The Implosion of the Transformative Pattern in The Plumed Serpent

  • Charles Michael Burack


In The Plumed Serpent, Lawrence deals more explicitly and insistently with the theme of initiation than in any of his other novels, and it is obvious that the reader is now in the position of a potential initiate. It is not simply ironic that this novel should prove to be one of his most debated works in terms of its power to touch, persuade or transform the reader.1 While Lawrence eventually himself came to see the novel’s “leader-cum-follower” theme as a “bore,” and to realize he was “sort of sick of all forms of militarism and militantism,” we will see that the novel also fails for reasons beyond its militant, authoritarian, and racialist strains.2 Despite Lawrence’s enthusiasm about the novel as he was writing it, my analysis shows that the novel’s technical problems reveal his frequent attempts to impose a didactic vision on the narrative.3 We have seen this conflict between Lawrence’s pedantic and vivifying impulses in his earlier novels, but in this work the ideological imperative too often drives and distorts narrative development. In trying too overtly to control the representation of his religious ideology and its effects on the characters and the reader, Lawrence makes significant literary errors of commission and omission: he manufactures implausible and distorted characters and situations, and refrains from presenting perspectival details that would make these implausibilities and distortions more evident to the reader.4


Religious Movement Transformative Pattern Western Reader Meditative Prayer Mexican People 
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Chapter Five The Implosion of the Transformative Pattern in The Plumed Serpent

  1. 16.
    Brenda Maddox, D. H. Lawrence:The Story of a Marriage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994) 215.Google Scholar
  2. Mark Kinkead-Weekes, D. H. Lawrence: Triumph to Exile, 1912–1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 241–8, 305–7.Google Scholar
  3. 32.
    See P. T. Whelan, D. H. Lawrence: Myth and Metaphysic in “The Rainbow” and “Women in Love” (Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 35.
    See Steven Goldsmith, Unbuilding Jerusalem: Apocalypse and Romantic Representation (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1993) 36–7, 44.Google Scholar
  5. 36.
    See Daleski 225–6; and John B. Humma, Metaphor and Meaning in D. H. Lawrence’s Later Novels (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Charles Michael Burack 2005

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  • Charles Michael Burack

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