Lawrence and the People He Meets

Blake Cooper '03, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

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Reading D.H. Lawrence creates an experience that resembles the experience of a kid who grew up with the black and white TV and has just learned that they make color models, or the illiterate man observing all the swirling beauty of Las Vegas, with none of its crass messages. Lawrence can certainly observe with the best of them. And this can get him in trouble. For example, let's look at the section in "The Spinner and the Monks" where Lawrence meets the old spinner.

Her eyes were clear as the sky, blue, empyrean, transcendent. They were clear, but they had no looking in them. Her face was like a sun-worn stone...She saw merely a man's figure, a stranger, standing near. I was a bit of the outside, negligible. She remained as she was, clear and sustained like an old stone upon the hill-side.

And later:

To her I was a piece of the open environment. That was all. He world was clear and absolute, without consciousness of self. She was not self-conscious, because she was not aware that there was anything in the universe except her universe. In her universe I was a stranger, a foreign signore. That I had a world of my own, other than her own, was not conceived by her. She did not care.

And still later:

She looked at me, as if suspiciously and derisively. Then, quite suddenly, she started forward and went across the terrace to the great blue-and-white checked cloth that was drying on the wall. I hesitated. She had cut off consciousness from me. So I turned and ran away, taking the steps two at a time, to get away from her. In a moment I was between the walls, climbing upwards, hidden.

Lawrence lets his visual observations and very brief conversation with this woman avalanche into huge assumptions about this woman's view of the world and of him. This is like the mind of someone on hallucinogenic drugs, even to the extent that it leads to a freak out of sorts (see third paragraph). Lawrence's observations of his surroundings continually spin out of control and create characters where stand men and women. What do we as readers get from this technique? Are we to take these created people as real representatives of a culture? Why does Lawrence do this?

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Last modified 26 October 2003