“Women in love” (D. H. Lawrence) is one of the most profound and rewarding of Lawrence’s novels. Despite the fact that this novel was created quite soon, in the early of twentieth century, Women in love “was slow to make it ways and it was only in 1950s and 1960s that it came to be widely recognized as a classic”. Wearing the title “women in love”, however, this well-known novel does not simply concern itself with just women in love, but “two violent love affairs are the plot’s focus” and “the drama of the novel has clearly to do with every sort of emotion, and with every sort of spiritual inanition. Gerald and Birkin and Ursula and Gudrun are immense figures, monstrous creations out of legend, out of mythology; they are unable to alter their fates, like tragic heroes and heroines of old”(D.H. Lawrence's Women in love: a casebook, D.Ellis,p.27). In this essay, we will focus on three main characters, namely Gerald Crich, the son of the owner of the local coal-mine and the sisters Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen. Specifically, the psychological development as well as internal fighting of each character is going to be analyzed. Notwithstanding, beside the love affairs relating to the work, other interesting points and stylistic devices used in given chapters are going to be articulated.
Gerald, the son of the owner of the local coal-mine, was one of the four main characters in the story. He presented in the novel as an industrialist. Right from the first time appeared in chapter 9; he caused opposite opinions to Gudrun and Ursula. He appeared as a man of picturesqueness in the eyes of Gudrun. He was so good looking as described in the novel “well set and easy, his face with the warm tan showed up his whitish, coarse moustache, and hid blue eyes were full of sharp light as he watched the distance”. However, the way he treated his Arab mare remarkably annoyed Ursula. His actions right from the very first part of the novel seemed to diversify the feelings of the two girls Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen. He was thought to be “a fool, and a bully” as in the view of Ursula. This is just the initial circumstance of the story in which the three main characters are introduced. In the following chapters, the characteristics of all characters are lively and well illustrated. Latter, Ursula fell in love with and married Rupert Birkin, a school inspector, while Gudrun and Gerald started a love affair.
As the story continued, in chapter XXX, all four characters went on a holiday together to the Swiss Alps. Ursula and Rupert decided to go on to Italy, leaving Gudrun and Gerald to stay on at the hotel. And this was the situation in which the characteristics of Gerald as well as Gudrun are entirely portrayed. The climax of the story is here, in the conversation between Gerald and Gudrun. There seemingly has been an invisible contest between them that suffocated both Gerald and Gudrun. They had a vital conflict which frightened their souls. Each of them tried to find some solutions to get free from their own destiny. From this, it is clearly seen that Gerald Crich and Gudrun are both Lawrence’s portraits of the modern individuals. They tried in vain to get out of the appearance that they must show in this era, because during World War I in class ridden England, people were assumed to be as they appeared. Indeed, “Women in Love” is purely destructive: it is grimly fateful and misanthropic. However, it's not primarily by virtue of what the characters have to say for themselves that “Women in Love” is a great novel; what's extraordinary is how, again and again, people act and speak from somewhere which is unknown and frightening to them. Both Ursula and Gudrun are shocked to discover the violent loathing for their family and past relations they express. Gerald makes his move on Gudrun like a man lost, without choice or volition.
He and Gudrun had unstopped conversation in which they ask again and again to question their love. All the speeches seemed to come from conscious and subconscious minds that both of them could not understand. All the questions and answers are vague and around. Nonetheless, it showed that both of them were trying to figure out what they were really looking for. They were struggling to find fulfillment in the modern world for themselves. Gundrun questioned Gerald and Gerald doubted himself about his love for Gudrun, about the purpose of that relationship. Being asked by Gudrun “how much do you love me?” Gerald stiffened himself against her. His heart perhaps got stuck by the question of his beloved. He did not give her a straight answer but he asked again “how much do you think I do?”. The cold and flippant voice of Gudrun gave the feeling of deep hurt to Gerald’ heart. He appeared to be killed deeply in heart by the word “no love” of Gudrun. He came to desperateness but tried to keep cold passion of anger when Gudrun talked about the first time they met each other. He miserably realized that Gudrun was trying to torture him by her words. He fell into the state of coldness, fear and despair. His strong desire to get free of Gudrun, free of her words caused him angry. He whispered “if only I could kill her”. That speech was of great misery turning into great anger and desperateness. He even got into deeper anger when he heard Gudrun impertinent voice “Ah, I don’t want to torture you”. His veins went cold, he was of sensibleness. His soul seemed to be entirely destructed by Gudrun “the darkness seemed to be swaying in waves across his mind, great waves of darkness plunging across his mind. It seemed to him he was degraded at the very quick, made of no account”. Meanwhile, Gudrun senselessly went on torturing Gerald. That put wearingness on him, “he lay still in this strange horrific reeling for some time, purely unconscious…he was all but unconscious”.
