Women in Love | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Women in Love | Foreword | Summary

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Summary

In the foreword, written in 1919, Lawrence addresses the conditions and criticism surrounding the creation and reception of Women in Love.

Lawrence wrote and then rewrote the novel between 1913 and 1917, a time period that roughly coincides with the years of World War I (1914–18). The novel's action does not take place in a definite year, but Lawrence wants readers to keep in mind "the bitterness of the war" when considering the characters.

Charges of "uncleanness and pornography" were made in England against his previous novel, The Rainbow. Therefore, many London publishers refused to publish Women in Love, which Lawrence states is "a potential sequel" to that novel. In the United States, The Rainbow was condemned for its "eroticism."

In addressing this accusation of "eroticism," Lawrence describes his personal philosophy about what it means to be human. The erotic should not be condemned because it arises from "the creative soul, the God-mystery within" each human being. An individual fulfills their purpose and finds freedom only by struggling to understand "what is happening" in the world and in their soul. The end of the war has left humanity with the urgent task of finding and embracing new ways of understanding and living.

Women in Love is Lawrence's chronicle of his own struggle with himself and the world. He notes and dismisses criticisms of the novel's style, which is characterized by "continual, slightly modified repetition." Lawrence claims this style is an accurate representation of how individuals move through confusion toward insight.

Analysis

Lawrence makes clear this is a work of fiction that is nonetheless infused with the truth of his own lived experience. Circumstances have compelled Lawrence to reject the guiding values of the past and to try to fill the ensuing vacuum with new values. Part of his process was the writing of Women in Love. The format of the novel gave Lawrence numerous tools for examining his own struggle. It is expressed in the characters, the plot, the imagery and symbolism, and the philosophical claims of the characters and the narrator. The personal nature of the book's subject matter is underscored by infrequent narrative shifts from third-person omniscient into first person. These shifts give the reader the sense Lawrence, rather than obscuring himself as the author, is, in fact, speaking directly to his audience.

Like The Rainbow, Women in Love would also attract controversy because of its sex scenes and portrayal of a thinly disguised homosexual attraction between two men. The sex scenes will likely strike modern readers as more symbolic and poetic than explicit. However, the reader who keeps in mind these scenes were scandalous in Lawrence's time will better appreciate the courage of Lawrence's project. This is a novel of ideas. Lawrence's sex scenes express ideas about the movement of individuals through spiritual states of transcendence, union, separation, submission, and dominance.

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