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Course Hero. "Women in Love Study Guide." April 13, 2018. Accessed September 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Women-in-Love/.

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Course Hero, "Women in Love Study Guide," April 13, 2018, accessed September 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Women-in-Love/.

Women in Love | Plot Summary

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Summary

Relationships Form

One spring morning sometime during the World War I era, the Brangwen sisters Ursula and Gudrun discuss their trepidation about marriage. They are about to attend the wedding of Laura Crich, daughter of the wealthy mine owner Thomas Crich. Gudrun finds herself attracted to Crich's eldest son Gerald, and Ursula is drawn toward Crich family friend Rupert Birkin. Ursula and Gudrun do not attend the reception following the wedding at Shortlands, the Crich estate. Gerald plays host because his father is unwell. Mrs. Crich—disheveled, absent, and apathetic—approaches Rupert, and they discuss their mutual disinterest in people. She tells him she wants him to be Gerald's friend, and Rupert recalls how Gerald accidentally shot his brother as a child. Later at the party, Rupert tells Gerald ideal human behavior is spontaneous. Gerald disagrees, saying this would lead to a rash of murders. Rupert claims Gerald's opinion means he secretly wants to be murdered.

A little later, Ursula, a teacher at the local school, finds her classroom lesson on plant botany interrupted first by Rupert and then by Hermione Roddice. Hermione is a strange aristocratic woman who has an unhealthy obsession with Rupert. Hermione makes an emotional rant about how knowledge and education cripple the soul. Rupert counters, charging her with existing only in her mind. The hatred between the two lovers makes an impression on Ursula, but she and Rupert also feel a mutual attraction. Shortly thereafter, Ursula and Gudrun walk to Willey Water, the lake at Shortlands. They watch Gerald dive naked into the water and swim in obvious solitary enjoyment. Gudrun is jealous of the male privilege that allows Gerald to do such things. Ursula tells Gudrun about Gerald's killing his brother as a boy and suggests it was not an accident, but an expression of a subconscious desire to kill. Gudrun disagrees.

The Push-Pull of the Relationships

On a train headed toward London, Gerald and Rupert discuss a newspaper editorial claiming society will soon crumble unless new values can be found. Rupert agrees about society's dire state but doesn't believe it can be fixed. He tells Gerald he is seeking to reinvent marriage in his own life. Their words and body language reveal their suppressed desire for each other. In London Gerald and Rupert socialize with a bohemian crowd at a bar, the Pompadour. They stay at the flat of Rupert's friend Julius Halliday, where both are moved by an African carving of a woman in labor. Gerald sleeps with a young woman called the Pussum, who is pregnant with Halliday's child.

Ursula and Gudrun visit Breadalby, Hermione Roddice's estate. During a weekend gathering, Rupert explains to Hermione by copying a drawing of geese, he gains an understanding of their experience that is beyond the capacity of the intellect. Hermione feels she is being destroyed. At dinner the guests perform and dance, and the attraction between Ursula and Rupert, and Gudrun and Gerald, grows. When Rupert goes to make amends to Hermione for upsetting her, she tries to kill him with a paperweight. Rupert escapes and walks into the woods, where he is comforted by the feeling of the plants on his naked body. He writes to Hermione, telling her she was right to follow her impulses and attack him, but he won't be back at Breadalby for a while.

Ursula and Gudrun witness Gerald forcing his horse to endure the awful noise of the approaching train at a crossing. They both criticize him, but he is merely intrigued by Gudrun. A little while later, the hellish bond between Gudrun and Gerald is established during a chance encounter at Willey Water. It occurs when Gerald retrieves her sketchbook, which has fallen into the lake. On an island in the middle of the millpond above Willey Water, Ursula and Rupert discuss Rupert's loathing of humanity and distaste for the word love. Feeling hate for him, Ursula challenges his concepts until he becomes aloof and begins pulling daisies and sending them onto the water. These seem to put a spell on her. Rupert tells her he plans to drop out of society and live a solitary life at the millhouse. He convinces her to join Gerald and Hermione, who have just arrived, to view his rooms. In the house Hermione takes charge, ignoring Gerald and Ursula. She insists on Rupert accepting a gift of carpet, which he doesn't want. Ursula criticizes Gerald for abusing his horse the other day, leading to Rupert's assertion women, like horses, have a divided will. Ursula and Hermione agree they are sick of the men's insistence on analyzing life, but the two women also mistrust each other.

Soon after, Ursula visits Rupert and he explains the kind of relationship he wants, which is beyond love. They watch his male cat, Mino, swat a stray female into submission, which Rupert uses to justify his argument about male superiority. Finally, Ursula succeeds in getting Rupert to tell her he loves her.

