The Convergence of Opposites in Lawrence

Rachel Aviv '04, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2003

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Throughout "Twilight in Italy," Lawrence broadens the concept of travel to include the immaterial as well as the material, the philosophical as well as the concrete. Throughout this series of essays Lawrence emphasizes the polar duality of opposites -- North versus South, death versus life, passion versus disillusion. In one of the opening passages in "The Crucifix across the Mountains," as Lawrence describes the appearance of the crucifixes along the mountainside, such a convergence of opposites becomes especially apparent:

But gradually, one after another looming shadowily under their hoods, the crucifixes seem to create a new atmosphere over the whole of the countryside, a darkness, a weight in the air that is so unnaturally bright and rare with the reflection from the snows above, a darkness hovering just over the earth. So rare and unearthly the light is, from the mountains, full of strange radiance.

In the space of just three relatively short sentences, Lawrence describes the crucifixes as "dark" then "bright" then "dark" then "light" so that light and dark appear to be one. What is the intended effect of this merging of opposites?

How does the symbolic fusion of light and dark reflect upon the object described -- the crucifix? In what way does the crucifix itself embody a merging of opposites?

Later on in the essay, Lawrence dissects and expands the "to be or not be" phrase. "It is a question of being," he says, "to be or not to be. To persist or not persist." In what way does this passage work as a necessary analytic counterpart to the more imagistic, descriptive passage about the crucifixes?

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Last modified 23 October 2003