Tag Archives: Literature

The Rainbow, by D.H. Lawrence

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D.H. Lawrence, an underrated author from the canon of the early 20th century English writers. A most prolific author, who in his short lifespan created numerous works of fiction, critiques, and essays, challenged the industrial and military norms plaguing his lands of northern England, and shred them with his words. Suffered punishment for his courage of transcending the rules, Lawrence’s topics of sexuality, his focus on horrible conditions of the industrial age and the narrow scope of its inhabitants, caused his work, The Rainbow, to suffer backlash and be suppressed by censorship, forever to be rejected and exiled from the country he called home. Lawrence opened the conditions of England to the world, at the expanse of suffering banishment.

The Rainbow a report on family life in rural England, during the early 20th century. A saga that spans three generations of the Lensky women, and, their infiltration of the English household through the bond of the Brangwen linage. Lydia Lensky is the outsider, an educated women fighting the injustices of government from her early beginnings, in country side Poland. Through all her misfortunes, that leave her at the mercy of the world, with a child in tow, she maintains strength and self respect. A wild animal never to be tamed and demanding respect, she captures the attention of Tom Brangwen, a man of a respected hard working well off English family. The first battles of family life as Tom knows them, are staged in this household and are a foreshadowing of future battles to be fought in the lives of the women in her lineage. Eventually leading to Ursula, the perfect storm of strength and determination, unwavering and determined. The Lensky women are vehicles used by D.H. Lawrence to invade the England of his youth, and challenge its conduct, with a fresh perspective and strong determination. 

In the underbelly of the book runs the theme of revolt against confinement of the individual soul, held down by the government’s systematic approach toward the improvement of the whole, shackling the individual spirit. The book strives to shed light on the individual struggle to express it self and soar out of the death trap, brought on by the habitual course of life, as encouraged by the masses under the spell of industrialization. The values and principles of the socialist life are exposed then challenged. The whole portrayed as a disgusting entrapment in constant motion never reaching any purpose, lost in the mundane, lost in the filthy smoke of the factories and dark mining coal mines.

“But she must get up again and look down from her foot-hold of sunshine, down and away at the patterned, level earth, with its villages and its smoke and its energy. So shortsighted the train seemed, running to the distance, so terrifying in their littleness the villages, with such pettiness in their activity.

Skrebensky wandered dazed, not knowing where he was or what he was doing with her. All her passion seemed to be to wander up there on the downs, and when she must descend to earth, she was heavy. Up there she was exhilarated and free.  (P.438)

The mass portrayed as zombies worried too much about personal status within the whole, always protective of themselves. Never to reveal any human element in their approach to fellow men.

This is sharply portrayed through the conduct teachers have toward the students. In the academic eye (D.H. Lawrence became a teacher himself at an early age) the children are evil vermin that must be beaten into obedience. The rough edges sandpapered to make perfect cylinders that will fit the engines of societal factories. The conduct is perpetuated by the head of the school, Mr.Hardy. A representation of the head of the state, he allows for no feeling or compassion. He is cold as a stone, made clear by his conduct towards all new teachers and students.

“Ursula was rather frightened by his mechanical ignoring of her, and his directness of statement. It was something new to her. She had never been treated like this before, as if she did not count, as if she were addressing a machine.” (P.350)

Mr. Hardy in essence takes all personal conduct out of the children and teachers as well. He will not allow for any freedom of feelings or understanding. Only strict obedience to the systematic whole is respected. The self is beaten out of the teachers and trickles down to the future working class, discouraging self expressions and compassion.

“She must during the next week, watch over her books, and punish any fault. Her soul decided it coldly. Her personal desire was dead for that day at least. She must have nothing more of herself in school. She was to be Standard Five teacher only. That was her duty. In school she was nothing but Standard Five teacher. Ursula Brangwen must be excluded. “

The downfall of Ursula’s predecessors, her mother Ana and Lydia her grandmother, is their need for intimacy and human connection. Excessive lust and sexual intercourse being prohibited in literature, part of a governmental censorship, is the device that Lawrence employs in the story that brings order to the Brangwen household. It’s the underlying dark passion that tames the souls in the night, having a strong and powerful force. No matter how far the souls drift apart during the arguments that inhibit a new and budding household, the sexual passion glues everything back in place. Through it the Lensky lineage is tamed by the Brangwen men, until Ursula arrives – an ungovernable peak of the collision of separate forces. She is the first product of the culmination of Brangwen and Lensky. Too powerful for lust to tame answering to a greater force – the moon, drawing her energy from the natural environment.