Diabolical Connections

At the Criches' annual outdoor party one summer Saturday, teenage Diana Crich drowns in Willey Water, along with young Doctor Brindell who goes in to rescue her. Gerald dives repeatedly into the cold water looking for his sister. Rupert drains the water from the lake, but the bodies aren't found until dawn. The whole village experiences the thrill and presence of death. The day after the party, Ursula waits, madly in love, for Rupert to come to her. As the day wears on, she becomes convinced she will die and death is the next step forward. Birkin finally arrives, but Ursula is taken by hatred for him.

Bedridden with an illness, Rupert feels furious hatred toward women, who act as if they own men because they are the ones who give birth. Gerald visits, and Rupert suggests they take an oath of blood brotherhood. Gerald neither accepts nor rejects the offer. Gerald reveals his father will die from the tragedy of Diana's death and is preoccupied with securing a good future for his teenage daughter, Winifred. Rupert proposes they employ Gudrun as Winifred's governess. He says Winifred's special nature demands a special world and would be destroyed by a regular path through school and marriage.

Thomas Crich is on his deathbed, beset by dark pains linked to his antagonistic, withdrawn wife. His illness means Gerald has taken over operation of the mines. Gerald has rejected his father's values of Christian love and charity and operates the business according solely to the principle of efficiency. Having remade the business as an efficient machine, Gerald finds there is nothing more for him to do and begins to suffer an identity crisis.

Gudrun visits Shortlands to see if she would like to accept the offer of being Winifred's governess, knowing it will mean a relationship with Gerald. She and Winifred establish a rapport immediately. Winifred shows Gudrun her large rabbit Bismarck, and Gudrun and Gerald both struggle with the powerful rabbit. The rabbit wounds both Gerald and Gudrun, confirming to each they have a diabolical connection.

Complications

On a nighttime walk to Willey Green, Ursula finds Rupert at the millpond, throwing rocks at the reflection of the moon. They argue about love. Finally, they touch. He rebuffs her desire for passionate sex, and she leaves. The next day Rupert recalls the wooden carving of the African woman in labor at Julius Halliday's apartment. He muses the Africans have gone in advance of the "white races" through the process of dissolution into "sensual, mindless, dreadful mysteries." This destruction will be different for the "white races," given their origin in the snows of the north. It will be "ice-destructive knowledge" rather than directed by the burning sun. He thinks of Gerald as one who will die in the cold, a messenger of the coming "universal dissolution" by ice. Frightened, he turns toward love and decides to marry Ursula. Going at once to her house to propose, he is received by her antagonistic father, Will Brangwen. Ursula returns home at her father's cruel insistence. She answers Rupert's proposal immediately, but accuses both him and her father of bullying her. Over the next several days, Ursula decides to get what she wants from her relationship with Rupert.

Immediately after the disastrous proposal, Rupert goes to Shortlands and finds Gerald eaten up with emptiness. To make him feel better, Rupert suggests they do jujitsu together. They wrestle naked in a communion that is blatantly sexual. Afterward, Rupert tells Gerald about the proposal. Gerald responds by telling Rupert he is unsure whether he'll ever love a woman in the way he loves Rupert. Rupert says he cannot answer for Gerald, and Gerald claims not to care what happens in life as long as it fulfills him.

Attracted by the prospect of having her own studio, Gudrun accepts the Crich family's offer to be Winifred's governess. Winifred denies her father's impending death, and Gerald approves of this, saying one should enjoy life since one will die anyway. His comment ignites a fury of passion in Gudrun. Gerald and Gudrun bond by mocking Rupert's ideas of love. Later that day, Ursula finds herself alone with Hermione while they wait for Rupert to arrive. Ursula confides in Hermione about her relationship with Rupert and her ambivalence about marrying him. Hermione is jealous and counsels Ursula not to marry him. Ursula senses Hermione's agenda and resents it. Rupert arrives, and they take tea. Hermione says she's going to Florence for the winter before spending the rest of the visit speaking Italian to the cat. She succeeds in making Ursula feel alienated, and Ursula leaves in anger. Ursula feels Hermione and Rupert belong to each other and to the old, dying way of life.

Ursula and Rupert

On a drive through the country the next day, Rupert gives Ursula three rings. When he says he'll be going to Shortlands to say farewell to Hermione, they begin to fight about what Hermione means to Rupert. Ursula throws the rings and storms off. She leaves Rupert to contemplate how Ursula and Hermione both want a love that demands two selves merge. He wants to remain separate in love. Ursula returns, and they make up. They decide to quit their jobs and live a homeless life. They spend the night in the forest where they consummate their love.

