21 July 2008

The Question of Power

Sorry I couldn't be there for the Women in Love discussions. Just some thoughts. For me one of the dominant themes throughout the book was the constant struggle for power between the male and female characters. It seemed there was almost never an interaction among between characters of the opposite sex where the issue of power and/or dominance did not arise. This was especially true in the Gudrun-Gerald relationship but it's also seen in relation to Birkin and Hermione and Birkin and Ursula.

It even shows up briefly in the brief relationship between Gerald and Pussum where Lawrencew observes that "Her (Pussum) being suffused into his veins like a magnetic darkness and concentrated at thye base of his spine like a fearful source or power."

Gerald draws power from Gudrun. He is renewed by making love to her in the Death and Love chapter "All his veins that were murdered and lacerated, healed softly as life came pulsing in...He was a man again, strong and rounded." he both loves and ultimately hates Gudrun for the power she has over him.

For her part, Gudrun is constantly at war with Gerald's power over her. In the Continentals chapter after the dance, although she teases him about the power he had over the young German girl, she is awed and frightened by the power he seems to have over women. "The deep resolve formed in her to combat him. One of them must triumph over the other." Leter as they were talking "she turned aside, breaking the spell. In some strange way, she felt he was getting power over her." Later it disturbs her to have him standing there watching her fix her hair and she resorts to a small ruse to get him to paw through her pourse looking for a small box. This in some way returned the power to her, "She had the whip hand," and later "And Gudrun slept strongly, a victorious sleep."

The Birkin-Hermione relationship was one where she was constantly bending him to her will, giving direction or jeering or mocking him. Lawrence observes that even with the male cat she has to assume the upper hand "It was always the same this joy in power she manifested, particularly power over every male being."

The Birkin-Ursula relationship has similar, thopugh more subtle, overtones. Early on Birkin sees power in Ursula "She was rich, full of dangerous power. She was like a strange unconscious bud of powereful womanhood." Initially Birkin refuses to tell her he loves her because he needs more than just conventional love. Ultimately he does her bidding just as he did Hermione's. In the Flitting chapter he not only tells her he loves her - in response to her prodding-- but like Gerald finds that he draws power and sustenence from her. "This marriage with her was his resurrection and his life."

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