“Skrebensky, like a load stone weighed on her, the weight of his presence detained her. She felt the burden of him, the blind, persistent, inert burden. He was inert, and he weighed upon her. She sighed in pain. Oh, for the coolness and entire liberty and brightness of the moon. Oh for the cold liberty to be herself, to do entirely as she liked. She wanted to get right away. She felt like bright metal weighted down by dark, impure magnetism. He was the dross, people were the dross. If she could but get away to the clean free moonlight.” (P.300)

Every great force comes with consequences. Characters must exhibit great strength to draw on such powers and advance societal norms further. The lack of understanding from the surrounding citizens, results in societal punishment, refusing to welcome change and a uprootedness to their beliefs, way of life. Ursula’s consequences are a result of harboring a view of life far too advanced for the current times and executing on them with determination, throwing caution to the wind. Only upon losing everything do question of being too proud and self centeredness trouble her. In the end she is broken and turns the blame inward. She didn’t choose the moon, and perhaps without it she might have fallen prey to lust, might have been conquered through passion, might have led the normal life of rural England, but the world, chose her to lead society further, to establish the foundation for feminist values. It gave her a foundation too strong for temptations of the world to conquer, and left her to suffer the consequences.

In Ursula one sees the embodiment of D.H. Lawrence, a boy from a mining town in England, a teacher in his youth, escaping England’ system of exploitation. The battle within Ursula must have also raged within Lawrence. Unlike Ursula, Lawrence was able to escape the confines of England and spend a life of traveling and writing and chasing his dreams. This didn’t make the burden of expatriation any less severe. His works only widened the distance between the man and home, every page making the welcome less and less. All his works where a direct challenge for change, a change that landed him outside the borders.  Hence we are left with a direct caricature of life in England in the early 20th century, that spokes the sharp truth,  taking no regard for censorship, while at the same time showing appreciation and finding beauty in all scenes dear to him.

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The Growing Stone, By Albert Camus

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Albert Camus beautiful prose takes us on a magical ride deep inside the depths of Brazil. The setting of the story, is unlike any other found in the book Exile and The Kingdom. The location has many advantages to Albert Camus, in helping him get his psychological points illustrated to the reader through the use of wonderful fiction in the depth of nature. There are two main themes dealt with within the story.

  • Finding a bond and kinship with a new community, while at the same time having a feeling of exile due to one’s past.
  • The negative effect of mass religion and politics on people .

The story starts with a french engineer (d’Arrast) and his driver (Socrates), as they are traveling through the dark night. d’Arrast has been hired to begin preparations for a dam, that will control the river and prevent flooding in a remote town. After a long drive through the night, they arrive. Next morning, once in the remote establishment, d’Arrast is very little interested in building the dam, and, more interested in discovering the culture of the locals. His first interest is in seeing a local hut, so that he may satisfy his curiosity on how these people survive in such living conditions. The hut is bare, besides a huge fire pit in the center of the hut that is used for cooking and to keep warm and, a small mattress on a broken frame with a table next to it. The hut peeks his interest, as it grows with every new experience on this journey.

“He was waiting as if the work he had come here to do were merely a pretext, the occasion for a surprise or an encounter he could not even imagine, but that had been waiting for him, patiently at the end of the world”

After the visit to a locals hut, Socrates the person responsible for leading d’Arrast on this journey of self discovery, tells him the story of the growing stone.  The locals found a floating statue of Jesus Christ in the river. They brought it to safety and placed it inside a cave to work on its restoration. The statue once removed, left a stone for ever in that cave, the said stone now always grows ( Hence the name for the story The Growing Stone) . It’s considered a miracle by the locals. During the holidays the locals brake of a piece of stone for blessing. The growing stone sounds like propaganda the local missionaries would use to convert a tribe to Christianity, but d’Arrast goes with it. He visits the growing stone.

Next d’Arrast is introduced to a local ship cook, who Socrates calls “The Champion”. At this point the reader hears a personal account of an experience with God, from a local of the land. We hear how the ship cook’s vessel caught fire, to no fault of his own. The fire engulfs large ship on the river, and the cook must jump unto a lifeboat.  During the night the life boat overturns. While drowning the cook makes a promise to Jesus. That if he was saved he would carry a 50 kilos (110 lbs) stone on his back during the religious ceremonies to take place in town. The frenchman gets a chuckle out of the story. It’s clear that d’Arrast is an atheist and finds the promise silly. But agrees with the cook that once a promise is made it must be carried out. A man of principle, our french engineer.

