Women in Love | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Women in Love | Chapter 23 : Excurse | Summary



The following afternoon, Ursula agrees to take a drive with Rupert. He feels all his efforts at human relationships are futile, yet he cannot stop making them. He gives her three rings: a red opal, a blue sapphire, and a yellow topaz. Ursula loves the rings but is suspicious and asks why he bought them. She tells him he should give them to Hermione because Hermione owns him. When Ursula tries them on, only the red one fits. She is happy and talkative. He is secretly angry, feeling he has accepted her "fountain of mystic corruption which was one of the sources of her being" while she has not done that for him.

He mentions he is going to Shortlands to see Hermione off and say goodbye to her forever, and this upsets Ursula. They begin to fight about Hermione, and Rupert stops the car. He calls her a fool for her needless preoccupation with Hermione. Ursula says he must return "like a dog to his vomit" to Hermione's "old, deathly way of living." Ursula gets out of the car and angrily tells Rupert he plans to marry her but to keep Hermione and other "spiritual brides in the background." He loves her "sham spirituality" because he wants the "foulness" of the sex that comes with it. Rupert knows Ursula is right and tells Ursula Hermione is his enemy whom he must bid farewell. She tells him to leave her alone and throws the rings at him, walking away.

Rupert contemplates Ursula and Hermione, feeling they both want the same "horrible fusion of two beings" in love. He wants to remain his individual self. He picks up the rings, and Ursula returns, offering him a flower. The mood shifts into ease and simplicity, and he feels full of a "hot passion of tenderness for her." Ursula is convinced he loves her but wishes he would be passionate instead of showing her the "still and frail" tenderness. They begin to drive again, both happy. Rupert feels he and the world are new.

After passing by a cathedral that was important to Ursula's parents, they take tea at the Saracen's Head. She touches his body. She feels she found "one of the sons of God ... and he had found one of the first most luminous daughters of men." A current of energy runs through them, and the sensual touch that is transcendent and gratifying for both of them. Afterward, she feels "an essential new being ... free in complete ease." As they eat and have tea, Rupert persuades her they must give up their employment and travel. They write out their resignations and begin driving again through the night. He scoffs when she asks if he will take dinner at Shortlands and suggests they sleep in the car. Stopping in a village, he mails the letters, telegrams her father she is spending the night away, and buys food.

He drives into Sherwood Forest, and they sit in the darkness. Before sleeping on the hood of the car, they make love. The narrator says that "she was to him what he was to her, the immemorial magnificence of mystic, palpable, real otherness."


This chapter's title, "Excurse," refers to the act of going on an outing as well as to a rambling, digressive mode of speech. Once again, Lawrence has created a mirror between the physical activity of the characters and their emotional or interpersonal activity. Ursula and Rupert drive through the countryside. Their conversation travels along familiar, rambling paths of what their relationship should look like, the problem of Hermione, and their perceived flaws. The emotional states of Ursula and Rupert also cling to the same well-worn routes. Rupert feels a distaste for humanity, and Ursula reacts angrily to Rupert's contradictions, hypocrisy, and smug certainty. Even in the act of presenting Ursula with three rings rather than one, Rupert conveys his characteristic indecision and ambivalence about marriage.

At the climax of their argument, Rupert stops the car, an act that signifies they are at a crucial point in their relationship. It is a moment from which they will either proceed forward or disengage entirely.

Rupert's insists Ursula should not mind his going to see Hermione off before she leaves for Italy. This is followed by his claim Ursula and Hermione are similar to each other in their "rottenness." His comment insists on an intimacy that tries to fuse individuals together. Rupert presents this as a philosophical position that he has staked out. It shows an extreme lack of common sense and even decency toward Ursula by refusing to budge on this point. After all, he has just attempted to finalize their engagement by giving her rings. Each unwilling to concede the fight to the will of the other, Ursula walks away with intentions of not returning. Yet she returns, and her peace offering of a flower to Rupert shifts everything. Like the daisies Rupert plucked in Chapter 11, this flower has the effect of replacing antagonism and complexity with simplicity and unity. Shortly after, at the inn where Rupert first submits to Ursula's passionate touch, she appears to him as "a paradisiacal flower ... beyond womanhood." The tone dips briefly back into complexity, with Ursula being unsure about Rupert's conviction they should live as homeless and jobless wanderers. When they finally have sex that night in the dark forest, each receives exactly what they want from the other.

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