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Women in Love

Women in Love

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Published by Andreea Ungureanu

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Published by: Andreea Ungureanu on Jul 09, 2013
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黃埔學報
 
第五十一期
 
民國九十五年
 
155
 
WHAMPOA - An Interdisciplinary Journal 51(2006) 155-161
 
Women in Love
:the Male / Female Relationships
劉煌城、張簡麗淑
 
Department of Foreign Languages, ROC Military AcademyAbstract
The gender problem has entrapped the male and the female into the struggle for subjectivity, the battle for survival, a war for supremacy. The metaphor of “mutual hellishrecognition,” in the chapter entitled “Rabbit,” illustrates D. H Lawrence’s critique of the war  between male dominance and the female counter-attack. In an open text like
Women in Love,
 the writers undo some contradictions and disclose Lawrence’s assertion of establishing theequilibrium Male / Female relationship.
Keywords:
gender, subjectivity, male dominance, equilibrium
Women in Love
 begins with adiscussion about marriage between Ursulaand Gudrun. For Gudrun, a traditionalmarriage is an “experience of some sort”
 
thatcould relieve her boredom and ultimately provide self-fulfillment
1
. Her sister, Ursula,however, questions this and asserts that theexperience of marriage could be “the end of experience” (2). These two women are notsearching for romance as their 19
th
-centurycounterparts did but instead for authentication and escape from a barren and outmoded life. This change in attitude becomes evident when Ursula contradictsher sister who utters dissatisfaction withmodern life because “Everything withers inthe bud” (2). Unwilling to define herself according to traditional patriarchalguidelines, Ursula decides that marriage is“more likely to be the end of experience” (1).“The questioning nature of Gudrun’s and Ursula’s opening dialogue,” observes NigelKelsey, “accumulates in intensity as thequestions themselves accumulate; definitefeelings of emptiness, fear and loss”(141-42).The dialogue builds to an essential and radical question, one that later became prominent in early feminist thought: is thedesire for marriage essential to femalenature or a social construction? In theabsence of obvious choices they can onlyanchor their knowledge in a fear of thelesser known. Maria Dibattista suggests, thischapter “Sisters” centers on the radicalisolation of modern woman, isolated frommarriage and its central affirmations” (72).Troubling images of marriage are illustrated in the portrayal of Gerald’s mother and  prove what Ursula doubts that the nature of marriage is problematic. Gerald’s mother is locked in a marriage of “utter interdestruction” that shatters her mind and her husband’s vitality, and she submits tohim “like a hawk in a cage” (209). Mrs.Crich appears here as living proof of Ursula’s fears that marriage can be the end 
 
156 
 
黃埔學報
 
第五十一期
 
民國九十五年
 
of experience for a woman.The radical strategies to combat thisfear becomes a marked trait of Ursula’scharacter shown in her frequent demand thatRupert Birkin tell her he loves her, and inher desire for Birkin but her fears of yielding“her very identity” to him, knowing that hecould accept love only on his terms (178).The symbolic image of the drowned couple provides another negative image of unionand offers evidence of how one partner in amale / female relationship may dominateand possibly destroy the other. To Ursula,Birkin seems “a beam of essential enmity, a beam of light that did not only destroy her, but denied her altogether, revoked her wholeworld. She saw him as a clear stroke of uttermost contradiction, a strange gem-like being whose existence defined her ownnon-existence” (190). To echo Ursula’sstruggle, Birkin insists that “the old way of love seemed a dreadful bondage” (191).His anger over the state of marriage matchesUrsula’s, and in response he also embraces aspecific “conjunction where man had beingand woman had being, two pure beings,each constituting the freedom of the other”(191). He desires impersonal relations between earnest individuals. Lawrenceasserts a similar philosophy in his letter toCatherine Mansfield:I am sick and tired of personality in everyway. Let us be easy and impersonal, notfor ever fingering over our own souls, and the souls of our acquaintances, but tryingto create a new life, a new common life, anew complete tree of life from the rootsthat are within us. (
 Letters
1: 359)Birkin’s theory of “star equilibrium” takesits thematic cue directly from Lawrence’sown dream of a healthier, less anxiousexchange between lovers and friends.Birkin persuades Ursula to establisha union where each commits to the other while maintaining the integrity of the self.Ursula, however, prefers her own approachto human affection, and tries to provokeverbal declarations of love from Birkin.Ursula asks Birkin so often to confirm thisspiritual dimension of their relationship thatBirkin calls the question her war-cry: “’ABrangwen, A Brangwen,’--and old  battle-cry.--Yours is ‘Do you loveme?--Yield knave, or die’” (
WL
, 244).Despite her yearning to be loved and her insistence on the supremacy of love over theindividual, Ursula is fearful that she will beconsumed by him, and she sometimes becomes aggressive in her resistance to suchenvelopment. Lawrence cast Ursula as themodern woman with grasping qualities of the modern cultural degeneration. WhenBirkin comes to propose to Ursula and endsup doing so with her father in the room,Ursula-- flustered, “driven out of her ownradiant, single world” by the unexpected  proposal--cries out to both men, “whyshould I say anything?. . . You do this off your 
own
bat, it has nothing to do with me.Why do you both want to bully me?” (253).Her contrariness about whether she is theowner or the owned is succinctly illustrated  by a single sentence from her considerationof Birkin’s proposal: “Let him be
her man
 utterly, and she in return would be hishumble slave--whether he wanted it or not”(258).Ursula tries to find the balance thatallows her to be so close to Birkin but notwith the sacrifice of her independent soul.
 