The cook than begs for d’Arrast to join him at night during the ceremonies, so that the frenchman may help him keep his promise. The cook is in fear that he may get carried away by the dancing and be put in a trance. d’Arrast is asked to attend the ceremony and ensure that they leave at a respectable time so that the cook may get rest before the task promised. This annoys d’Arrast, an atheist he feels now responsible for this stranger. He can’t understand how this villager could bestow such a responsibility on him, a man he barely knows. But his fascinations, with the lifestyle and practices continue to grow, and he accepts. d’Arrast is rewarded with a life changing experience.

That night d’Arrast takes part in an out of this world experience. He witnesses the dancing ceremonies of the tribal townspeople devoted to god. This passage of the event is by far the best part of the work, for the vivid images it implants in the reader’s head, and, all the senses the words touch. The writer makes you feel, hear, and smell in his description of the ceremonies.

  • Feel –  “In the reddish, uncertain light a stifling dust was rising from the ground thickening the already heavy air that clung to the skin, D’arrast felt gradually overcome by fatigue; it was harder and harder for him to breathe.”
  • Smell – “The heat, the dust, the smoke of the cigars, the smell of human bodies was making the air completely unbreathable”
  • Hear-”At the same time, everyone began to howl, without letup, a long collective, toneless howl, as if their bodies were entirely knotted together, muscles and nerves, in a single powerful outburst that at last gave voice in each of them to a being which had been absolutely silent.

The leader of the ceremony is described to us as a tall black man wearing a fitted red tunic with a necklace of colored teeth. An image all together different then you’d expect to see in a leader found at a place of warship. The ceremony is also nothing like you’d expect in the house of god. There is dancing, screaming, smoking. Pain and pleasure seem to intertwine. It’s more like exorcism than a religious service. But it attracts our frenchmen, the wild smells, the wild dancing, the yells, it captivates not just the reader but our hero. Until he is kicked out.

“They’re going to dance all night, but they don’t want you to stay now”

Here we run into a theme that runs deep through all the stories found in the book. The theme of exile. Even though d’Arrast is in love with the events, the people and the town, he has overstayed his welcome in a sense. It’s as if d’Arrast may partake in everyday activities, but when things get personal, he is after all an outsider, and asked to leave. d’Arrast realizes this

“Life here was at ground level, and to be a part of it one had to lie down and sleep for years on the muddy or parched earth”

On the next day, d’Arrast is invited to experience the religious festival from the balcony of the judges house. Through out the events d’Arrast is on the look out for the cook. As he takes in the view, hears the firecrackers that echo through the town and disturb the birds from their calm rest, the image of the cook evades him. d’Arrast through the friendship with the cook, has developed an attachment to the community. This attachment traps the frenchman between the old and the new. The old he finds no affinity for, and the new that he can never call his own, or fit in with. d’Arrast is trapped.

“Again he wanted to flee this country, and at the same time he was thinking about the enormous stone; he would have liked this trial to be over”

d’Arrast can’t leave because he is entranced by the villagers, from the stories he hears, the rituals he witnesses, and, the sights he takes in. It pulls him in. This echos what Albert Camus must have felt returning to his homeland of Algeria, after spending so many years living in France.

When d’Arrast finally sees the cook carrying the stone on his head, he runs out into the middle of the street. The cook is utilizing all the strength remaining in his body and feeding from the energy of encouragement supplied by the villagers, that surround him. As he takes his final steps with the stone placed on his head, the cook, is described as, having his muscles perturbing in anguish from his bones. The image painted through words is of a broken down man who has spent every conceivable ounce of energy, carrying this burden. A man who can no longer continue. A man defeated, bleeding and collapsed. I keep asking my self is the stone symbolic of something bigger? Is this society burdened by the western laws and religious practices? It seems like d’Arrast realizes this as he picks up the dropped stone and carries it not to the designated destination of a Christian church, but to the Hut of the cook. The final message here is to bring it all back to the basics. To give the people back their freedom, to respect their practices, to let them practice their own history. We find Albert Camus in this main character. A man who wanted his people to be left alone, to be free in their own land, without the imposed laws and politics of the French government.

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