Women in Love | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Women in Love | Chapter 19 : Moony | Summary

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Summary

Rupert goes to France for a while, leaving Ursula to feel hopeless, indifferent, and resentful of human beings. One night she walks to Willey Green, feeling because she is going to die, she can accept this and find freedom and "a new union elsewhere." The moon overhead seems like a presence that is watching her. She is frightened. She walks to the millpond and realizes Rupert has quietly returned from France when she sees him by the water. He is cursing Cybele, an ancient mother goddess, and throwing rocks on the pond. The rocks make the moon's reflection fly up "white and burst through the air" before "regathering itself insidiously ... calling back the scattered fragments."

Ursula goes down to Rupert and tells him she feels unlovable and unfulfilled. She tells Rupert she wants him to "serve [her] spirit." He says he wants her to give him her spirit, "that gold light which is you." Ursula objects he wants her to serve him but is unwilling to serve her. She tells him there are many other women who will be "a mere thing for" him. He replies he wants her to trust herself so much she is able to drop her "assertive will" and "let [herself] go." He notes a war of words will never solve their disagreement. She counters he, the "preacher," is the one who cannot do this. They fall into stillness and peace. Finally, he says he loves her and doesn't want to discuss it any further. He kisses her softly, feeling their togetherness in "happy stillness" is "heaven." She moves passionately toward him and he urges her into stillness. She leaves.

The next day, Rupert thinks perhaps he was wrong to refuse Ursula's passion. He recalls the statue of the African woman at Julius Halliday's apartment in London. This statue has the "purely sensual" knowledge Rupert himself lacks. He contemplates how the African race has already gone through the process of losing hope. He says Africans have lost connection to life and move through dissolution and into the "sensual, mindless, dreadful mysteries." The "white races" now face this task. But their experience will be different. They have "the arctic north behind them" and must "fulfill a mystery of ice-destructive knowledge." The "sun destruction" controlled the experience of the Africans. He wonders if Gerald Crich is "a messenger, an omen of the universal dissolution into whiteness and snow ..." He wonders if Gerald is "fated to pass away in this ... one process of frost knowledge, death by perfect cold." Frightened and tired by this prospect, Rupert decides to pursue the path of freedom and love.

He goes to Ursula's house, seized with urgency to ask her to marry him. He is received by her father, who Rupert immediately judges as a meaningless, undeveloped person. Ursula is at the library, and Rupert tells her father he came to ask Ursula to marry him. The tension between the men grows. Brangwen tells Rupert he would "rather bury [his daughters] than see them getting into a lot of loose ways such as you see everywhere nowadays." Rupert tells Brangwen, who has worked himself into a rage, that "they're not to be buried." Brangwen counters Ursula will do what she wants to, regardless of him.

Ursula gets home, and her father tells her Rupert came to propose. This makes her even more distant and vague. In turn Rupert grows bitter about his mistake, and her father grows angrier. Mr. Brangwen tries to bully Ursula into giving an answer, but she infuriates him by refusing to. Rupert leaves, telling Ursula they will discuss the matter later. Ursula, shaken, closes herself off to everyone but Gudrun. Gudrun advises Ursula it would be impossible to be married to Rupert because of his domineering nature. They mock him, calling him a "Lloyd George of the air," a reference to a British statesman. Gudrun's swift, final judgment of Rupert leads Ursula to draw away from her and toward thoughts of Rupert again. She knows they want two different things from love. She decides she will fight him for the "unspeakable intimacies" and "complete self-abandon" she wants from him.

Analysis

It is significant the reunion between Ursula and Rupert occurs at the millpond under the moon. Rupert is symbolically attempting to destroy the moon by throwing rocks at its reflection. However, he cannot, because the reflection keeps reassembling itself, despite his furious efforts. The moon is a traditional symbol of the feminine, and Rupert is outright cursing an ancient mother goddess. This symbolic scene conveys the futility of Rupert's attempt to live without a female counterpart. The scene also illustrates the unreal nature of his conception of the female. His conception of the feminine is merely a reflection of his own self-hatred and has little to do with how women actually are. Ursula feels the effect of his actions as if she were connected to the reflection he rages against, underscoring the connection between the moon and the feminine. This is Rupert's final rage against womankind, the resolution of the hatred that overcame him following Diana Crich's death.

Their argument continues, with Ursula demanding the use of the word love from Rupert. His rage exhausted, he finally concedes to her demand. He knows their contention over the word love is really an argument over a symbol, not the thing itself, and this only produces confusion. It is with this knowledge Rupert concedes Ursula the symbol love she craves. He hopes to move beyond semantics (the meaning of words) to an actual resolution through shared experience.

Rupert moves from contemplation of the symbolic moon to his contemplation of the symbolic statue of the African carving he knows from Julius Halliday's flat. Rupert connects the feeling he gets from this statue to his theory about the end of the world. He also connects this feeling to his half-formed conception he seeks something in his relationship with Ursula the African woman seems to embody. The statue suggests to Rupert a mode of being that transcends the mind. She is beyond words. She is firmly physical and sensuous and seems to have discarded every trace of her personal ego and undergone a transformation into something else. This is the transformation Rupert has been trying to describe to Ursula. Here, he connects this transformation not to his individual fulfillment, but to racial destiny. The white races will undergo the ego death Rupert, contemplating the statue, feels the African race has already undergone, long ago. Rupert's symbol for the fulfillment of the white race's destiny is none other than Gerald Crich. Crich has been associated with imagery of northern whiteness, as well as with death, from the novel's opening. Gerald is also associated with the white man's modern industrialism, which destroys humanity in the name of efficiency. Rupert's thoughts here contain yet another suggestion Gerald, like the white race he symbolizes, is headed for a fate involving destruction by cold. Rupert turns away from these frightening thoughts. He returns to the idea of union with a woman, with Ursula, as a solution for his persistent anxieties about the destruction of humanity.

In asking Ursula's father for permission to marry her, Rupert is doing something very traditional. However, the gulf in values between the two men turns this traditional gesture of respect into an occasion for antagonism. It so upsets Ursula she neither rejects nor accepts the proposal, but flees in self-respect. The distance between Rupert and Mr. Brangwen is symbolic of the distance between those who hold the old values and those who seek a new way. However, Mr. Brangwen is only one end of the spectrum of the old values. His values are superficial, unlike Thomas Crich's, which are based on a deeply felt allegiance to Christian love and charity. Mr. Brangwen exemplifies the worst type of conservatism, which is purely reactionary and defensive. To place him in the context of Rupert's metaphor, he is one of the rotten fruits on the tree of humanity that refuses to drop away.

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