Friday, August 31, 2012
"Birkin was looking a Gerald all the time. He seemed now to see, not the physical, animal man, which he usually saw in Gerald, and which usually he liked so much, but the man himself, complete, and as if fated, doomed, limited. This strange sense of fatality in Gerald, as if he were limited to one form of existence, one knowledge, one activity, a sort of fatal halfness, which to himself seemed wholeness, always overcame Birkin after their moments of passionate approach, and filled him with a sort of contempt, or boredom. It was the insistence on the limitation which so bored Birkin in Gerald. Gerald could never fly away from himself, in realindifferent gaiety."
The idea of being trapped or confined to one state of being is a concern that defines Birkin, and in many ways fuels how he interacts with other characters. His dislike of Hermione for instance, is in part fueled by her refusal to gain knowledge that, while she claims "takes away from experience," Birkin views as allowing one to gain the ability to transcend oneself and truly understand other forms of existence. The central conflict in his relationship with Ursula is his refusal to "love" her as she wants to be love, because he views that love as confining. He wants the relationship to be beyond love with "a final me which is stark and impersonal and beyond responsibility." He can't even be satisfied with one type of love, but rather needs both the love of a woman and a man. He loves the idea of the freedom of death even saying that there is "nothing better." Birkin's infatuation with mortality has led him to believe that life and living confine him. It seems, at least so far, that nothing Birkin does in the novel is final. No decision or action taken by him moves in a forward direction. That is, anything Birkin says or does will not limit him to one state of being. Even his most progressive act in the novel, proposing to Ursula, ends without much of a fight or any real sense of passion. He like, like Gudrun, bases his life in objectivity. Unlike Gudrun, whose objectivity is focused on her external environment however, Birkin is objective towards the self. He hates mankind for its egocentricity, and it is because his detachment of his own ego, that I do not believe he will be able to have love.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The thing that is particularly unique about Lawrence's narration is not necessarily that he employs free indirect discourse with one character, but that he provides insight all of the time with several of the characters! Although it often comes off as confusing (especially in instances in which the narrator isn't so explicit about the subjectivity), it is a very important bridge to better understanding these characters' interiority.
I suppose that in the beginning, when I read this passage, I thought that Birkin just had to completely wrong idea. I thought that he was taking out the romance in love and putting in a sort of bondage. After reading more of the book and understanding the society they live in better, I see it is Ursula who wishes bondage. She wants love and marriage for societal reasons, for logical reasons. I also believe that she just wants someone to love her. She pleads with Birkin for him to say that he loves her, but she doesn't say it back or care if he even means it. She and the rest of her society warped love into exactly what Birkin describes- a way to serve themselves, to make themselves more important. Birkin is actually the one who has it right by today's standards when he wants a mystical and natural connection to someone. Something more than the society's definition of love.
However, when Birkin speaks to Gerald, he suddenly breaks down in a manner that it seems a man ordinarily would do with a woman (Ursula in this case). Birkin says, "But we ought to swear to love each other, you and I, implicitly and perfectly, finally, without any possibility of going back on" (206-7). This is what Ursula longs to hear Birkin say to her, and yet he's actually using the word "love" with his friend, Gerald. Is there a hint of homosexuality here? What is the difference between his "love" for Gerald and for Ursula? Birkin continues to plead with Gerald to be true to one another. He pours his heart out as he has never really done with Ursula. He more so seems to argue with Ursula on all of these concepts.
Yet as soon as Gerald responds to Birkin somewhat coldly, Birkin attempts to back out of his statement: "You must tell me what you think, later. You know what I mean? not sloppy emotionalism. An impersonal union that leaves one free" (207). This sounds more like his tone with Ursula. What's going on here? Is his love for Gerald stronger than his love for Ursula? Does it seem homosexual? What void is Birkin attempting to fill?