The doctor has given Thomas Crich hours to live, and Mrs. Crich tells Gerald to leave so he won't be destroyed by his father's death. Gerald tells Gudrun life is now meaningless and he must confront his own death. Gerald and Gudrun are passionately intimate under the railway bridge. Gerald watches his father die two days later and is filled with a happiness that frightens him. Mrs. Crich is angry Thomas's corpse has a youthful look, suggesting he died unwillingly. After the funeral, Gerald is unable to stand being alone and walks to his father's grave. Then he goes to Beldover, where he slips into Gudrun's house and finds her in her bed. They consummate their relationship.

As Christmas approaches, Gerald asks Rupert if he should marry Gudrun, as he is at a point in life where he must choose a direction. Rupert expresses his conception of a perfect relationship with a man to complement his perfect union in marriage with a woman. Gerald sees marriage as an imprisonment, not a perfect union. He rejects Rupert's offer to enter into a permanent bond with him.

Ursula and Rupert visit the secondhand market in Beldover and purchase an old chair they both like. This sets Rupert off into a rhapsody about the past, which upsets Ursula. Remembering their decision to be homeless, they give the chair to a poor young pregnant couple. Ursula goes home, where Ursula's father bullies and hits her when she announces to her family she'll marry Rupert the following day. She stands up to her father, claiming his love was only ever cruelty. She leaves the family home, distraught, and goes to Rupert, who soothes her. He knows his soul is old and close to death. He feels his marriage to Ursula, whose soul burns young and bright, will be his salvation and passage into life. They marry the following day. Ursula tells Gerald he should find a happiness like hers and Rupert's by marrying Gudrun. Gerald says he was planning to invite Gudrun to come away with him to Europe at Christmas. He wants Ursula and Rupert to join them. Returning to the empty family home two days later to gather Ursula's belongings, the sisters find it frightening. They agree their parents' life is meaningless. They also agree they don't want a home, but Gudrun secretly feels a home and marriage will fulfill her.

The Denouement

Shortly before Christmas, Gerald and Gudrun depart for Europe ahead of Rupert and Ursula. An evening at the Pompadour, during which Gudrun witnesses Halliday and his friends mocking Rupert, fills Gudrun with a disgust for London.

Ursula regains a sense of reality. Rupert experiences absolute peace for the first time in his life on the overnight passage from Dover to Ostend by ship. Ursula is disappointed the world passing out the train window through Switzerland is not the new world she hoped for. Instead it reminds her of her childhood. However, she begins to get a sense of newness once they enter the snow peaks past Zurich. Ursula and Rupert arrive at the hotel in snow-covered Innsbruck, where Gudrun and Gerald are waiting for them. All are elated with the feeling of the snow, and Gudrun says it makes her feel "more than human." The following day they arrive at their final destination, the Hohenhausen valley in Tyrol. There the railroad line ends, and the valley is closed in by a wall of high, snow-covered peaks. Ursula feels she has reached a new world, but the snow soon becomes frightening and oppressive.

Ursula and Rupert leave Tyrol. Gerald becomes obsessed with killing Gudrun as the way to free himself from the spell she has on him. Gudrun is obsessed with the snow peaks and feels she will be fulfilled by reaching them. She is also growing close to Loerke, an artist at the inn whom Gerald despises. She knows a fight to the death is coming but thinks she can win. Gerald surprises Gudrun and Loerke while they picnic in the snow and punches Loerke. Gerald begins to strangle Gudrun. Overcome with disgust that he cares enough to kill her, he stumbles off into the snowy mountains, trying to reach the end. After seeing a crucifix, he falls and goes to sleep. The next morning, news of Gerald's death leaves Gudrun cold. Ursula and Rupert return to Tyrol, and Rupert questions Gudrun about the circumstances of Gerald's death. Filled with grief, Rupert sits beside his friend's corpse, which bears no resemblance to Gerald when he was alive. He regrets Gerald never entered into a permanent bond with him. But he reassures himself Ursula and he need not fear death because of their bond. Gudrun moves to Germany, and Ursula and Rupert return to the millhouse at Beldover. They continue to argue about what is possible in relationships.

Women in Love Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Gudrun and Ursula become attracted to Gerald and Birkin.

Rising Action

2 Hermione Roddice tries to kill Birkin.

3 Diana Crich dies at the water party.

4 With his father dying, Gerald suffers an identity crisis.

5 Gudrun becomes Winifred's governess.

6 Ursula and Birkin sleep together and quit their jobs.

7 Thomas Crich dies, and Gerald sleeps with Gudrun.

8 Ursula and Birkin marry.

9 Gudrun, Ursula, Birkin, and Gerald travel to Tyrol.

10 Gerald becomes obsessed with killing Gudrun.

Climax

11 As he strangles Gudrun, disgust weakens Gerald.

Falling Action

12 Gerald wanders off and dies in the snow.

13 Gudrun is emotionless at news of Gerald's death.

14 Ursula and Birkin return to Tyrol, and Birkin grieves.

Resolution

15 Ursula and Birkin return home, and Gudrun moves to Germany.

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