D.H Lawrence as a Modern Psychological Novelist
D.H Lawrence as a Modern Psychological Novelist
Abstract Modernist fi
ction put emphasis on the description of the character’s psychological activities, and so sometimes has been called modern psychological fiction. One of its pioneers is D.H. Lawrence, who produced the first, and some critics still believe the finest, modern psychological novels. This paper focuses on the irrational psychological description in Lawrence’s writings, three types and the great change it brings. Through the analysis presented in this paper, the readers will know D.H. Lawrence’s ideas about human nature, his exploration and ideal. 1. Introduction This paper is intended to analyze irrational psychological description in Lawrence’s writings, three types and the great change it brings. Through the analysis presented in this paper, readers would have a further understanding of Lawrence as a modern psychological novelist. Social and Historical Background of English Modernist Literature The modernist movement in English literature around the turn of the 20th century reflected social changes and conflicts during that time and created an incredible change in the way writers viewed their art. The early 20th century witnessed British Empire’s transition from free competition to monopoly capitalism. In that ear of rapid social and technological change leading to increasing life complexity and psychological displacement, people in western society began to question the basis of their hitherto convictions. The writer, then, was in an ideal position to witness the farcical polarities of that time: the prosperity of science and the decay of morality; the abundant of material life and void of spiritual life. The disillusionment of the new century led a group of them to seek for new ways and means of revealing the truth of life. In the meantime, the contradictions between the imperialist countries grew into such great tension that it soon led to the outbreak of World War I(1914-1918). This “Great War” shattered people’s fundamental cornerstone of edifice on which their convictions was built, profoundly altering people’s conception of rationality, religion, country and morality etc., causing a paschal crisis. Affected by new perception held of the world and our place in it, this new group of writers tried to communicate their fears and opinions through unique new writing style. Their concerns changed from outer to the inner world of human beings, through characters’ subtle mind and consciousness reflection reality as well as revealing the crisis and conflicts in western capitalist societies. This characteristic later became one of the basic characteristics of modernist literature.
Influence of Modern Psychology Talking about modernist literature, we also have to refer to modern psychology, which had a great impact on it. The idea of unconsciousness, new subtleties of psychological approach, or new delicacies of presentation or description not only opened a new country for the novelist, but also provide theoretical support for modernist literature. And one of the great modern thinkers, who have had a deep influence on the modern novel and on all form of literature and art, is Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis. Freud was the first person to scientifically explore the human unconscious mind and recognized the influence of unconscious drives in shaping behavior. His idea profoundly altered man’s view of himself. His work revolutionized modern psychiatry and strongly influenced 20th century western theories of literature. Introduction to D.H. Lawrence D.H. Lawrence, the emergence of whom marked a height of English modernist literature, is well-known for his novels written under the influence of Freud’s theory of psychological analysis. Although Lawrence disagreed with Freud on his theories, Freud unintentionally influenced him in his writing. And hai work was always studied from Freud’s psychoanalysis. David Herbert Lawrence(1885-1930), English novelist, dramatist, poet and psychologist, was born in the Midland-mining village of Eastwood, Nottingham Shire. His father, a semi-literate miner, was essentially working-class in habits and outlook; his mother, who had been a schoolteacher, was better educated than her husband and self-consciously genteel. After the death of an elder brother Lawrence became the center of his mother’s emotional life and played in his own relation to her a loving and protective role. He loved his mother but despised his father in the early part of his life. But many years later, he came to feel that he had misjudged his father, whose coarseness represented after all a genuine vitality and some wholeness of personality. It was from his father’s sensuousness and the “intimate community” of the miners that he began to notice the dark force of the inner self, the uncanny power of people’s irrational psychological activities. As one of the pioneers of modern psychological fictions, Lawrence explored human nature through frank discussion of sex, psychology and religion. He has a gift of seeing the changeless nature of human beings beyond the changing circumstances of day-to-day life. Having a strong interest in psychological revelation, he puts emphasis on the description of characters’ irrational psychological activities to reveal human nature. “Mother-fixation” of early life as well as his personality made irrational psychological activities a subject of Lawrence literary creation; the fusion of these two made him a unique modern psychological novelist. Lawrence is regarded as one of he most original and inspired English writers of the 20th century. His impact on the way we think about love, sex, and culture decay has been profound. 2. Three Types of Irrational Psychological Activities in Lawrence’s Writings
