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Facultatea de Litere
Str. Spiru Haret, nr. 8, Bacău, 600114
Tel./ fax ++40-234-588884
www.ub.ro; e-mail: litere@ub.ro


Coordonator ştiinţific:
Lector univ. dr. Andreia-Irina Suciu

Dobârceanu Măriuca-Mihaela


Facultatea de Litere
Str. Spiru Haret, nr. 8, Bacău, 600114
Tel./ fax ++40-234-588884
www.ub.ro; e-mail: litere@ub.ro

Social Code and Change in

D. H. Lawrence’s
The Rainbow

Coordonator ştiinţific
Lector univ. dr. Andreia-Irina Suciu
Dobârceanu Măriuca - Mihaela


Argument ……………………………………………………………………………..........4
I. UNDERSTANDING THE VICTORIAN ERA …………………………………............5
I.1 Key concept: Etiquette ……………………………………....…………...…....5
I.2 Social code from Victorianism to Modernity …………………………………..8
I.3 Change in society and in fiction …………………………………………….....10


II.1 Key concept: Change.....…………………………………………….........…...12
II.2 Change in marriage concepts …………………………………………………13
II.3 Change in status …………………………………………………..…………14
II.4 Change in views upon life………………………………………....…..………16
II.5 Changes inside the family………………………………..……………………16


III.1 Ursula’s journey towards self-discovery – the change within………………19
III.2 The symbolism of The Rainbow………………………..……………………27

IV. CONCLUSIONS……………………………………………………..…….…………29

V. BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………..………………30


It is well known that people’s way of thinking is hard to change once they learn from
childhood that what seems normal is also the only, correct way, but it is alright to think differently.
D. H. Lawrence has put a question mark on everything that concerned women. That meant code,
rules, and way of thinking in the Victorian Era and not only.

One of the reasons why I chose this novel is because I was impressed by the manner in
which a male writer thought and wrote about women in a period when they were objectified, did
not have the freedom of speech and that sitting in the kitchen all day was their only purpose. This
is the way in which women were regarded and judged by men. Lawrence is one of the few male
writers that wrote about the injustice of the Victorian Era regarding women. This novel became an
example for women all over the world, empowering them to speak up their minds and confronting
their problems, regardless of the period.


It does not matter what people think. This is the motto in our days, the rule that most of us
follow in the 21st century. But people’s behaviour was not always like that, their way of conduct
in public, private, the social and moral code was and is still in change.

I.1. Key concept: Etiquette

The society even if nowadays is not so clear the difference was divided in classes. Pure
bloods, new money, working class, slaves. All humans, but the difference was the social status?
What defined the social status? Lineage, money and etiquette. Etymologically speaking the word
etiquette is borrowed from the French etiquette which meant prescribed behaviour, derived from
the Old French etiquette with the meaning of label, ticket.

According to Dictionary.com some of the definitions of etiquette are:

1. Conventional requirements as to social behaviour; proprieties of conduct as established in

any class or community or for any occasion.

2. A prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official

or other formal observances.

3. The code of ethical behaviour regarding professional practice or action among the members
of a profession in their dealings with each other: medical etiquette.

To understand more clearly their code, first and foremost we have to understand their way
of thinking. To understand the way people thought, we have to know the history of that time,
especially what was happening at that time in the higher circles of society. We say only higher
circles because that is where all the influence on how to talk, behave in public came from. The
middle class especially were trying to imitate them. The Victorian Era is named after Queen
Victoria. She became queen of England in 1837 when she was only 18 years old. Victoria ruled
until she died in 1901 after 64 years as Queen. The Victorian Era was a time in England’s history
when there was political stability and strict cultural norms. When Victoria became Queen of
England and the British Empire, the empire was quite big spreading across the Americas, South
Africa, India and Australia. At the time of her death the British Empire had expanded significantly
which may not be a surprise considering she was working on it for 64 years. Some of the more

significant territories acquired for the British Empire between 1837 and 1901 are: Western Canada,
New Zealand, more territories in South-East Asia and a significant acquisition in Africa.

