Short stories by H. D. Lawrence reflect his values and perception of the world, romantic nature, and sensitivity. The short stories selected for analysis belong to one of his early collections, The England, My England published in 1922. The short stories Samson and Delilah, the Horse Dealer’s Daughter and You Touched Me by H. D. Lawrence vividly portray relations between men and women, love, and human sexuality.
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The main character of The Horse Dealer’s Daughter is a young girl, Mabel. This story is based on the theme of love and romantic relations between the girl and Jack. Mabel is oppressed by her three brutish brothers. Mabel has no fairy godmother to transform her into a princess. Instead, she must find her own salvation; her new life must be earned. Paradoxically she can achieve this only after immersing herself in the dark waters of death and destruction. Mabel is rescued from her suicide attempt by Jack Fergusson, the country doctor, a man who is also suffering from the sickness unto death. New life comes from a ritual immersion in the waters of destruction, followed by a passionate commitment made by a man who does not understand what he is doing. The story seems to be the embodiment of salvation through the dark mystery of sexuality (Williams 53). The Horse Dealer’s Daughter has no irony, and yet it too is open-ended. This story concludes with a moving declaration and commitment of love between Mabel Pervin and Jack Fergusson, her rescuer.
The social and political context is based on the class conflict between the low classes and middle classes, rich and poor, educated and uneducated people. At the end of the story when Fergusson must go back to his office, Mabel worries that the spell of their passionate encounter will be broken. But her fear that he “can’t want to love” (Lawrence 2007) is unfounded. He can’t help loving her.
In the short story, Samson and Delilah Lawrence revise the Biblical story, seemingly in the interest of male ascendancy. The main theme of the story is the love relations between Samson and Delilah. At the story’s end, the husband has reclaimed his rightful place in the relationship. The wife glowers at the fire and shudders while he insinuates his hand between her breasts and talks on. As we shall see, she has “the eyes of some non-human creature” (Lawrence 2007) herself, and the struggle between Samson and Delilah is far from over (Williams 43). Though Lawrence’s Delilah has soldiers tie up the Samson who has come to reclaim her, she is unable to shear his locks. Indeed she does not wish to do so: after he frees himself from the loosely tied rope, he discovers to his astonishment that she has left the door unlocked. In terms of social context, this short story portrays class relations and family relations. The husband in Samson and Delilah seems to regain supremacy over his wife. The political context is not clearly defined by it is possible to say that WWI has an impact on the views and settings of the story. Critics admit that Samson and Delilah are anything but dogmatic.
The story depicts the everyday life of the community, especially the lifestyle, and clearly indicates Lawrence’s involvement in that life. Describing emotion in terms of natural imagery, seeds, birth, rivers, wind, Lawrence goes beyond romantic analogy to assert a profound connection: emotion does not simply mimic natural processes; it is a force of nature. This groping for the rhetoric of impersonal energies, to replace the familiar rhetoric of private feeling, is responsible for what is most remarkable and most wearying in Lawrence’s style (Williams 49). The concluding ellipsis tells us that though Samson seems to be fully in command, the war is not over. He has gained the upper hand over his Delilah, but she has survived and will fight again.
In You Touched Me Lawrence dramatizes the belief in the primacy of the senses, and once again closer inspection reveals otherwise. The rat-like Hadrian pressures the spinster Matilda into marrying him because she touched him on the brow that fateful night, though by mistake. “The fragile exquisiteness of her caress… revealed unknown things to him” (Lawrence 2007). Even so, Matilda and her sister’s suspicion that he is after their inheritance is not entirely unfounded. For whatever reason, Hadrian will not be denied. The women’s dying father sides with Hadrian, seeming “to have a strange desire, quite unreasonable, for revenge upon the women who had surrounded him for so long,” (Lawrence 2007). The political and social context of You Touched Me reflects middle-class families and the role of marriage and romantic love in society.
H. D. Lawrence literary work is analyzed and criticized by a number of well-known literary critics including Williams (2002), Seelow (2005), Granofsky (2003). Williams (2002), and Seelow (2005) criticize and analyze the relations between men and women, romantic love and the role and importance of sexual desire in Lawrence’s works. They agree that the stories of England, My England grow out of the experience of World War I and out of a new sense that the England of Lawrence’s best hopes has become a lost cause.
Critics agree that Lawrence is critical of the men in the story as well (for instance, in Samson and Delilah) (Seelow 2005; Squires 1995). It can also be argued that many of the England, My England stories reveal Lawrence’s growing need to assert male domination over women. The volume after all belongs to the period between Women in Love and the leadership novels, a time when star polarity was en route to being transformed into male authority. The novellas that date are all concerned with female submission to the male. At least, however, in most of the England, My England stories, The only thing certain is the struggle between man and woman, and in England, My England that struggle is presented with comic detachment. Findlay (1993) underlines that the stories are a brilliant evocation of the rich life of intense and direct contact with the physical world. Lawrence’s artistry is so commanding that he makes readers feel as if they have truly entered a sensuous world. Even so astute a reader is impressed by the presentation of this world. Of course, all this laughter has a hollow ring to it. “The narrator shouts with laughter at the end because he has seen firsthand how fully men and women are at odds” (Granofsky 43).
As these early short stories formed an experimental setting for Lawrence’s characters and relationships, so the early poetry provided a chance for Lawrence to experiment with his initial exploration of the symbolic aspects within such relationships: his relationships with other members of his family, especially his mother, his relationship with Jessie and Louie, and his own relationship with his social surroundings (Granofsky 92). The competition between the two men serves also to illustrate another of Lawrence’s concerns, that of class differences. In the Horse Dealer’s Daughter, Mabel says: “’You villain!’ she cried. ‘You villain, to come to this house and dare to speak to me. You villain, you down-right rascal!’” (Lawrence 2007). Brought up in a working-class home, but where a class gulf existed between his mother and father and was always evident in the family atmosphere, “Lawrence could not help exploring this facet” (Williams 27).
Critics state that the early stories may be seen as illustrating: Lawrence’s personal relationships, particularly with females; Lawrence’s observation of and involvement in the class struggle, again with special reference to male-female relationship and the conflicts this creates; Lawrence’s search for an understanding and justification of his own position, his “search for self.” In spite of romantic scenes and love relations, these stories are a part of Lawrence’s response to the war. The dislocation and breakdown found throughout the collection point to the war’s impact. So perhaps does the fact that nearly all the love relationships in the stories are battles. England, My England itself is the work that is Lawrence’s most direct statement about the war. The stories describe England during wartime “more vividly and concretely, but in these stories, Lawrence makes a concerted attempt to analyze and understand why the war happened to England” (Granofsky 76) and why England lacked the spiritual resources to come through intact. The stories have tight, strong structures. This is partly because Lawrence is making use of ready-made structures that he finds in myth and fairy tales (Williams 92).