Joined: 31 Mar 2007
|Posted: 9th May 2007, 13:58 Post subject: Bonding and Separating of Female Characters in Women in Love
|Bonding and Separating of Female Characters in Women in Love"
Women in Love, a philosophical novel by D.H. Lawrence is clearly a magnificent journey through the intellectual lives of its characters. Indeed, there is a cognitive depiction of each character throughout their relationships with one another. What's more, their dispositions are further determined through the consciousness of the other characters. As Women in Love is based wholly on human relationships, it is interesting to note a type of bonding that occurs, especially between the women. However, in some cases this bonding becomes quite detached, causing a feeling of embittered resistance towards the other. By closely examining the relationships between Ursula, Gudrun, Hermione and Winifred, this process of womanly bonding and separating will be revealed.
As the novel opens, we note a first illustration of bonding between the Brangwen sisters, Ursula and Gudrun. While Gudrun sketches and Ursula sews, they muse about marriage. As it seems, both feel a strong inclination not to. On the other hand, both feel that they would miss something of importance, should they not. Gudrun feels a strong sense of boredom claiming that "Everything withers in the bud"(Lawrence, and Ursula is in a state of inertia feeling the "active living has been suspended"(9). As the conversation on love and marriage continues, we notice a love/hate dialogue between them. Gudrun is hostile towards her "baffling" sensitive sister yet Ursula "admires" Gudrun "with all her soul." Still, she feels a sense of suppression from Gudrun. To break the tension, the girls decide to go and view a local wedding of the Crich family, giving themselves a first glimpse of their future relationships with Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. The walk they take entails a frightening episode for the girls especially Gudrun. This is emphasized by the nature of the common people and the town itself. It was like "a country in the underworld", "The people are all ghouls, and everything is ghostly" (11). Clearly both Gudrun and Ursula fear the haunting, stagnant life they currently lead in the town of Beldover. As Gudrun clings to Ursula for support, Ursula can "feel her suffering" knowing in her own heart she feels a similar fear. Although both girls share this sense of anguish, there is a strong contrast in the nature of their suffering. Gudrun suffers because she can't stand the sight of these ugly, insignificant people. Ursula suffers because she "was afraid of the depth of her feeling against the home, the milieu, the whole atmosphere and condition of this obsolete life" (11). Indeed, this last instance conveys the separation within their bond, and begins to give the reader an idea of their separate individuality.
As the novel progresses, so do our assumptions of the difference of character between Gudrun and Ursula. Gudrun is an artist, which makes her perceptions of people differ from Ursula's . Being an artist, Gudrun views other people as "complete". In her mind they become a model, something that she can imitate and capture on paper or with clay: "Gudrun watched them closely, with objective curiosity. She saw each one as a complete figure, like a character in a book, or a subject in a picture, or a marionette in a theater, a finished creation" (Lawrence, 14). This last statement reflects Gudrun's point of view. It clearly portrays her broad sense of knowledge. Gudrun is able to "know" and categorize people at face value it seems. Further, once she has decided she has them figured them out, they lack any further potential for her, therefore, they become neatly put away in her mind. Certainly, Gudrun thrives on consuming knowledge. Moreover, she lusts for power and control. We even learn this through her art, as we watch her carve tiny figures that fit in the palm of her hand. In addition, Ursula mentions that Gudrun enjoys looking at things through the wrong end of the opera glass, causing them to appear smaller than they actually are. Conceivably this contributes to Gudrun's desire for power, as smaller things are much easier to control. During the wedding, it seems that Gerald Crich has become victim to Gudrun's powerful consumption as he is "unknown" to Gudrun. Indeed, this probes Gudrun to uncover Gerald's hidden secrets, and harness his power.
