Women in Love | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Women in Love | Chapter 6 : Crême de Menthe | Summary

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Summary

A few hours later Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin meet at the Pompadour, a café full of smoke and mirrors. Rupert introduces Gerald to a beautiful young girl, Miss Darrington, who is called the Pussum. An artist's model, she has "large dark hostile eyes," an Egyptian look, and an affected speech impediment. Gerald is immediately attracted to her "grossness of spirit" and his sense he could destroy her. Her interest in Gerald is roused when Rupert explains Gerald has fought in a war, explored the Amazon, and runs a coal-mining operation.

Julius Halliday enters the room and reacts with fear upon seeing the Pussum. She gazes at him with "an unfathomable hell of knowledge, and a certain impotence." She assures him she wants nothing from him and she won't hurt him. She turns her attention back to Gerald, who relishes her "slave-like attention" that seems to need "the experience of his male being."

Privately Gerald inquires about her living circumstances. She explains she is pregnant with a child she does not want by Julius. Julius has tried to force her to live isolated in the country yet also claims to be persecuted and burdened by her. She tells Gerald she wants oysters and begins eating them despite Julius's objections. Gerald reflects Julius relishes the state of terror she puts him in. Gerald then orders champagne and watches the Pussum eat and drink. Halliday becomes drunk on a single glass.

The Pussum remarks her one fear is black beetles. Gerald asks whether the fear is actual or metaphysical. A young man comes to the table and mocks her for claiming to not fear blood. Her response is to cut his hand open with her knife. The man overexaggerates his composure, but Julius loses his and has to be led away by a young Russian, Maxim. The Pussum remarks to Gerald all the men around her are cowards, being either scared of her or of the opinions of others.

They all load into a taxi and ride to Halliday's flat. Next to the Pussum, Gerald feels her energy, "concentrated at the base of the spine like a fearful source of power," flowing into him.

Back at Halliday's flat, the group is greeted at the door by Hasan, the Hindu manservant whom Halliday explains they found starving in the street. Gerald, viewing the man's English dress in contrast with the oblivious grin on his face, notes he is "half a savage." As Halliday berates Hasan for requesting money for underwear, Gerald's attention falls on a wooden African carving of a woman in childbirth. Its facial expression suggests "the extreme of physical sensation, beyond the limits of mental consciousness." Tea is served, and Gerald contemplates the manner in which he will secure sex with the Pussum here in Halliday's house. But when the sleeping arrangements are made, it is implicitly understood the Pussum will be with Gerald.

Analysis

The Pussum represents another kind of woman, spiritually, sexually, and practically. She provides a foil against which the other female characters may be considered. The Pussum must be considered in the light of her bohemian milieu and in terms of the symbols and imagery that accompany her appearance. She is described as Egyptian in appearance. While her speech is impeded, her eyes and her physicality are darkly powerful. She announces her only fear is the black beetle. She clearly has no scientific knowledge of the insect but nonetheless possesses a certainty it is the bringer of death. The scarab beetle was a potent spiritual symbol for the ancient Egyptians. Such beetles are noted for their habit of rolling balls of dung, containing their eggs, across the ground. This passage mimics the passage of the sun across the sky. The Egyptians associated the beetle with the rebirth out of the dark underworld (and therefore with the sun gods).

Gerald notes her attention to him is slave-like, despite her fearless aggression toward the other men. Her request for oysters and champagne signify her sexuality, which she wears freely. She is juxtaposed against Gerald's contemplation of the carving of the African woman in childbirth in Halliday's flat. This suggests the knowledge of "extreme physical sensation" beyond the mind's limits is the province of the Pussum. She is herself pregnant with a child she did not will but rather received and created within herself, free of her mind's interference. She has an unconscious allegiance to the dark forces of creation (and violent destruction). The Pussum seems to embody the utterly sensual knowledge that pale, theoretical Rupert posited as the means of fulfillment in Chapter 3.

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