Having a ruler in charge for such an important long time had a couple of effects of people
living in the British Empire. The first is that it provided political stability. The second effect is that
the political stability encouraged people to seek stability and order in their daily lives, and that
included the way people acted and interacted in society.

During the Victorian Era a strict set of social norms were created, and people were expected
to observe them. If people didn’t follow the social rules, they could expect to be rejected by their
peers. For example: what a person did on a daily basis and who he or she talked to, depended on
who he or she was. In other words, this defined their identity. In Victorian England identity was
made up of three things: the race, the gender and social class. Whatever the combination of these
three things, that would affect what a person could do on a daily basis and in their lives.

In the Victorian Era people were seeking order. Many believed that everything on Earth
had its own place and some things were more valuable than others. Many people believed that
something called The Great Chain of Being explained which things on Earth were more important
and which things were less important. According to the Chain of Being, God is at the top and
humans are more important than animals but less important than angels. Some people living in the
Victorian Era were so obsessed with organizing things that they created something like a chain of
being for humans. This chain organized all the known races of the world into those more or less
important. Sometimes the races included different nationalities. For example there was British as
a race, Italian as a race and Asian as a race, and evidently that when the English people drew the
chain, they put the British at the top. At the bottom of this human chain of being were those humans
that looked most different from the British, so Africans, Asians and First Nations people. In the
middle of the chain would be those people who looked like British people but were not.

This human chain was a very racist idea, but at the time it was very popular and people
believed that it was accurate. This idea of being at the top would have made sense if we take a
look at their territorial expanding, it was natural for them to believe that their race was better than
all of the others. The benefits of being British included jobs, owning properties and voting.

Gender was similar in keeping with the idea that everything had its place. People in the
Victorian Era believed that men and women had their own places. For a variety of reasons the
woman’s place was in the house because she was so much more nurturing and kinder and sweeter
than men so the theory went: the best place for a woman was to stay in the home, keep it clean and
raise children. On the other hand, men were meaner and tougher so their place was the outside
world, facing the harsh realities of the difficult world of business and politics. Those areas
according to these ideas were no place for a woman.

The gender a person had affected what a person could do or not do on their daily basis. For
example, in the Victorian Era it was thought to be inappropriate for a woman to go out in public
by herself. If she had to go out she should be accompanied by a man, preferably by her husband,
father or brother. The idea was that because the outside world was so harsh the woman should be
protected. One’s gender affected their role in Victorian society and the actual physical spaces they
could occupy. Communities especially in the Victorian era worked hard to establish clear divisions
between people of different social-economic classes. The upper class were the wealthiest citizens,
often those who were born into positions of privilege. The middle class was formed of professional
men like lawyers, doctors, business owners and their families. They were financially secure but
perhaps not as well off as the upper class were not a descendant of an aristocratic family. The
working class was made up of people who were trying to get by on a daily basis. They were men,
women and children who worked at low-paying jobs and who struggled to afford the clothes on
their back, the roof over their head and enough to eat.

In the Victorian society efforts were made to establish clear divisions between these
classes; people of different classes would live in different neighbourhoods. Other ways to
distinguish themselves from members from another class were the people they socialized with and
the clothes that they wore. In conclusion, in the Victorian Era there were strict social norms that
dictated based on people’s race, gender and class what place they had in society and what they
could and could not do.

Another characteristic of Victorian England that is important to understand is that there

were strict cultural rules about morality, about what was and what was not appropriate behaviour.
These included speech, manners and clothing. For people in the middle class desired to be accepted
by members of the upper class, some people in the working class desired to be accepted by
members of the middle class to increase their chances or so they thought. The people in the lower
classes tried to speak and act like those in the upper class. Hundreds of books were printed about
how to behave so that people could practise and act the right way when out in public.

Another way the Victorians demonstrated their high morals was in the clothing that they
wore. The dress styles were elaborate and also covered up much of the body. It was considered
inappropriate for a woman to be out in public in a dress that revealed body parts like ankles, wrists
or the neck. Men were expected to dress conservatively also with shirts, ties, vests, jackets and
overcoats. For those living in the Victorian Era and for those who could afford it, clothing was a

way of demonstrating their high moral standards. It was also a way of demonstrating their social-
economic class.

