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The Eternal Moment: D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Women in Love

  • G. H. Ford

Abstract

How time is viewed in D. H. Lawrence’s novels has been diversely interpreted. Some critics see his writings as past-oriented and cyclic. Others argue that he “never looked back at the past,” and that his writings are future-oriented. A resolution of these contrary readings can be effected by a close study of his two major novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love. What becomes evident is that his fictional world sings “of what is past, or passing, or to come,” and that the two novels embody all three of these experiences of time.

Keywords

Present Moment Time Past Double Measure Fictional World Public Time 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Walter Allen, The English Novel (New York, 1957, p. 439, and in New York Times Book Review (September 5, 1965), pp. 4, 25.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    George H. Ford, Dickens and his Readers (Princeton, 1955), p. 254.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edward Alexander, “Thomas Carlyle and D. H. Lawrence.” University of Toronto Quarterly (April, 1968), p. 256.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Laurence Lemer, The Truthtellers (London, 1967), p. 193.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Walter J. Ong, “Evolution, Myth, and Poetic Vision.” Comparative Literature Studies (1966), 1–20. Ong’s distinction is essentially between writers who believe in progress (he cites Tennyson, not altogether aptly, as an example), who view time as “linear,” and those writers who believe that the past repeats itself in the present, that there is no true progress, and who view time hence as “cyclic.” As examples of the latter attitudes he cites Yeats, Lawrence, and Joyce. Yeats’s view of time, Ong says, is “spectacularly and desperately anti-evolutionary.” —On the historical background of these two concepts of time, see G. J. Whitrow’s observation that in the mediaeval period “the linear concept was fostered by the mercantile class and the rise of a money economy.” “The cyclic”, on the other hand, was reinforced by “ownership of land,” for to the landowner “time was felt to be plentiful and associated with the unchanging cycle of the soil. With the circulation of money, however, the emphasis was on mobility.” —Whitrow, “Reflections on the History of the Concept of Time.” The Study of Time,ed. J. T. Fraser, et. ai., (Berlin, 1972), p. 7.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Scott Sanders, D, H, Lawrence (London, 1973), p. 101. See also Oates, New Heaven and Earth (New York, 1974), p. 39.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    J. T. Fraser, The Voices of Time (New York, 1966), p. 254.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    John Raleigh, in Partisan Review (1958), p. 260.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lord Raglan, The Hero (New York, 1956), p. 4 cited by Claire Rosenfield, Paradise of Snakes (Chicago, 1967), p. 31.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See Rosenfield, p. 31Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See G. H. Ford, Double Measure: A Study of the Novels and Stories of D. Lawrence (New York, 1965), ch. 8.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    In Women in Love there are occasionally scenes of the same sort, most memorably when the lovers visit the inn at Southwell Minister: “Father came here with mother,” Ursula remarks (ch. 23).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    For a useful analysis of how Lawrence employs the present tense in The Rainbow see Roger Sale’s article in Colin Clarke’s Casebook, The Rainbow and Women in Love (London, 1969), 104–08.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a discussion of the phrase as used by Lawrence, see Oates, pp. 50–51. Browning’s poetry, of course, may also be cited, as when the speaker in “The Last Ride Together” reflects: “What if we still rode on, we two/ With life forever old yet new, / Changed not in kind but in degree, / The instant made eternity.” —See also “The Experience of Timelessness,” a discussion of ecstacy in the dance, the forest, and the bower, by J. T. Fraser in his of Time, Passion and Knowledge (New York, 1975), 305–11. Eraser’s account of the dance could be effectively illustrated by Lawrence’s fine essay, “The Dance of the Sprouting Com” in Mornings in Mexico (1927), and also by the sheaves-gathering scene in The Rainbow (ch. 4).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See G. H. Ford, “Dickens and the Voices of Time,” Dickens Centennial Essays, ed. Ada Nisbet and Blake Nevius (Berkeley, 1971), 46–66.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Carlo M. Cipolla, Clocks and Culture: 1300–1700 (London, 1967), p. 105.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See J. B. Priestley, Man and Time (New York, 1968), p. 20.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ursula also suffers sometimes from a despair that her life has been pointless (chapter 15), but the experience, for her, is transient.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    F. R. Leavis, D. H. Lawrence: Novelist (London, 1955), pp. 173–174.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    On the general effects of tick-tock, see Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (New York, 1967), 44–46.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Cf. Gudrun and Loerke who “never talked of the future.” (Ch. 30).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    See James R. Baker, “Lawrence as Prophetic Poet.” Journal of Modern Literature (July, 1974), 1219–38.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    The Quest for Rananim,ed. George J. Zytaruk (Montreal, 1970), p. 61. —For a useful discussion of prophetic writing, Heilsgeschichte (salvation history), see J. T. Fraser, Of Time, Passion, and Knowledge,ipip, 21–11; 368–78.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    See Ford, Double Measure, p. 97.Google Scholar
  25. All the quotations are from the doctrinal essays, the Study of Thomas Hardy (1914), The Crown (1915), Love (1917), and The Two Principles (1919).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1978

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  • G. H. Ford

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