 
劉煌城、張簡麗淑
Women in Love
:the Male / Female Relationships
157 
 
This struggle to achieve some equilibrium presages her modern womanhood. In
Womenin Love
, Leo J. Dorbad found,“Balance--sexual or otherwise--is a keyfactor in any critical discussion of the novel.Some form of balance is indeed the primarygoal of every character” (96). Not onlyUrsula and Birkin, but also Gerald and Gudrun encounter the challenge of searchingfor balance in a male / female relationship.Gerald, for example, is trapped in adeep-seated perversion that might be related to a painful childhood memory--hisaccidental killing of his brother. UnlikeBirkin, Gerald does not entertain loftythoughts of spiritual or philosophicaldevelopment and derives most of his pridefrom his precarious position as an industrialmagnate. He blindly dedicates himself tothe continuous mechanization of his family’scoal mines. He takes over the prestigious position from his rapidly aging father. ButGerald displays none of his father’sVictorian benevolence. Instead, he sees hisworkers as damned spirits, mere robots.Ironically, he establishes “the veryexpression of his will, the incarnation of his power, a great and perfect machine, a system,an activity of pure order, pure mechanicalrepetition, repetition and infinitum, henceeternal and infinite” (220). Such anindividual, flagrantly ignoring the intrinsicdignity and personality of others, cannot possibly hope to achieve true connectionwith another human being, even in mattersof simple friendship. A corrupted soulfrom the start, he prevents himself fromachieving what Birkin prizes most: freedomfor two.Gudrun possesses a degree of creative potential, a sincere desire to lend her world aspiritual significance beyond the merelysensuous side of life. But even her artisticendeavors, especially her little figurines, bear the ominous mark of her excessivewillfulness, her tendency toward manipulation and possessiveness. “From theoutset of their relationship”, observesCharles Rossman, “Gerald and Gudrun arelocked in a struggle for mastery over oneanother” (277). Thwarted and desperate, thecombined wills of Gerald and Gudrun soonmanifest themselves as an extreme lust for  power and begin to usurp what littletenderness, love, and humanity they share.The terms of their unspoken contract are, asLawrence says, diabolical:The bond was established between them,in that look, in her tone. In her tone, shemade the understanding clear--they wereof the same kind, he and she, a sort of diabolic freemasonry subsisted betweenthem. Henceforward, she knew, she had her power over him. Wherever they met,they would be secretly associated. And he would be helpless in the associationwith her. Her soul exulted. (114)Mutual repulsion between Gerald and Gudrun is an extremely degrading process. Nothing less than pure challenge and needless viciousness, Gerald and Gudrun’sdoomed relationship is rooted in infected ground.Gudrun once declared her supremacyover Gerald when she slapped him and said that she would strike the last blow in their relationship as well as the first. Gerald’sdominance over the maze and miners prompts the reader to conclude that Gudrunwill not win her battle for supremacy.

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