Even when Gudrun latter tried to attract him, there was no change in him. However, “at last he was given again, warm and flexible…his passion was awful to her, tense and ghastly, and impersonal like a distruction, ultimate”. That really hurt Gudrun, she felt as if “being killed” by him. Next morning, the desire for freedom and comfort brought some new ideas to Gerald. He stated to himself “I can be free of her”, yet doubted whether he would be able to be “self- sufficient” or not. “It seemed to him that Gudrun was sufficient unto herself, closed round and completed”. He by then realized and admitted something about Gudrun “it was her right, to be closed round upon herself, self- complete, without desire”. And then he knew that “it only needed one convulsion of his will for him to be able to turn upon himself also, to close upon himself as a stone fixes upon itself, and is impervious, self- completed, a thing isolate”.
Nonetheless, this realization brought him to a terrible chaos. He knew that he must be “perfectly free” of Gudrun, leave her. “His brain turned to nought at the idea. It was a state of nothingness”. He wondered whether he might become “just in different, purposeless, dissipated, momentaneous”. His ideas were convulsive. The wound “strange, infinitively- sensitive opening of his soul, where he was exposed, like an open flower, to all the universe, and in which he was given to his complement, the other, the unknown, this wound, this disclosure, this unfolding of his own covering, leaving him incomplete, limited, unfinished, like and open flower under the sky, this was his cruelest joy”. Such a set of opposite emotions and ideas obviously suffocated and nearly “killed” his soul. What should he do at that time? Such a pain deep in his mind and his soul tired him up. He must get out of that situation. His open heart was tortured by Gudrun. By then, they continued to quarrel each other. The very last statement of Gerald “one day…I shall destroy you as you stand looking at the sunset; because you are such a liar”. He was too tired and desperate. He left her, “he trembled in his most violent accesses of passionate approach to her, trembling with too much desire”. His strong mind then made him determinate to leave her. Also, artistically, it is clearly seen that the craftsmanship of D. H. Lawrence made the story even more attractive. He chose to tell the story from the third person point of view. This made the story more realistic and believable, convincing the reader of the instability and every changing attitude of the characters. Gerald as strong and open as he was, chose the way to leave Gudrun to free himself and his beloved, though his heart, his mind experienced various sufferings, desperateness.
However, Gerald Crich is only one half of Lawrence’s portrait of the “modern individual”. The other half is Gudrun Brangwen. In the characterization of Gudrun Brangwen, Lawrence depicted her as a flighty, idealistic artist. Of the two sisters, she had more opening character, was more extroverted and preferred the bohemian life. She was somewhat rebellious in nature, and questions the rights and liberties the norms of society allowed her, which was totally different from her sister, Ursula. In 'Coal Dust', we saw the dichotomy in their opinions. Gudrun was enamored and captivated by Gerald's performance on the horse as much as Ursula was repulsed by it: “In spite of her ironic smile, Gudrun liked to look at him”. Gudrun loved Gerald for the same while Ursula was livid at his treatment of the horse and hated him: “Gudrun was looking at him with black-dilated, spellbound eyes”. This highlighted another personality difference - Ursula was sensitive of other people's feelings and respected them, even if they were below her level, while Gudrun craved power and controlled over every possible being - man or horse. This is probably why Gudrun was fascinated by Gerald - because he embodied her innate quest for power over others. Ursula was diametrically opposite - she abhorred this. If we take a deep look in the details of this chapter, we will understand why Gudrun’ response to Gerald’s performance on the horse is more complex and ambivalent.