Gudrun's growing relationship with Gerald Crich brings us to discuss another example of bonding that occurs between Gudrun and Gerald's younger sister, Winifred. Winifred, the dearly loved "pet" of the wealthy collier Thomas Criche is indeed a detached and demonic child. According to the wish of the dying Thomas Crich, Gudrun becomes Winifred's instructor. She eventually moves into a studio especially built for Winifred and herself. Very much like Gudrun, Winifred only pays attention to people who are worth her while. The many people that cross her path are never "real" to her, only dull and insignificant: "She would accept nothing but the world of amusement, and the serious people of her life were the animals she had for pets. On those she lavished, almost ironically, her affection and her companionship. To the rest of the human scheme she submitted with a faint bored indifference" (246).
Comparable to Gudrun, and her carved figures Winifred obtains a feeling of power over those beings that are physically smaller than her. What's more, her feelings towards Gudrun are quite profound, Winifred accepts Gudrun as they "[meet] in a kind of make-belief world" (Lawrence,246). She takes notice right away of the similar nature of Gudrun's character to her own, thus they form a bond almost immediately. The notion of this artistic bond is further ascertained through Winifred's and Gudrun's first project. Gudrun suggests they draw a portrait of Winifred's little Pekinese dog. The younger girl squeals in sardonic delight and manages to create a cruel, waggish likeness of the animal. Gudrun approves notably: "It was a grotesque little diagram of a grotesque little animal, so wicked and so comical, a slow smile came over Gudrun's face, unconsciously" (247). Here Winifred has managed to reduce the meaning of her dog's existence to nothing more than a diagram. Correspondingly Gudrun's art does much the same, diminishing the subject's reality into something small and insignificant. Clearly there is a strong bond between pupil and teacher. It is not until the question of Thomas Criche's death arises that there is a notable separation between the two. Winifred is very close to her father and although she is a child, she realizes the consequences of his illness: "..in her remoter soul, she knew as well as the adults knew: perhaps better" (299). When Winifred probes Gudrun as to whether she thinks her father will die, Gudrun is very honest and replies that he is very ill. Although Winifred knows Gudrun speaks the truth, she immediately opposes her reply, "triumphantly" mocking Gudrun. It seems that Gudrun is overwhelmed with a discomforting feeling of distance between herself and Winifred.
Another example of bonding and detaching occurs frequently between the character of Ursula and her would be rival Hermione. Like her sister at the Crichs' wedding, Ursula became attracted to Gerald's confidant Rupert Birkin, the former lover of Hermione. Indeed, just as Gudrun responds to Gerald, Birkin kindles a burning interest in Ursula. However, Birkin does not fall victim to her but evokes a very real and soulful emotion in Ursula. Unlike Gudrun's mindful perception of people and the world around them, Ursula appears oblivious to categorizing the nature of human beings. Rather than just perceiving them Ursula knows people through their emotions and her own. She is naive and perhaps innocent on the surface, but she holds a power in her unconscious that each of the other characters lack. Because she de-emphasizes the power of "knowing" she lacks the feelings of insecurity about her "self" and its existence. Therefore, unlike the others, she doesn't experience any feelings of annihilation. Ursula is a sharp contrast to the character of Hermione, who holds an insecure superficiality. In order to remedy her feeling of dissolution, Hermione wants to "know" everything intellectually and control everything, qualities that are equivalent to Gudrun's. Nevertheless, there are instances when Ursula and Hermione bond significantly. However, their repulsion and detachment from one another are just as vehement.