I'd like to point out one more thing-- at the end of "Man to Man," Birkin refers to Gerald as a "black-clothed form" (210), which is a strange contrast to the multiple other times in the novel when he, along with other characters (Gudrun), are referred to as "white forms." I can't say at the moment what exactly this implies-- just making some simple observations.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Even though Gerald and Burkin’s conversation at once seems to suggest the union between man and women and the seeming responsibility to reproduce as sort of death, isn’t some kind of end required for some sort of reflection/examination? They will have to complete themselves to have existed at all right? It seems like this constant shift or as stated in class, “zigzag” in thought and dialogue is an attempt to immortalize oneself as one in a state of constant flux. I am wondering if it is possible for any kind of resolution or climax other than a physical death? If everyone fears what is means to be complete or finished, what can be said about the completion of this novel? What are we supposed to gain from the text other than the projections of the characters various epiphanies or non-epiphanies? I realize these questions are entirely too vague and general, with little textual support but I found this section of the reading to be enthralling and after, Man to Man and The Industrial Magnate I am anxious and obsessed to learn the books fate. And while cheesy and maybe momentary, I have initiated an introspective debate of my own while toiling with the idea of a life free of an ending point or state of completion. I am just as guilty as the character’s in the book constantly learning and changing. It’s difficult to envision life beyond college when right now we are striving for an end? I detect an obvious shift after Diana's death but the repetitiveness seems to have merely escaped to a larger scale. I guess I will just have to wait and read.
Earlier, I've had issues with the characters for talking big but doing little. The character's actions in response to a significant event offered a clear place for all four to demonstrate their characteristics not just in speech but in action as well.
It struck me as interesting how many characters in the book seem to care so little for one another. For example, on page 13 we see the two sisters going out to look at the wedding. Shortly after they begin their walk, Gudrun begins to become deeply uncomfortable with the people around her, begging her sister to let them go back because she says, "there are all those people" (12). Then on page 13, a commoner calls to Gudrun, "What price the stockings!" This highly offends Gudrun, who is described as being violent and murderous. She wanted to have all the commoners annihilated. Simply because someone commented on the price of her obviously gaudy clothes. On page 24, it is Birkin who is seen displaying general dislike of others when he says, "I myself can never see why one should take account of people, just because they happen to be in the room with one. Why should I know they are there?" He seems to be suggesting that anyone he doesn't know (and we later find out many of the people he does know) is inferior to him, not even worth his acknowledgment of their existence. I guess the point I am trying to make is that these characters seem to somehow "get away" with saying these outrages things about other people and everyone else acts as though they are completely normal.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I kept thinking about the significance of having a wedding occur at the beginning of the novel, and why it occurred then in the specific manner that it did. First, I feel that it helped serve the purpose of setting up the setting, if you will, by explaining what the surroundings of the Brangwen sisters looks like. The problem with this explanation is that the wedding has no important part in it; really the sisters could have just gone on a walk to have the setting introduced. One slightly significant aspect of the wedding is that it put a halt to an argument about marriage and children, which is fairly ironic. I believe that the most significant aspect of the wedding though deals with outlining the different classes in the novel. We get descriptions of the wealthy Crich family entering the church to attend the important wedding from Ursula and Gudrun who are sitting up on a hill - clearly not invited to the wedding. The lower of the two represented classes is up on the hill observing the upper class.
Class is not an issue that is brought forth as blatantly in the novel, but it is certainly present (like when the sisters are excited that they have been invited to Hermione's house, and later on when the Crich family invites the staff of the Grammar School to their party and other lower classes are seen up on the hill watching the guests p. 157-158).
First of all, let me address my horrible English mishap earlier with the misuse of the term pandering. That is obviously not the word I was supposed to use in that context, and I made myself look a little silly. My bad.
I'll try and make up for it here with this first blog post of mine.
I feel like the topic of sex and sexuality was left out of our discussion in class today, so I hope I can spark a little bit more of an in-depth conversation on here. There is obviously mention of it in "Class-room," which we touched on today, but I feel there are several other rather sexually charged passages we've encountered (and I am certain they won't be the last.) First and foremost, the passage in which Hermione decides to "biff" Birkin describes the experience as a rather erotic one: "A terrible voluptuous thrill ran down her arms -- she was going to know her voluptuous consummation. Her arms quivered and were strong, immeasurably and irresistibly strong. What delight, what delight in strength, what delirium of pleasure! She was going to have her consummation of voluptuous ecstasy at last. It was coming! In utmost terror and agony, she knew it was upon her now, in extremity of bliss. Her hand closed on a blue, beautiful ball of lapis lazuli that stood on her desk for a paper-weight. She rolled it round in her hand as she rose silently. Her heart was a pure flame in her breast, she was purely unconscious in ecstasy. She moved towards him and stood behind him for a moment in ecstasy." (105.) Hermione seems to be having an almost orgasmic experience in the moment she almost obtains her freedom from Birkin.
