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D.H.Lawrence's "The Rainbow" (20th Century Interpretations) Paperback – Apr 1971


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Amazon.com: 1 review
A solid selection of essays... 21 Feb. 2015
By Brian C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent collection of critical essays on an excellent novel. I am going to try to provide brief summaries of the essays in this volume for the interested reader.

"Introduction" by Mark Kinkead-Weekes

Mark Kinkead-Weekes places Lawrence's novel in the context of Lawrence's own artistic development, the development of the novel, as well as its broader historical context, and highlights some of the major themes of the novel. In terms of Lawrence's development, the novel lies between the agonizing struggle that gave birth to Sons and Lovers and the apocalyptic post-war Women in Love. It is like a beautiful landscape or valley between two mountains.

In terms of historical context, the novel deals with three major changes taking place in England between 1840 and the first years of the twentieth-century: the industrial revolution, a revolution in education leading to an increase in articulateness, knowledge, and self-awareness, and the decline of religious values (5) Lawrence avoids falling into simplistic extremes: either the ideology of triumphalism and infinite progress or the parochial nostalgia for a lost past. Lawrence sees the opportunities, the dangers, and the new challenges of the new historical developments.

Lawrence is also part of the movement in literature from "behavior" to "consciousness". According to Kinkead-Weekes, Lawrence's challenge is to "discover new ways of showing the lines of force which operate" on his characters, "to make them reveal first one orientation, then another, according to the rhythm of the situation in which they find themselves, while remaining recognizably the same people" (8)

"The Originality of The Rainbow" by Marvin Mudrick

Marvin Mudrick argues against those readers who would see the originality of Lawerence's novel in his rejection of the stable ego and his new form of characterization. Rather, what is original to Lawrence, and The Rainbow in particular, is that "it is the first English novel to record the normality and significance of physical passion; and it is the only English novel to record…the social revolution whereby Western man lost his sense of community…and men - more especially, women - learned…that there is no help any longer except in the individual and his capacity for a passional life" (17)

"The First and Second Generation" by H.M. Daleski

H.M. Daleski analyzes the struggles in the marriages of Tom and Lydia and Will and Anna. Lydia represents the unknown for Tom which he both desires and fears and the conflict between them is only resolved when he finally stops trying to conquer the unknown and instead surrenders to it. There is a dialectic of losing and finding the self at work in their relationship. The relationship between Will and Anna is different. Will is dependent on Anna - he sacrifices his own creative self when he destroys his woodcarving - while Anna wants to remain independent.

Daleski provides a very interesting analysis of the scene between Will and Anna in the Cathedral. It is tempting to view Will's rapturous ecstasy as positive and mystical but it is a oneness without difference, a return to the womb, to the lack of differentiation. Anna recognizes this when she clings to the "sly little faces" and gargoyles that "laughed in triumph of their own very littleness". There is a lot that is left out of the Cathedral: the individual in their freedom and littleness (54-55)

"The Third Generation" by Keith Sagar

Keith Sagar analyzes Ursula's struggle. Ursula's struggle is different because her "struggle against the confines of her life" takes place before marriage rather than within marriage. She demands a lot from life, and she is consistently disillusioned, but this does not lead to cynicism or conformity. Rather, "If life seems to thwart her, it must be that she has sought the wrong things; rather than ask for less, she will ask even more of it" (58) She is searching for the unknown in her relationship with Skrebensky but she does not find it. Nor does she simply resign herself to its loss to settle down within the comfortable limits of a life with Skrebensky.

"The Rainbow and the Bible" by George H. Ford

Ford argues that Lawrence - like Joyce - was dissatisfied with the "one-dimensional level of naturalistic fiction" and combined modes: ironic, mythic, romantic, and epic. Ursula - like Leopold Bloom - is, on the prosaic level, a young woman living at a particular time in England, concerned about her future, love, career, historical change, but, on the mythic level, through the use of Biblical references Lawrence also portrays her as a prophetess who can lead us out of the wilderness to the Promised Land - just as Joyce portrays Bloom as another Ulysses (76)

Anna Brangwen, her mother, beams a forerunner. She begins a journey into "unknown realities" but stops on "Pisgah mount, from whence she can see the rainbow, a symbol of promise" (76). She is no longer a "traveller surging forward" but she is devoted to her daughter who will continue the journey into the unknown. This mythic dimension of the novel adds a sense of timelessness to a novel that is very historically situated. Just like Joyce situating Ulysses on a specific day, but highlighting universal themes through the mythic parallels with The Odyssey, Ford argues Lawrence is doing the same thing by using the Bible.

"The Childhood of Ursula" by William Walsh

Walsh argues that Ursula's childhood is determined by Will's over-possessive love for her. There is some unfulfilled need in Will, and a need to be recognized and affirmed, which he turns to Ursula to fulfill. The roles between child and father are reversed because Will's love is dependent and Ursula's is protective (85) As a result "the relaxed rhythm of childhood is shattered, and the child…is jerked too early into a too sharpened awareness" (85)

Another quality of Will's love is its exclusive character "which inspires in the child a corresponding jealousy and resentment for anyone outside the magic alliance who attempts to break into it" (86) This is an important element in Ursula's character and inspires in her a kind of instinctive fear of the "grudging power of the mob" since she is an exception. She always feigns to be less than she is "for fear that her undiscovered self should be seen, pounced upon, attacked by the brutish resentment of the commonplace, the average Self" (88)

Walsh also examines the devastating effect that Will's unprovoked acts of cruelty have on Ursula and how they help to determine her future character. Walsh rightly praises Lawrence for his ability to portray a familiar domestic event "like a father's anger with his child" in a way that makes us feel "the vibrations of a deep and complex human disaster" (87)

"Lawerence's 'Carbon'" by Laurence Lerner

Lerner's essay is quite short, and it is quite clear it is part of a larger context which is left out, which makes it a little difficult to discern Lerner's point. Lerner argues that Lawrence is concerned with "carbon" but, unfortunately, what Lerner means by "carbon" must have been developed in a part of his book that was not included in this selection.

Lerner praises Lawrence's ability to outdo the realists by conveying a realistic scene as well as the unconscious processes and tensions that are going on behind the scenes. This has something to do with what he means by "carbon" but I am not entirely sure what.

"The Marble and the Statue" by Mark Kinkead-Weekes

Kinkead-Weekes's essay opens with a number of great quotes from letters that Lawrence wrote describing his writing of The Rainbow. Here is one of my favorites:

"The Laocoon writing and shrieking have gone from my new work, and I think there is a bit of stillness, like the wide, still, unseeing eyes of a Venus of Melos…There is something in the Greek sculpture that any soul is hungry for - something of the eternal stillness that lies under all movement, under all life, like a source, incorruptible and inexhaustible. It is deeper than all change, and struggling. So long I have acknowledged only the struggle, the stream, the change. And now I begin to feel something of the source, the great impersonal which never changes and out of which all change comes" (97-98)

Kinkead-Weekes also examines early drafts of The Rainbow when it was still titled The Sisters or The Weddning Ring. He provides an analysis of Lawrence's study of Thomas Hardy and its theology based on the dialectic of Law and Love and Female and Male which Lawrence sees operating everywhere and, Kinkead-Weekes argues, is the true subject of the novel. Kinkead-Weeks provides an in depth analysis of three scenes from the novel - the cathedral scene with Anna and Will, the new relationship of pure lust between Anna and Will that results from Will's experience with the warehouse girl in Nottingham, and the scene of Ursula with the horses - in terms of the dialectic from the Hardy essay.
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