The Opening of "Cerveteri" in D.H. Lawrence's Etruscan Places

Katie Reynolds '06, English 171, Brown University, Autumn 2003

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In D.H. Lawrence's Etruscan Places he opens his first section "Cerveteri" with humorous exaggerated claims regarding the Romans' relationship to the Etruscans. Lawrence draws the reader right in and gains their alliance by starting with

The Etruscans, as everyone knows, were the people who occupied the middle of Italy in early Roman days, and whom the Romans, in their usual neighbourly fashion, wiped out entirely in order to make room for Rome with a very big R.

He continues with his tirade as it builds, attacking the Romans' cold hearted destruction of the Etruscans.

However, those pure, clean-living, sweet-souled Romans, who smashed nation after nation and crushed the free soul in people after people, and were ruled by Messalina and Heliogabalus and such-like snowdrops, they said the Etruscans were vicious. So basta! Quand le maitre parle, tout le mond se tait. The Etruscans were vicious! The only vicious people on the face of the earth presumably. You and I dear reader, we are two unsullied snowflakes, aren't we? We have every right to judge.

Lawrence's conversational tone makes the reader feel they are on his intellectual level which prepares them to accept his more scientific descriptions later on and then to be transported by his descriptions of the natural beauty of the Etruscan tomb area. His ability to win over the reader's alliance at the beginning is what allows Lawrence to carry the reader with him throughout his narrative.

1. Does Lawrence loose anything by being so casual with his readers in the beginning of his piece? If so, how is he able to use such a risky technique effectively?

2. In his first sentence Lawrence says "as everyone knows" what effect does this have? Why does it work even if the reader does not know?

3. Lawrence is able to get us laughing right away, does his humor build creditability or just leave his audience feeling happy and ready to accept what he says next?

4. Does it matter if travel writing is written for the author as a way of immortalizing their journey or if it is for audience to see a place through the writer's eyes?

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Last modified 28 October 2003