Women in Love | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Women in Love | Chapter 16 : Man to Man | Summary

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Summary

Bedridden and sick nearly to the point of death, Rupert, with fury and horror, contemplates his ideas about women. To him "Woman" is the "Magna Mater," or Great Mother, imprisoning man because "all was hers, because she had borne it." He decides both Ursula Brangwen and Hermione Roddice exemplify this, as their apparent subservience is a means of control.

Gerald Crich visits and admits Diana Crich's death is nothing more than a shock. He relates how Gudrun slapped him that night. Rupert asks Gerald if he cares about his own death, and Gerald feigns indifference. As Rupert describes his theories about death, Gerald listens, concealing his own direct, personal understanding of the secrets of death. He will keep this secret with him "to the end."

Gerald says his father will die from the sorrow of Diana's loss. He has become fixated on ensuring his daughter Winifred Crich, who is exceptional and singular, is given proper care and opportunities.

Gerald contemplates the quality of Rupert's "young, animallike spontaneity of detachment." It both attracts and embitters him. Rupert proposes a "lutbruderschaft," or a blood brotherhood, between himself and Gerald. "We ought to swear to love each other, you and I ... without any possibility of going back on it," Rupert argues. Gerald declines to commit. Rupert senses Gerald is "fated, doomed, limited," and this rouses "a sort of contempt, or boredom" in him.

Rupert suggests instead of sending Winifred away to school, the Criches employ Gudrun as her teacher because both are of artistic bent. Rupert suggests Winifred might decay like Gerald's mother did unless she is shown a way to remain free from the trap of marriage and motherhood. As Gerald prepares to leave, a current of love and desire flows between the two men.

Analysis

There have been previous hints at Gerald's connection to death and alienation from the realm of love and life. These include his accidental killing of his brother and Gudrun's claim at the water party she will be the one to "deal the final blow." The narrator observes Gerald belongs "to dread and catastrophe." This idea is now made explicit as Gerald acts as an audience for Rupert's philosophizing on death. Gerald understands death and dissolution at a visceral level. He holds the secret, dark truths Rupert and Ursula are reaching toward, but he cannot or will not reveal them. Instead, he puts forth a persona of being a well-adjusted man of will and action to compensate for his powerlessness over death's claim on him.

At the same time Ursula is going through her intense hatred for Rupert, Rupert is viscerally experiencing his hatred. His hatred is not just for Ursula as an individual, but to the abstraction he labels "Woman." To him women are all alike, even those who appear to be the opposites of each other, such as Ursula and Hermione. Earlier, Rupert asserted woman has a divided and inferior will that requires submission to the perfect will of man. Now, Rupert feels female will negates the freedom of man. He envisions another version of the natural order—woman is at the top of the power hierarchy because she is the one who gives birth. Her power of creation also contains its opposite—the power of destruction. Rupert decides if he cannot get a woman to submit to his ideal of a relationship, he will attempt to corral a man into it.

Gerald's refusal to commit to a blood oath with Rupert seems to suggest he has foreknowledge his fate is otherwise and he cannot steer it with his will. Their love is communicated both through words and through their energy. But it is not acted upon because destiny—not just social norms—seems to prevent this.

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