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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Love-death theme in D. H. Lawrence's early novels Falk, Linda Margaret

Abstract

The thesis explores the various aspects of the love death theme in the parent-child, man-man, and man-woman relationships in four of D. H. Lawrence's early novels: The White Peacock, Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, and Women in Love. However, before this theme can be examined, it is necessary to establish, in detail, what Lawrence considers to be the underlying cultural factor determining the destructiveness in the love relationships: the Christian teaching of self-denial. Christianity has led the individual to deny his Self, his distinct personality, his instinctive individuality. He becomes a "sacrificed," "selfless" creature. Lawrence sees modern industrialism, nationalism and education as secular extensions of Christianity: in all of them,the individual no longer counts. He becomes a mere unit in the great machinery of industrialism, in the impersonal institution of nationalism, and in the education system with its falsified Truths and "vulgar authority." A "dissociation of sensibility" has taken place. Individuals have lost the capacity to respond spontaneously with the "whole" man. They have become "not me" creatures. Because modern man has denied Selfhood, the love between man and woman, which should receive first place, is frequently replaced by parent-child love. The woman cannot love and respect the weak man with the destroyed Self. In her desperate attempt to find the fulfillment that she cannot find with her husband, she turns to her children. They become the substitute lovers to which she "sacrifices" herself. By turning to her children, she humiliates her husband and thus further destroys him, as well as herself. And the children, too, become "crippled" as the result of such a parent-child relationship they feel obligated to return the sacrificial love to the parent and thereby rob themselves of love that should find expression elsewhere. Not only does the weak man fail to maintain the love and respect of the woman, but also he frequently fails to establish a wholesome relationship with other men. According to Lawrence, a man must unite with other men for the "purposive, creative activity" of building a world. The weakling has no distinct Selfhood to bring to this man-to-man friendship. In the four novels examined, the love between the man and woman is usually destructive: a form of death occurs for either the man or woman, or both. Frequently they bring a destroyed Self to the relationship and a further destruction takes place. Occasionally, the destruction in the man-woman relationship is a purgation through which the individual becomes free; through destruction he experiences are birth to a capacity for a new, spontaneous love.

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