As being considered, Gudrun was rebellious, and she preferred domination. Not to mention, there was sexual symbolism in the way Gerald controlled his mount- “at last he brought her down, sank her down, and was bearing her back to the mark”- and there was certainly an element of macho exhibitionism in his display of strength in front of the two women. That was the reason why whereas Ursula was simply disgusted by the spectacle, Gudrun was sexually aroused by it, almost in spite of herself. The mare “spun round and round on two legs, as if she were in the centre of some whirlwind. It made Gudrun faint with poignant dizziness, which seemed to penetrate to her heart.” “Poignant” was a transferred epithet, which logically belonged to the suffering of the horse; its rather odd application to “dizziness” expressed the turmoil of Gudrun’s emotions, and called attention to the root meaning of poignant- pricking, piercing – which, with “penetrate” in the next clause, gave a powerfully phallic emphasis to the whole description. A couple of pages later, Gudrun was described as “numbed in her mind by the sense of indomitable soft weight of the man bearing down into the living body of the horse: the strong, indomitable thighs of the blond man clenching the palpitating body of the mare into pure control” The whole scene was indeed prophetic of the passionate but mutually destructive sexual relationship that would develop later in the story between Gudrun and Gerald.
On love, Gudrun seemed to give the impression of commitment to Gerald even though she is quite unsure of herself. At first, she did display honesty in all that she felt; however, “as they grew more used to each other, he seemed to press upon her more and more”. He seemed to over dominate her, to drop “his respect for her whims and her privacies, he began to exert his own will blindly, without submitting to hers”. We have to reaffirm that Gudrun is a woman who craves power and control over every possible being. Therefore, his male dominance to be a shell overlying a crippling inner emptiness and lack of self-awareness eventually inspires revulsion in Gudrun. These also made her wonder whether he loved her or not. She asked him continuously the same question that if he loved her. No matter the answer would be, she still drove him in her ways, denied his love:
“And you never will love me, she said finally, Will you? – There was a diabolic coldness in her, too much to bear.”
“ Won’t you say you’ll love me always? She coaxed. – Say it, even if it isn’t true- say it, Gerald, do”.
She also came across as the kind of woman who wished to control and wield power over the man she was attracted to. She also knew it was easy for her to achieve this, considering her beauty and (seemingly convincing) confidence. She treated Gerald in her ways, with all the flippancy, impertinence and contempt. She tortured the open heart of him even as he turned to her. Until Gerald was fed up, “he got into bed, and lay like a man suddenly overcome by drunkenness, the darkness lifting and plunging as if he were lying upon a black, giddy sea. He lay still in this strange horrific reeling for some time, purely unconscious”, she slightly came to comfort him, which somehow showed that she knew the way to dominate, to wield power over him as well as the modernization of her. By her charm, she comforted Gerald, making him listen to her. “She pressed her breast against his shoulders; she kissed his shoulder, through the sleeping jacket”. “Her warm breath playing, flying rhythmically over his ear seemed to relax the tension. She could feel his body gradually relaxing a limbs, his muscles, going over him spasmodically”.
However, their relationship could not be rescued. The final conflict, as well as climax was when they were in the mountain. As for Gudrun, the twilight was so beautiful, “it was a delirium”. The sun grasped all the notice of everything. It sank crimson and disappears. “Then in the east the peaks and ridges glowed with living rose, incandescent like immortal flowers against a brown-purple sky, a miracle, whilst down below the world was a bluish shadow, and above, like an annunciation, hovered a rosy transport in mid-air”. The scene was so imposing that she felt like she was very small. And the sun seemed to be a symbol of power. It had all the strength to paint a sky in its own color, to make any other things to be under dominated. She seemed to envy of it. For her, not being able to wield power over the object of her affection would be like a failure. Therefore, she decided to break up Gerald. She was probably as confused as Ursula, but in different matters - regarding why she was where she was rather than who she was. Lawrence treated his characters with an emotional, linguistic and psychological intensity and delicacy that transmitted the ideas, problems and feelings which Lawrence struggled continually to explain.