A first illustration of their bonding occurs in "Classroom". Unexpectedly, Birkin has come to inspect Ursula's classroom. Ursula is dreamily teaching a lesson on 'catkins' only to be interrupted by the harsh mentality of Birkin, and his profound sense of being. Hermione, still obsessively attached to her lover, has followed him on this venture. Ursula, quite intrigued with Birkin, has ended up being a spectator to one of their deep, heated rows. This chapter gives us a deeper perception of Birkin's character. As he beats down Hermione for lacking any real sensuality, his bitter and stubborn disposition is revealed. Truly this nature of Birkin attracts Ursula, but at the same time it repels her. As she probes him to explain his demonic notion of sensuality, she is let down and confused. At this point Hermione uses Ursula's and her "womanness" as an escape from Birkin's harsh accusations by prompting her to agree, "what a dreadful Satanist" he is (Lawrence, 44). It seems Birkin has lost his manliness as he feels: "The two women were jeering at him, jeering him into nothingness…….as if he were a neuter" (44). This bond between Hermione and Ursula continues as shortly after Ursula consents to an invitation to spend the weekend at Hermione's mansion. Although Hermione knows that Ursula is her rival, she, "turns with a pleasant intimacy to Ursula", and appears to be grateful for Ursula's acceptance : "Hermione looked down at her, gratified, reflecting, …" (45). Nevertheless, Ursula is eventually enraged with Hermione as the latter expertly cuts off a later developing conversation between Ursula and Birkin: "Birkin stopped short. A spasm of anger and chagrin went over Ursula" (46). Hermione, to some extent has triumphantly regained her control over Birkin and Ursula, thus the bond between the two women is cut bitingly short. Furthermore, the actual bond itself could contribute to the "woman bonding against man" motif. A universal sisterhood as it were, that appears to continue throughout the novel.
Another example of this womanly bond between Ursula and Hermione is found in the chapter entitled "Carpeting". Here, Ursula and Birkin have moved to a more significant level of their relationship. After a "courting" expedition in "An Island", Ursula decides to join Birkin to view his new living quarters. To the dismay of Ursula, the dominating Hermione has already arrived, forcing her control on her former lover's living situation. Gerald Crich is present also to offer his assistance. Eventually, all decide to take their tea down to the water and enjoy the view. Ursula begins the conversation by expressing her dislike for Gerald who, had cruelly dominated his female mare in her presence the day before. During this conversation we witness Ursula's "blood conscious" sympathy as she is able to truly feel sorry for the poor creature. Further, she argues that although animals are not human beings, they have significant feelings towards cruel treatment. Each of the others disagrees, including Hermione, who feels that it is necessary to dominate animals or "they will use us" (Lawrence, 143). Eventually, the conversation shifts to the "will" of the animal and how it is dangerous. Which prompts Hermione to reply that if we should learn to use our will, "properly, intelligibly" our problems will be solved (143). At length, this begins another heated disagreement between her and the men, and more importantly between her and Birkin who is against her every point. Ursula also begins again to dispute her point with Gerald. It seems that Ursula and Hermione have begun to bond with a certain sisterhood against the men.
This bond is subsequently demonstrated when Hermione, clearly fed up, changes the conversation and appeals to Ursula to take a walk. Looking at the flowers, the two talk of "womanly" things. As the men stay behind, Hermione and Ursula continue to be "united in a sudden bond of deep affection and closeness" (Lawrence,146). Despite the fact that both women are the antithesis of one another, they seem to agree on the idea that Birkin is far to analytical at times and, "can only tear things to pieces" in order to have a greater understanding. They continue the conversation and finally come to a kind of epiphany together, by comparing Birkin's nature to "tearing open a bud to see what the flower will be like,.." causing that nature to be destructive. (146) Perhaps Ursula is able to bond with Hermione on the notion that each man has defied her sympathetic "blood conscious" nature as well as her womanhood. Conceivably, Ursula has related herself to the female mare that was dominated by Gerald previously and was not able to gain atonement for this wrong. She relates to Hermione as the two balance together in a moment of control and domination over Gerald and Birkin. Regardless, as soon as the two women realize that they vehemently agree, each begins to distrust the other, in fact it appears that Ursula is indeed repelled by Hermione: "As soon as they were in accord, they began mutually to mistrust each other. In spite of herself, Ursula felt herself recoiling from Hermione. It was all she could do to restrain her revulsion" (147). Consequently, the bond is severed.
