Myth and symbol in some major novels of D.H. Lawrence

Kewley, Fay (1968) Myth and symbol in some major novels of D.H. Lawrence. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

An interest in symbolism and a particular interest in the work of D.H. Lawrence furnish the motive for this study. Three things are apparent in reading Lawrence: (1) His symbolism is more methodical than would appear at first reading and leads into a network of myths. (2) The writing technique used by him corresponds to the process with which he describes the development of his characters. (3) He does not fit comfortably into a literary line of succession but fits in a general way into areas of development within other disciplines. -- The most noticeable characteristic of Lawrence's writing seems to be the zealous pursuit of a state of being in which man could reflect the cosmic harmony. By-passing the novels which concentrate mainly upon male relationships and questions of political and religious leadership, one can isolate a number of novels which concentrate on the acquisition of this state of being, and which, in fact, constitute a philosophy of “becoming”. The novels which indicate a progression towards the ideal of man living harmoniously in the universe are Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. There is, however, a sense of dissatisfaction at the end of all these novels, a feeling of uncompleted business. By reading The Man Who Died as a key to further development of this theme the line of thought is as finished as a philosophy of becoming can be. -- The problem of fragmentation, considered by Lawrence as the major evil resulting from the mechanization of industry, seems even more important in the age of cybernetics. It is in this connection that a comparison of Lawrence with the insights of Jung seem particularly important and rewarding. Also, since Lawrence’s death in 1930 there has been a renewed interest in mythology, sparked by new discoveries made in anthropology. All of these things give credibility to notions which Lawrence put forth in purely literary form. -- The myth which underlies much of the writing is the myth of Daphne, interpreted not as a fate of vegetation, but of mechanization. Mechanization is a step beyond vegetation because it is no longer rooted in earth and, therefore, completely lifeless. Lawrence works out his own version of life-death. Death for him is another consideration; the life-death debate is really life vs. lifelessness which means life lived creatively from the "quick" or lifelessness as a state of existence without vitality. Loss of vitality for Lawrence was the disaster which threatened mankind. The coming disaster was not flood or fire (although he uses these metaphors), or a fate imposed by God, but loss of vitality through mechanization, a disaster of man's own making. Although Lawrence uses the symbol of the Ark it is clear that the Ark is woman. -- So man is another Adam seeking his lost paradise, and the key to his salvation is the same thing that was the key to his downfall - woman. The kind of woman who contributes to the downfall and is of no use in redeeming is symbolized by Gudrun, who is the ultimate in the horror of recession into mechanism - the completely mechanical woman who realizes her predicament. At the other end of the scale is the priestess of Isis, the healer. -- No final decision can be made about the total meaning or value of Lawrence's work except to say the work lends itself to interpretation and reinterpretation because his philosophy was a philosophy of becoming and his creed was continuous creation.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5475
Item ID: 5475
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [261]-264.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1968
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930

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