Above all, Both Gerald and Gudrun were fundamentally destructive, nihilating individuals. They were both creatures of the mind, of idealism, and of futurity, but of the two, Gudrun represented destruction in its purest form.
In “Women in love”, besides plotting two interesting love stories of the two Brangwen sisters, D. H. Lawrence successfully characterized the personalities and characteristics of the two girls. While Gudrun belonged to a type of girls who were “cold and hard” and “quiet” in appearance but strong and deep in internal feelings, Ursula was a very sensitive and emotional girl who would not hesitate expressing her feelings towards things “being outside herself”. And all of these characteristics of Ursula were clearly characterized in Chapter 9, “Coal Dust” through her strong, emotional and seemingly excessive reactions towards Gerald’s behaviors and treatment to his mare.
The author expertly chose the time of the late afternoon, which is often believed to be the period of the strongest emotions and feelings in the day, in a picturesque place as the theme of the situation where all of Ursula’s characteristics were expressed. Going home in soft coal dust after a hard day in school, waiting to cross the railroad in the noise of the locomotive made Ursula frustrated and unable to control her emotion when watching Gerald’s mare rebounded like a drop of water from hot iron as the little locomotive emerged on the highroad. She shouted in tears: “The fool” and wondered “Why doesn’t he ride away till it’s gone by?” when seeing Gerald forced his mare back. It seemed that her emotional reaction was totally in contrast with her sister’s. Gudrun, instead, enjoyed looking at Gerald “with black-dilated, spellbound eyes”. The difference came more clearly when the locomotive struck like horrible cymbals that made the mare “convulsed herself utterly away from the horror”. While Gudrun was fainted with poignant dizziness, Ursula’s emotion seemed to be on top of climax. She cried at top of her voice which was completely outside herself: “No -! No-! Let her go! Let her go, you fool, you fool-!” The powerful and naked voice was kept on going with the hatred aimed towards Gerald when Ursula saw the mare bleeding. The contrast between the two Brangwen sisters once again made Ursula’s sensitiveness stand out. Gudrun for whom the world reeled and passed into nothingness, was “quite hard and cold and indifferent” while Ursula was in the frantic opposition and hatred of Gerald. The author’s masterful craftsmanship of characterizing contrasts made Ursula’s characteristics and personalities clearer and clearer through the situation. Ursula appeared as a soft-hearted girl with great sensitiveness and emotion who never found it hard to express her feelings towards something absolutely outside herself. Her compassion for the mare also spoke for her love of freedom and the equality in treatment towards every creature. The conversation between Ursula and the gate keeper made that clearer. Still in tears, Ursula asked in hot and overbearing voice “why could not he take the horse away, until the trucks had gone by?” and considered Gerald as a fool and a bully with unmanly torture to a sensitive creature like a mare. She also spoke her mind of letting the mare to the place where she would get more decency. Her wish for a mare to be in a decent place was also for humans in the period of war that time.
With the author’s masterful use of stylistic device of contrast, Ursula did really star in a messy situation with soft black sky of coal dust, noisy locomotive and horrible fight between Gerald and his mare beside a cold and hard Gudrun. Ursula, an emotional girl, spoke her mind about things completely outside herself to express her desire for freedom, equality in treatment for every creature and a decent, peaceful place to live in the war time.
To sum up, “Women in love” by D. H. Lawrence had notable achievements. In respect of content, the author had already succeeded in analyzing the psychological development of main characters. Besides, the inner emotions and thoughts of each character Ursula, Gudrun and Gerald were figured out with detailed descriptions, mixed with some emblematic stylistic devices used fluently. In artistic field, the whole novel was based on the ceremonial structure but “ its texture is rich, lush, fanciful, and, since each chapter is organized around a dominant image, rather self-consciously symbolic or imagistic; action is subordinate to theme”(J.C. Oates, Lawrence’s Götterdämmerung). Moreover, some other interesting points have been exploited elaborately so as to emphasize the relationship between main characters as well as indicating the author’s meditation as stated by J.C. Oates “love and marriage as the only possible salvation for twentieth-century man and dramatizes the fate of those who resist the abandonment of the ego demanded by love: a sacrificial rite, an ancient necessity”.