D. H. Lawrence: Women in Love
This novel reintroduces us to Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen from The Rainbow. We are in a Midlands mining town called Beldover. Ursula is a teacher while Gudrun has just returned from art school in London. Ursula loves Rupert Birkin (modelled on Lawrence himself), a school inspector, while Gudrun falls for Birkin’s friend, Gerald Crich, son of the local mine owner. Gerald takes over the mine while his father is dying but, while he can be ruthless with the workers, he is less so with Gudrun. Ursula and Birkin eventually get married and take a trip to the Alps with Gudrun and Crich where they meet the sinister sculptor Loerke, with whom Gudrun flirts. In true Lawrentian fashion we see Ursula and Birkin coming to a truly fulfilling relationship, while Gudrun and Crich’s relationship is increasingly destructive and results in Gerald wandering off into the snow and dying.
If the above sounds melodramatic, it is because it is. Lawrence was not particularly concerned about plots but about relationships and here he is concerned about three relationships. Primarily, of course he is concerned about the Ursula-Birkin and Gudrun-Crich relationships and the comparison between the two and this comparison is, to a great extent, the raison d’être of the novel. But he is also concerned about the Birkin-Crich relationship. Anyone who has seen the film will recall the famous nude wrestling scene between Birkin and Crich. While this is not a key part of the book, the relationship between Birkin, the artist, and Crich, the flawed man of business, is almost as important as their relationships with the Brangwen sisters. It is not a gay relationship – though there are clearly elements of homosexuality – but rather Lawrence’s realisation that relationships between men and men and between women and men may be important but are in inevitable conflict. But I don’t think we needed Lawrence to tell us that.
First published 1921 by Martin Secker