There are three types of irrational psychological activities: powerful emotion, subconsciousness and soul possessive love. Powerful Emotion Lawrence is the sort of writer who commands violent reactions, either of admiration or of dislike. Either way it is difficult to remain untouched by the force of his fiction and not to feel the passion and commitment with which he approached his work. And it is this very passion together with significant imagery that enables Lawrence to look into the heart and minds of his characters, revealing powerful emotions and feelings that are not simply expressed in action. And he is especially adept at describing such emotions and feelings at a turning point when love and hate co-existing with a primal intensity that allows one emotion to reach its highest point and then suddenly change to another. At this turning point, both emotions give out their greatest energy. This is an alternation of love and hate, a transition of agony and ecstasy. Like two polarities of lightening, once confronting, they would produce shocking energy, which would destroy everything until at last only ashes left. What Lawrence did comprehend is the polarity inherent in love between human beings, especially between men and women. Lovers can also be betrayer. The lien between love and hate is thin indeed and the ubiquitous loneliness of our post-modern culture thins the line further. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to demarcate th line, transcribe its limits. Our only defense against fate is passion, unruly and free, but committed to humanity. To cite just one example, in Rainbow, the chapter describing Anna and Will’s life after marriage is a typical example:
So it went on continually, the recurrence of love and conflict between them. One day it seemed as if everything was shattered, all life spoiled, ruined, desolate and laid waste. The next day it was all marvelous again, just marvelous. One day she thought she would go mad from his very presence; the sound of his drinking was detestable to her. The next day she loved and rejoiced in the way eh crossed the floor; he was sun, moon and stars in one. 1
They live in such recurrence of love and hate. The deepest love may become hate; the extreme end of hate is love. The passion is endless, going through the relationship between men and women. Subconsciousness A more subtle and complex part of irrational psychological world is subconsciousness. Psychoanalysts believe that although subconscious usually could not be award, it is not totally untraceable. Every moment, it may break the cover of conscious and reflect in our daily life activities. It’s just that people ignore them. As a novelist, Lawrence has a penetration view of human’s psychological activities. There are many examples in his novels. First we will see Son and Lovers. In the
D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow (England: Harmondsworth, William Heinemann Ltd. 1980)167
sixth chapter author uses quite a lot of words describing an outing of Paul with his mother. Before setting off, both of them felt rather excited, especially the mother. She wore the pair of clean boots she kept carefully and got a new cotton blouse on, as if a young girl going to her first date. When she “appeared in the inner doorway rather shyly”, Paul exclaimed “Awfully! You ARE a fine little woman to go jaunting out with!”2 And when they were in the wood, “among the oaks the bluebells stood in pools of azure, under the new green hazels, upon a pale fawn floor of oak-leaves”3, Paul picks her some: forget-me-nots”. And, again, “his ear hurt with love, seeing her hand, used with work, holding the little bunch of flowers he gave her. She was perfectly happy.” 4 Here author again and again describes the beautiful scenes and the mother and son traveling intimately in them. This plot seems to be irrelevant with other plots, but is actually closely related to characters’ psychological flow. If we only look at this paragraph, we may assume that this is a couple of lovers playing in the shrub. Author deliberately gives us such an impression in order to indicate the unspoken feeling of love between son and mother in their subconscious. Possessive Love We also find that in Lawrence’s novel, when male and female have established a fixed relationship, they would immediately begin a contest and confrontation in psychology. Why? What’s the essential reason? Let’s come to the third type of irrational psychological activities; soul possessive love. Lawrence created many “Great Mother” in his works, such as Mrs. Morel, Miriam, Anna, etc. They are strong, arbitrary, and have a strong desire of possession. In the relationship between male and female, they crazily want to conquer, control and possess man. In Rainbow, the scene that Anna and will carried sheaves in the moonlight is breath taking, “there was only the moving to and from in the moonlight, engrossed, the swinging in the silence, that was marked only by the splash of sheaves, and silence and a splash of sheaves.5 Such an easy work has become the two parsons’ paschal contest. “And always, she was gone before he came. As he came, she drew away, as he drew away, she came.”6 There is always a distance between them, which represent psychological victory of female privilege. Lawrence difference in that he takes sided, angrily, among his characters, and hectors his readers, in a way that no other major novelist does. What is notable about Lawrence is his quickness, the impatience, and spurtiness of his way of writing. His description of irrational psychological activities ahs brought great changes to the manner of writing of English novel.
2 D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, ed. Julian Moynahan (London: The Viking Critical Library, 1979)122 3 Ibid.,124 4 Ibid.,124
D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow (England: Harmondsworth, William Heinemann Ltd. 1980)123 Ibid.
Lawrence adheres to a kind of primitivism which enables him to explore unknown, unconscious modes of being, and he dispenses with character as it is generally conceived, creating in the process what T.S Eliot has described as the “profoundest research into human nature.: The innovative use of psychological theme in his writing brings great changes to English novels: the creation of alter ego, innovation of characterization: the disintegration of traditional plots he is regarded as one of the most original and inspired writers of the 20th century. However, from a practical respect, Lawrence’s ideal of rescuing human beings through irrational psychological activities if bond to fail. The real liberation of human depends on the further development of industrial civilization, not rejecting it. However, Lawrence believes individual would rescue himself through own effort. His work ha s affected many people profoundly. This so as true today as it was when he was writing.
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