Women in Love | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Women in Love | Chapter 22 : Woman to Woman | Summary

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Summary

Hermione and Ursula find themselves alone at Rupert's house, having gone there in response to an invitation to tea. The two women consider their dislike for each other. Ursula dislikes Hermione because of her inability to live outside her mind. Ursula thinks Hermione is "a priestess without belief ... suckled in a creed outworn ... a leaf among a dying tree." Hermione feels superior to Ursula, feeling Ursula is foolishly overemotional. Hermione inquires about Ursula's relationship with Rupert. Ursula tells Hermione Rupert wants to marry her but she is undecided. She doesn't want to "give herself up" to Rupert like he wants her to. Hermione is jealous, wishing Rupert wanted this from her. Ursula knows Hermione would be Rupert's slave, but Rupert doesn't want this from a woman. Hermione tells Ursula it would be a mistake to marry a "sensitive man" such as Rupert and she should marry "a man like the old heroes." She launches into an explanation of Rupert's personality and why he needs a woman who will "suffer for him." It is, she says, something she has done a great deal of. In the silence that follows, Ursula feels resentful Hermione has described what she herself wants, not what's best for Ursula. Hermione is hurt she has turned Ursula against her.

Rupert arrives and, sensing the tension, begins to make small talk. Ursula's mood hardens at his inauthenticity. Hermione says she'll spend the winter in Florence, Italy. She mentions a new school of aesthetics and lectures on Italian national policy as reasons why she is going. Rupert is antagonistic and dismissive of the issue of Italian nationalism. Claiming Hermione lived in Italy as a child and her mother died there, Hermione begins speaking in Italian.

Rupert rings for the tea, and his cat, Mino, enters. Hermione begins addressing the cat in Italian. She explains Mino was born on Rupert's birthday in Florence, inside her trash can. Ursula feels excluded from the bond between Hermione and Rupert, who she sees as "people of the same old tradition, the same withered deadening culture." Hermione defies Rupert by feeding Mino a saucer of cream from the table. Ursula decides Hermione has a permanent place with Rupert, while she does not. She takes leave and runs home, propelled by her anger at them both.

Analysis

This chapter recalls Chapter 3, the last time Hermione, Ursula, and Rupert were alone together. That meeting took place in Ursula's classroom, and Hermione was the intruder, showing up unexpected and uninvited. Much has passed, including Hermione's attempt to kill Rupert with a paperweight and the development of an intellectual and romantic connection between Ursula and Rupert. Hermione claims she is going away to Italy. However, now she makes one last effort to assert her ownership over Rupert and the superiority of her connection with him.

The connection Hermione displays to Rupert is rooted in the past. It is their shared past as well as the old ways that are now in their death throes. Mino, Rupert's cat, becomes a symbol of both their personal past and of the old world. Hermione underscores her allegiance to the old ways and the old world by speaking in Italian, which emotionally as well as literally excludes Ursula. Despite Rupert's protests, both over Hermione's treatment of the cat and his ideological dismissal of Italian politics, Hermione's will triumphs, as it always does. Hermione clasps Ursula's hand and refuses to let it go in the moment Ursula attempts to leave. This is an inauthentic and manipulative gesture meant to create the appearance she does not actually want Ursula to go. At the same time, the gesture forces Ursula to submit to her physically, if even for a moment.

Ursula's anger at Rupert stems from his weakness in the face of Hermione. Ursula suggests he is really allied with her and all he has told her about the relationship being over has been mere talk. Ursula's hurried flight away is an authentic expression of her true feelings. It provides a contrast with the inauthenticity of Hermione as well as Rupert. He demonstrates this by making small talk. He also refuses to take hold of a situation wherein Hermione was clearly pushing out Ursula, the woman he claims to love.

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