St. Mawr | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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St. Mawr | Themes

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"St. Mawr" is an introspective story because of the omniscient narrator's insights into the characters' minds, particularly Lou's and Mrs. Witt's. On the surface the story addresses the nature of romantic relationships and their complex interactions. It also enters the metaphysical as it analyzes the nature of being for both humans and animals. D.H. Lawrence interweaves class and race differences that reach back to the days of slavery on the southern plantations of the United States where Mrs. Witt spent her childhood. St. Mawr the stallion serves as a metaphor for all these themes.

The Nature of Relationships

"St. Mawr" explores the subject of relationships between men and women. Lou and Rico's marriage has evolved from a mutual fascination and an exciting love affair to a platonic, static friendship. Rico welcomes advances from a childhood friend who still has that magical fascination for him. Lou develops romantic feelings for Phoenix who has the power and beauty that once attracted her to Rico. Mrs. Witt is torn between accepting her life alone and the attraction she has for Lewis who rejects her marriage proposal.

The very nature of human relationships defines the characters' behaviors. Lawrence uses St. Mawr the stallion and his relationships with humans as a metaphor. The stallion is beautiful and powerful, and most humans fall short when they try to tame him. The issue is not that St. Mawr is untamable but that he seems to be waiting for someone worthy of taming him. Rico is undeserving because he tries to force his will on St. Mawr. His efforts prove futile. Rico is simply the wrong match. St. Mawr laments his fate and shows no interest in female horses and brooding. He is alone much like Mrs. Witt and Lewis. Lewis decided long ago to remain alone, and a lonely Mrs. Witt stares out to the graveyard and contemplates her death. Lou is married to a man she doesn't love. She wishes to likewise be alone, away from him and away from all men to avoid becoming infatuated with the wrong man and repeating the mistake she made before when she married Rico. She briefly finds Phoenix attractive but recognizes her feelings as lust and foresees another failed relationship. St. Mawr finds his love in Texas though it is not due to the sexuality with the mares on the ranch. That comes later. St. Mawr finds a relationship with a deserving human. He needs a life with powerful control over him that still allows him to feel free in the open country of America. St. Mawr feels like himself when he is ridden bareback by a Texas ranch hand. Only then does he take an interest in the mares. Lou, Mrs. Witt, Rico, Lewis, and Phoenix must likewise find in their romantic match a person who can at once tame them and set them free. To do that they must first know themselves.

The Metaphysical Reality of Humans Versus Nature

Humans are animals, yet they build cities and societies that separate them from the natural world. This leads people to question the nature of their being and where they fit within nature. The previous owner of Lou's ranch Las Chivas worked to pipe in water from the creek in an effort to control nature. This reach for power over nature ultimately ended in futility. The delicate creek that trickled on the property was a product of millions of years of the powerful force of nature. It was meant to continue on its way and not to serve the whims of one man who wanted piped-in water for his bathtub. He cheered his success when the water came through the taps, yet the effort was far too expensive. It cost more in the resource of civilization than he could afford.

Human civilization exhausts Lou and Mrs. Witt, who hates the city of Paris. Lou travels extensively but never finds satisfaction in any of the places she visits. She always wants something different. Despite its disrepair Las Chivas appeals to Lou because of the escape from civilization it represents to her.

Lou observes St. Mawr's energy and believes that reality is more concrete in animals. They seem to live in a completely different world than humans, and she admires that about St. Mawr.

Class Struggle and Racism

"St. Mawr" examines the nature of class struggles and racist tendencies. Lou and Mrs. Witt identify with the wealthy class. Rico is poor by comparison, but he fights to fit into a wealthy society both in Lou's eyes and in the London artistic community. Lou becomes less interested in Rico as her initial infatuation cools. He doesn't quite seem worthy of her due to his social class. She finds Phoenix attractive but resists and finally decides that she could never be with him because he is a servant. She instead imagines that the perfect mate for Phoenix would be a woman of his same racial identity.

The reader can trace Lou's attitude back to Mrs. Witt, who grew up with the southern plantation lifestyle in Louisiana. She is certain that all the slaves on her plantation truly adored her and considers herself equal to them when it suits her yet superior to them most of the time. When Lewis rejects her marriage proposal, she returns to her mindset that he is a servant required to wait on her. She refuses to acknowledge Phoenix's real name Geronimo Trujillo because he is of Mexican and Navajo descent. Mrs. Witt is wealthy, but her only act of charity in Shropshire is buying beer for poor laborers who are still required to pay for each glass.

Both Lewis and Phoenix retain a sense of distance from their employers by relegating them to the simple category of employer. Lewis especially keeps his distance. He views the relationship solely as a way to earn a living and rejects the advances of Mrs. Witt who does not respect him as a man and treats him only as a servant.

The humans in "St. Mawr" see no resolution to class struggle and racism. These issues simply exist as part of the complex set of relationships that humans call civilization. St. Mawr the stallion's class status exists only from the human point of view in an uncomfortable moment when the Texas ranchers admire his purebred beauty. Class status is non-existent from the horse's viewpoint as he happily gallops through the open fields where he finally feels at home.

Religion

Lawrence uses religion throughout the story as a vehicle that connects humans to the natural world as well as a structure that governs human society. Mrs. Witt's cottage stands near a church, and the primary view for her is its graveyard. Mrs. Witt sees the church as representing not life but the finality of death. Lewis views the church as a formality of society that does not capture his true spirituality and connection with nature but is instead a place of his family who mistreated him. The older gods better represent humanity to Lou, especially the Greek god Pan, a half-human, half-animal deity in tune with the wilder side that civilization attempts to suppress. Lou admires how this wilder side is alive in St. Mawr the stallion. Her same craving for belonging in nature attracts Lou to Las Chivas to spend her life in solitude, much as a monk would live out a simple life in a monastery as a religious act.

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