Pages read: 1-81
So far, my favorite part of this book is when D. H. Lawrence has one of his characters, a young wealthy man, introduce the idea of solipsism to a matronly older woman. Check it out:
"'People don't really matter,' he said...'Essentially, they don't exist, they aren't there.'Oh man. I love you, D. H. Lawrence, for reducing solipsism to ridiculousness through the satirical lens of upper-class English society. I laughed out loud.
'Well,' she said, 'I would hardly go as far as that. There they are, whether they exist or no...You can't expect me to know them, just because they happen to be there. As far as I go they might as well not be there.'
'Exactly,' he replied...
'Except that they are there, and that's a nuisance,' she said."
Anyway, the actual substance seems like it's going to be largely a discussion of the modern condition (by modern, we're talking 19-teens) of men, women, and marriage in moneyed society. Our protagonists are the Cornish sisters Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen. They're both unmarried young women living in a coal-mining area. Ursula teaches school, and Gudrun has just returned from abroad and is not currently employed, but the family is comfortable financially and well respected socially. We've met some of their society, mainly Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich, two eligible young gentlemen of the area, both of whom seem rather atrocious for different reasons, but have caught the attention of our young sisters. We've also met Hermione Roddice, who's overtly interested in Birkin and something of a giggly twit, although she disports herself well in conversation.
Speaking of conversation (Hah. Get it?), that's largely what the book's consisted of so far. The sisters discuss their mutual fear of marriage and their dismay at the social controls on women of the time. (Quite poignant, that one. They watched Gerald strip his shirt and go for a swim, and Ursula bemoaned the fact that they could never, as women, dream of doing such a thing. I never thought of that, but it would have been fairly awful for something as simple as going for a swim to be an unfathomable possibility. Occasionally I long to live in dramatic historical periods, but I'm usually aware enough to think better of it for reasons like this.) Ursula, Hermione, and Birkin have a conversation about whether the social taboos on sexuality are harmful or virtuous, and there are various conversations concerning class and education as well. The book opens with a wedding, moves through several days of every day activities, and all of the important characters are currently attending a gathering at Hermione's country house, where most of these deep conversations are taking place.
I like Lawrence's discussions of important issues, and his characterizations are solid, so I'm enjoying the novel so far (which is kind of an astonishing feat on his part, since I'm pretty tired of 19-teens and 20s literature right now). He's got this very sharp, critical way of cutting directly to the heart of subject through his characters' observations, and he does it so cleverly that it makes you delight in his almost vicious success. Take that, stifling moral strictures! No wonder he got banned all over the place.