The other passage I am referring to is actually one we discussed in class today, in the chapter "Coal-Dust": "A sharpened look came on Gerald's face. He bit himself down on the mare like a keen edge biting home, and forced her round. She roared as she breathed, her nostrils were two wide, hot holes, her mouth was apart, her eyes frenzied. It was a repulsive sight. But he held on her unrelaxed, with an almost mechanical relentlessness, keen as a sword pressing in to her. Both man and horse were sweating with violence. Yet he seemed calm as a ray of cold sunshine." (111.) Now obviously, this second passage is a lot more brutal and implies a sort of rape of the mare, but I was wondering why no one else commented on the very obvious--at least in my opinion--sexual imagery going on in this passage. Or it may be possible that I just have a dirty mind.
Thoughts, anyone? (On my discussion post, not on whether or not my mind is in the gutter or elsewhere...)
I'm fascinated by how the not-actually-but-sort-of omniscient perspective plays into these power dynamics. At first, it seems that Gerald has complete control over The Pussum because, his perspective assures us, he is just that hot (64). His control is a cruel domination, of master and slave (67). He enjoys his control of the situation, which he believes he could terminate whenever he wants. Then the narrator moves into The Pussum's mind and we realize she is playing her own game. She even describes it like a political strategy: "Her alliance for the time was with Gerald, and she did not know how far this was admitted by any of the men. She was considering how she should carry off the situation" (74). Just because she is not asserting her control so aggressively - I guess we could call it her "feminine wiles" - she still retains her free will to sleep with Gerald or not to.
This is what I'm wondering in short: why does Lawrence want the reader to see both perspectives? What does it reveal about relationships that he wants the reader to discover?
On pp. 33, Birkin first claims "...[A] man who is murderable is a man who in a profound if hidden lust desires to be murdered," to which Gerald scoffs. Birkin continues, crucially, that "You seem to have a lurking desire to have your gizzard slit...", an identification of a powerful thanatotic urge within Gerald. I wonder how we could connect this to Ursula's (with Birkin, the two most narratively-favored characters) contention to an unconvinced Gudrun that "this playing at killing has some primitive desire for killing in it..." Ursula doesn't accept that Gerald killing his brother was an accident, saying "I couldn't pull the trigger of the emptiest gun in the world, not if someone were looking down the barrel." [pp49].
Monday, August 27, 2012
Though, let me say in a lack of conclusion, that I do not mean to squash Hermione fully; her feminine condition so far seems to me the most challenging and interesting. But more on that later, perhaps.
Creme de Menthe and Totem contain repeated references to the darkness or evil of sexuality. There is at least one description of of Minette's eyes as containing "knowledge of evil" and there attraction is further described as "dark." These descriptions seem to be a facet of Gerald's frankly twisted views on sexuality, since the narration more or less remains in his head until the very end of Totem. Gerald's descriptions of their interactions tend to set up the experience of sexual attractions in terms of predator and prey. He feels himself in utter control over her and as though he has license to use her (though she seems to be the one using him). The utterly bizarre way in which he seems to process sexuality is counter-pointing by his reaction to the carving in Totem, which he seems to dislike because of its "barbaric" nature and his own desire to maintain certain illusions. In this we have a character who may want to maintain the social distrust of sexuality because it reaffirms his own darkness. After all, if society says a thing is twisted, then one's own twisted view on the subject should be perfectly normal.
That last bit may be a bit of a stretch but frankly, the more about Gerald I read the more he sounds like an all-around bastard.
Another thing worth noting. I'm really not sure if Lawrence is trying to satirize erotica or whether modern erotica (including the horror that is internet fan-fiction). The novel seems to ignore the convention of remaining in a single character's head, instead choosing to seamlessly move between internal monologues. The fact that in Creme de Menthe and Totem he seems to hold exclusively to one character's point of view until the last few paragraphs seems a deviation from his usual style. The fact that Birkin seems to spend both of these chapters sick seems an attempt to high-light the pretensions of the characters in these chapters. He only really seems to come back to life (so to speak) while discussing the totem that Gerald so dislikes.