The final characteristic of this age is consumerism. Members of the upper class looked for
ways to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. They would dress in fancier clothes, they
would shop in fancier stores, and they would try to acquire things that only the wealthy could
possess. Because the British Empire stretched around the globe, people could buy all sorts of
things. Victorians loved to buy exotic things and put them on display in their houses to demonstrate
how well-off they were to guests or even to people walking on the street. One of the consequences
of the upper class trying to outspend the middle class is that the members of the middle class, tried
really hard to acquire the same things so that they could look like members of the upper class. This
led to the upper class trying to find even more exotic and more expensive things which caused a
buying reaction among the middle class and on it went this sort of buying war between those
people trying to look like the upper class and those trying to keep the middle and lower classes in
their place.

I.2 Social code from Victorianism to Modernity

The Victorian Era as previously mentioned, was a society based on morality and rules.
Every culture has its own unique rules and protocols, they usually seem strange from the outside,
but normal from the inside. From the 1830’s to the 1901, the culture of Great Britain and the British
Empire came under the influence of Victorianism. This era is infamous for exhausting expectations
of piety and mannerly behaviour. Nowadays, this following 5 rules do not apply anymore:

Fashion etiquette

When it comes to what a lady should wear, the Victorian lady was expected to wear lots of
constricting and cumbersome gears. The Victorian era was a high time for corsets. Corsets were
not only for high society ballrooms and royal court, they were everywhere. Corsets were so
common, that women would wear them in work houses and prisons. Also, popular during the
Victorian Era were crinolines, stiff domed-cages, designed to hold women skirts on a wide radius
from their legs. Of course, women had to follow more rules, such as what and when to wear, what
kind of dress to wear on different occasions and how long a woman had to wear black after the
death of a family member.

Introduction etiquette
When it came to introduction, people couldn’t just go and talk to somebody, they had to be
introduced first. Who got introduced to whom depended on the order of precedence, a system of
social ranking. A low ranking baron got introduced to a high ranking duke and the other way
around. This could only happen if the person that introduced the baron knew the rank of everybody
in their social circle.

Street etiquette

An unmarried woman strolling down the street in 19th century London, first and foremost
could not walk alone. She had to have an escort. When the woman saw a man she recognized, first
of all he was not allowed to talk unless the lady made a gesture of recognition first. If the lady
wanted to talk to the man she had to offer him her hand, which he could take, but only after lifting
his hat using the hand farthest away from her. And once he takes his hand the man had to walk
alone with the lady, but even then she couldn’t just gabble away. According to Cassell’s Household
Guide “Strict reticence of speech and conduct must be observed in public” and that meant no loud
talking or animated discussions.

Presentation at Court

A respectable family wishing to announce that their son or daughter was ready for
courtship, could do this at a specialized event. Young men could be introduced at events called
which are held several times a year. Young ladies could be introduced at presentation events held
at St. James Palace, and these events did not scamp on the protocols either. Men had to wear
buckled shoes and swords. Ladies had to put feathers in their hair and drag three yards trains behind
their dresses. When the children were ready to start dating, that is when delicate things really sink

Courtship etiquette

First of all, etiquette manuals advised young lovers that technically they are supposed to
look for partners within their social class. Technically people married for money and social status.
Victorian England operated on the low-off primogenitor, which meant that when the family head
passed away, the entire estate went to the oldest son. So, it was kind of expected that eligible ladies
would seek oldest sons, meanwhile young noble men with troubled assets tried to court rich
heiresses, sometimes from a lower social rank. One of the most hilarious facts from this era was
that women had a “season for hunting”: young men looking for ladies to court would search at
social events during “The Season”, which lasted from January through June. If a lady did not find
a husband after three “Seasons”, she was considered a spinster.

