It is a divided issue whether D. H. Lawrence is to be considered a friend or a foe to the feminist movement. On one hand, he advocates an egalitarian man-woman relationship, on the other, his notion of equality seems rather subject to qualification. His reference to the ideal monogamous partnership as "phallic marriage" (Spilka 7) is certainly a cue that must be taken up. Why is marriage "phallic" unless the phallus is privileged in the expression of sexuality? (de Beauvoir 205) The idealisation of gender relationships leads to an essentialisation of gender, which is itself at the source of patriarchal domination. Is Lawrence really a liberator of sex, or only of patriarchal sex? Does he grant more independence to the women in his novels than his predecessors or just a little more freedom within the confines of established expectations? The answers to these will be that Lawrence is not a raving misogynist (as has been suggested), but is certainly a long way from perfectly enlightened.
Rupert Birkin, the Lawrentian leading male of Women in Love, extols a philosophy of "star-equilibrium" in which the partners of a love relationship remain separate and individual, not blurred into one another, but together in knowledge of their difference. (WIL 230)
"Why not leave the other being free, why try to melt, or absorb, or merge? One might abandon oneself utterly to the moments, but not to any other being." (WIL 269) These "moments" are where one falls out of personal concern and into the rhythm of the organic universe. "Because of his belief in the life-force, he has generally been called a 'vitalist.' But 'organicist' would come much closer to the mark, since the goal of life, for Lawrence...
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...over. London: Mandrake Press, Ltd., 1996.
_ _ _. Letters to Bertrand Russell. Ed. Harry T. Moore. New York: Gotham Book Mart, 1948.
_ _ _. Women in Love. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, Ltd., 1996.
Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970.
Ross, Charles L. Women in Love: a Novel of Mythic Realism. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.
Spilka, Mark. The Love Ethic of D. H. Lawrence. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1955.
Tuma, Keith, ed. Anthology of Twentieth-Century British & Irish Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
1 "The ordinary Englishman of the educated class goes to a woman now to masterbate [sic] himself. Because he is not going for discovery or new connection or progression, but only to repeat upon himself a known reaction." (Letters 33)
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