The role of the male characters in The Virgin and the Gypsy by D.H. Lawrence can best be summed up by Yvette's reaction to her sister's philosophy of marriage:
'I'm not sure one shouldn't have one's fling till one is twenty-six , and then give in and marry!'
This was Lucille's philosophy, learned from older women. Yvette was twenty-one. It meant she had five years to have this precious fling. And the fling meant, at the moment, the gypsy. The marriage, at the age of twenty-six, meant Leo or Gerry.
So, a woman could eat her cake and have her bread and butter (Lawrence, 99).
All of the male characters fall into one of three categories: bread and butter, cake or servants. None of the servants have names, they are all non-entities that are there only to serve a certain function. For example: tending the garden and warning of the approaching flood, or rescuing Yvette from the flood damaged house. Yvette might like talking to them, "...They had such fine, hard heads (Lawrence 11)," but they can never really have more than a passing relevance to her life.
Yvette is surrounded by these non-entities, the gardener, the policeman, Uncle Fred, but they are never really a part of her life. Her class background makes them essential for her existence, "but of course they were in another world (Lawrence 11)."
The bread and butter characters (the Rector, Leo, Bob, Gerry, Major Eastwood) are uninteresting. Yvette sees them as "house dog men (Lawrence 63). " She has no desire to spend her life with one of them, "She did not want to mate with a house dog (Lawrence 63)", although she clearly recognizes that it is her fate to do so. Only Leo, "a mastiff among house dogs (L...
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...that no other man can be.
Joe not only saves Yvette from the rushing flood, a symbol of her repressed sexuality that can overwhelm its banks and destroy the uncomfortable world she inhabits, but also teaches her a valuable lesson: "Be braver in your body (Lawrence 101)." This lesson might be the point of Lawrence's whole life and work. It is the theme that permeates all of his work and it is the punchline of this, his last book. Be braver in your body.
In this sense Yvette's world is turned around. Her strength, physical and emotional is now her power, not her vulnerability. Joe has taught her where her real power lies and shown her how to be a woman. He has also taught her to see herself and others as human beings, showing once again where the true power of women lies.
Lawrence, D.H. The Virgin and the Gypsy. (Bantam Books, New York), 1970.
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