When writing about the way people were expected to act or talk at the events they
participated it looks hilarious for people nowadays that such protocol rules were followed. Of
course, we consider these rules as strange when we think of how much society has changed and
evolved. With such knowledge on anatomy, medicine, psychology and other fields, men and
women have emancipated, even the most closed minded persons from our times, in comparison
with the ones from the Victorian era, still look like open minded ones. Sex, orientation,
contraception, are realistic and public information, knowledge, while in the Victorian era women
didn’t know about the act of intercourse, what really happens, until their wedding night, often
leaving them traumatized. Men viewed women as property, thing incomprehensible for most of
the women nowadays. Same sexual orientation, is now a large accepted fact, even if still not all
people agree with it. But in Victorian era if someone was discovered for having intercourse with
a same sex person he or she would be sent to Bedlam.

Work and the right vote are things that changed drastically. For the first, work has become
available for women even in the Victorian era, even though the only jobs a woman could be hired
for were: maid, nurse, cook and governess. With the arrival of the two World Wars, women were
forced to take on the jobs of the men. During the change of centuries, bold women took the leap
of faith and followed their dreams, that of becoming something they could not: doctors, lawyers,
business owners. Nowadays in almost every field exist women working. They are no longer
constricted to the role of cleaning the house and nurturing the children.

There is no more gender separation when it comes to a job, what really matters are the
competences they have. The same thing happens with the right of voting. The woman is equal to
the man, she could do what the man does when it comes to cognitive abilities. A man can always
have more strength than a woman except this. She thinks, she decides, she works, she pays taxes,
follows the same rules, has the same rights, and she can vote.

It is astonishing when we look back in the 19th century and then back again in the 21st.
We express ourselves without caring without feeling ostracized by society. We don’t need to
follow any book to know how to introduce ourselves, how to talk and with whom, and especially
what to wear. We don’t have to fear of expressing ourselves, of our sexual desires and orientation
being considered as deviant acts.

I.3 Change in society and in fiction

D. H. Lawrence is one of the few authors to break the “classic” theme, instead of writing
about the same, popular topic, love he writes about the change in the woman’s status, from a
housewife to a business woman and also about sexual orientation, a subject considered taboo in
the Victorian Era. Lawrence knew that his book was going to cause trouble on the grounds of its
content. The Rainbow and not only have been banned. Because of the theme and bad timing, the
novel being written during the First World War, Lawrence picked the wrong time period to speak
up about the matter, there for more than 1000 copies of the novels being burned. Another reason
why the novel was a “problem” is that it presented the human nature and the real portrait and
pettiness of lovers, while, in the Victorian era, this subject was taboo. People were “taught” that
the normal, right way, was to not speak about this problem. They did not have freedom of speech.
But once the time passed, people learned to express their feelings, break the rules, and be
independent and stop being afraid of the opinion of society.

The originality in Lawrence’s work resides in his decision to disregard moral taboos and
to speak about everything that is really human. He depicted individuals which are not only social
masks, but that they are deep down torn by conflicts and dilemmas which must be accepted and
solved. His intuitive way of perceiving reality is due to the lack of college education and working
class origin, a fact that placed him in a considerable disadvantage in comparison to the other
contemporary writers or critics who belonged to the middle or upper middle class. His social origin
had a great importance in Lawrence’s vision, he was the spontaneous, self-educated artist, sensitive
to everything beautiful in the world. The writer’s identity grew in relation to a three-fold antithesis:
industrial and rural, community and social aspiration, convention and realism. Lawrence opposes
to the pastoral, rural world of stable values and personal fulfilment, the modern, urban world of
artificial values and principles. His vision does not rest upon the conflict between feeling and
thought, but upon the necessity for reconciliation between the two. Social reality and social
relations are not neglected by Lawrence – they make an important background against which the
personality of his characters is projected. His protagonists are defined and grouped in terms of
their social context- their major conflicts derive from the clash between personal needs and social

The Rainbow gives only the appearance of a family chronicle with its presentation of three
generations of Branwgens. It focuses on a cycle of overlapping generations and how their
relationships evolve throughout a period of roughly sixty years. The novel enacts the rhythm of

time, the controlling motif being the movement from one generation to another. The author relates
to the relation between change and continuity. These two define both the historical evolution of
the social environment and the corresponding change of the individual.

