Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
on 3 February 2014
Having read this in my youth, when Lawrence was more appreciated than he is now, and not really getting what the fuss was about, I thought I'd give it another go. I remember finding it very difficult to understand Birkin's position, so did some reading up before hand to try and get me over the intellectual hurdles, including F.R. Leavis' book on Lawrence. Now I realise that I didn't get over the intellectual hurdles because Lawrence (and Leavis!) didn't either. The Lawrence figure in the novel, Birkin, always seems on the verge of saying something important, but he continually lapses into incoherent, extreme, or unattractive attitudes. For instance, he continually pours scorn on working class people, but at least they don't end up as a parasite like him.
Birkin is a school inspector and, in one of the better chapters, he shows that he's a good one, by explaining to Ursula, a school mistress, how to make her Botany lesson better by improving the kid's drawings in a way that increases the artistic and scientific impact. But he throws up this job to live on his private income, and drags Ursula away for some tedious ramblings on the continent. Note that Birkin doesn't actually do anything creative, he isn't an artist or a writer. As the other characters repeatedly point out, his views on large-scale intellectual & social issues are ridiculous and incoherent, so how could he be a writer? Only if he put his incoherent and useless ramblings in a novel and called it art. Birkin is a reserved character, so he sensibly avoids doing that, unfortunately Lawrence did not!
Birkin's friend, Gerald Crouch, is a mining magnate, and Lawrence tries to show that Gerald's life is meaningless because he makes his main cause in life to improve the mines by mastering technological and management procedures. Actually I think Lawrence creates such a positive picture of Gerald that he undermines his thesis! I could only think, "Good on you Gerald!", and was rooting for him throughout the book at the expense of Birkin and the sisters. Lawrence has to undermine Gerald by giving him a nasty streak - he makes the miners work too hard, he thumps Gudrun.... But some combination of Gerald's approach with that of his father, who is a Christian and forever trying to ease the lot of the miners, would make for a very attractive character who would really show Birkin up for the incoherent parasite he is, and provide a better, and quite believable, hero for the novel.
Besides the many, lengthy, obscure ramblings about such things as "dark gods" and "the evils of industry", there are too many tedious love scenes, which are even more obscure than the intellectual ramblings - I guess to avoid the censor. The censor would be likely to fall asleep, or skip, before working out what is going on, or if he did would certainly not be sexually excited, just bored to tears, and would think "the wife" or "the servant" wouldn't have the intellectual capacity or interest to follow the book.