This last notion pertains to a final and most significant womanly bond. It is between the Brangwen sisters during the chapter "Moony". At the beginning of the chapter we note that Birkin has just returned from the south of France. There he spent an isolated vacation, not notifying anyone, even Ursula for that matter. Ursula began to lose hope in their relationship and suffered severely. She is taking a walk, mulling her whole idea of existence over in her mind when she stumbles across Birkin. As he doesn't notice her, he begins a monologue, as it were, against womankind. He begins by damning Cybele, the primitive goddess of matriarchal fertility. He furthers his resentment by throwing stones at the water, attempting to destroy the reflection of the luminous moon. As Ursula watches from afar, she begins to grow alarmed, frightened at Birkin's destructive nature. Eventually, as Birkin's stones get bigger, we see her identify and bond herself with the moon, the womanly "lunar" side of nature. As the moon's reflection splits, Ursula suffers: "Ursula was dazed, her mind was all gone. She felt she had fallen to the ground and was spilled out, like water on the earth" (Lawrence, 260) Evidently, as Birkin tries to destroy the moon, he is in fact destroying the ego and dominant female power of Ursula. Ursula, "was afraid that he would stone the moon again" so she made herself be known. Evidently, Birkin is trying to destroy something in himself, as well as in Ursula, so that they can achieve "freedom together" and share equilibrium through their relationship.
The next day involves a marriage proposal to Ursula, on behalf of Birkin. Ursula is not present, so Birkin bestows the proposal on her father. The men end up clashing bitterly. What's more, when Ursula arrives, she is clearly unable to give "them" an answer. Here, Ursula feels "bullied" into making a commitment, and refuses to reply. Immediately we notice a change in the character of Ursula. She becomes "hard and self-completed" (Lawrence, 275). Unaware of anything else around her, she is almost mockingly triumphant, retaining a hard shelled exterior. Evidently she is glowing in her own self righteousness, "radiant and pure". However she is "mistrusted by everybody", and "disliked on every hand" (275). As it were, Ursula is becoming similar to the nature of her sister Gudrun. In addition, we learn that nobody but Gudrun can relate to her in this state: "It was at these times that the intimacy between the two sisters was most complete" (275). Hence we notice their bond beginning to take place. Perhaps this bonding occurs as a result of Birkin's destruction of the feminine; the moon. Clearly, Gudrun disagrees with many of Birkin's notions, and seeks to control the masculine. Therefore, it is easy for her to lure Ursula into her world against man as Ursula's femininity is now wounded. Much like the previous bonds between Ursula and Hermione, Gudrun and Ursula are able to mutually chide against Birkin.
Ultimately, Ursula begins to miss Birkin's profound "quality of life". And it seems the more Gudrun tries to convince her of Birkin's wrongs, the more Ursula begins to retreat from her sister. Perhaps it is Gudrun's nature of finality and completeness that makes Ursula pull away: "She finished life off so thoroughly, she made things so ugly and so final" (Lawrence, 277). Indeed, Ursula begins to feel that Gudrun' philosophy of Birkin is definitely false: "This finality of Gudrun's, this dispatching of people and things in a sentence, it was all such a lie. Ursula began to revolt from her sister" (277). Hence, not only do we see their bond dissolve, we see once again their contrariety of character, perhaps to the farthest extent. In fact, we see Ursula take steps to "surrender" her complete love to Birkin. Therefore, becoming his "humble slave" of love and devotion, which is a notion that Gudrun would never consider (278). However, ultimately, Ursula refuses to become Birkin's "slave" and they achieve equilibrium.
Clearly, throughout D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love , we see an intellectual depiction of each character's relationship with others. Truly, these relationships include a significant amount of bonding. Moreover, there is a type of womanly bonding between the characters of Ursula, Gudrun Hermione and Winifred. At times this bonding creates a certain intimacy between the women, However, they soon become detached from each other reminding us of the differences in nature and the separate individualities of the women in Women in Love.