the story tells us what the rector thinks of Cynthia, his lost wife. He describes her as “the pure white snow-flower” (p.6) and expresses that her husband thought of her “on inaccessible heightsâ€¦that she was throned in lone splendor aloft their lives, never to be touched” (p.7) This would have the reader believe that Cynthia is considered in the rector’s eyes to be like god not bodily in his life. At another point in the novel the narrator informs the reader that the rector believes Cynthia to be sacred and that she was enshrined in his heart, as if she were a religious idol, never simply expressing any love or desire for his lost wife. It’s like the rector has moral religious love for his lost wife, and not passion or desire, like…
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