The novel begins with Tom Branwgens courting and marrying Lydia, a Polish widow
which brings along her daughter the relationship between the two is described with delicacy that
can be described as “cold”, specific for that time period, being written in a “reluctant” manner.

The next part describes the relationship between Anna and Tom’s nephew, Will. We can
feel the passion between them their relationship being described in more detail, but they also have
their own problems concerning their spirituality, personal freedom and the equality between men
and women.

The last part of the novel focuses on Ursula, Anna and Tom’s child. Opposite to her mother,
who finds fulfilment in the role of a housewife, Ursula is trying to break away from this way of
living. As she grows up, the British Empire is moving from the Victorian Era to a modern world,
where the industry is rising, women start to gain courage and have their own voices. By the time
Ursula turns into a young woman, sexuality becomes a more popular topic, but at this point in
time, female homosexuality was still something unbelievable. She has a couple of affairs,
including her teacher, Winifred Inger and an army officer, Anton Skrebensky. Even if Winifred
and Anton fall in love with her, Ursula is still not satisfied with what she is offered. Alone in her
self-hood, she directs towards the outer world. There is an increasing separation between the inner
being and the outer relationships in which she is involved. Ursula’s relationship with Anton
Skrebensky fails because he cannot fit the girl’s aspiration for the beyond, he is totally immersed
in the social world of mechanic activities.

In the novel, Ursula, from a young age is presented as an intelligent, independent person,
with a strong personality. We can see this by also analyzing her name: Ursula, Latin for “little
female bear” is a Romano-British Christian saint. According to the legend, her father sent her to
marry a pagan king. And so, she left accompanied by 1.000 virginal handmaidens. But during their
trip, they were captured by the Huns, and because she did not want to marry the pagan ruler and
give up her religion, she and her maidens were martyred.

And as the saint, Ursula is determined not to marry, for her, this meaning the loss of
independence, the thing that was the most important to her. As she grows up, she is still fearless,
not afraid of making her own decisions, regardless of the consequences. Her opposition to marriage
represents the highest point of her growth towards the much desired independence.

As mentioned earlier, Ursula, in her search of independence, something unfamiliar or
regular for the women of the 19th century is determined to break the society’s restrictions,
becoming a feminist character, a representative figure in this unclear period. She feels the urge to
overcome her condition imposed by society.

“And very early she learned to harden her soul in resistance, and denial of all that
was outside her […] even as a girl of twelve she was glad to burst the narrow
boundary of Cossethay, where only limited people lived. Outside, was all vastness,
and a throng of real, proud people whom she would love.” (The Rainbow, p. 410)


II.1 Key concept: Change

The noun change, was used first in the 11th; it derives from the Anglo-French change which
derives from the French change that meant ‘exchange, recompense, reciprocation’. In 1410 the
noun also received the meaning “place where merchants do business”1, ‘something substituted for
something else’ is from the 1590s. In 1680, the word also gained the meaning of “a different
situation, variety, novelty”; a strange meaning the word has got in 1610s is that of “the passing
from life to death”.

The financial meaning of “balance of money returned after deducting the price of a
purchase from the sum paid” is first recorded in the 1620s. Bell-ringing sense is from 1610s, “any
sequence other than the diatonic”. Thus, the figurative phrase bring changes “repeat in every
possible order” (1610s). The figurative phrase change of heart is from 1828. In reference to
women, change of life “final cessation of menstruation” is from 1834.

According to Etymonline.com the verb change has the following interpretations: c. 1200,
“to alter, make different, change” (transitive); early 13c as “to substitute one for another”; mid-
13c. as “to make (something) other than what it was, cause to turn or pass from one state to
another”, from late 13c. as “to become different, altered” (intransitive), from Old French changer
"to change, alter; exchange, switch, from Late Latin “cambiare” to “barter, exchange”, extended
form of Latin cambire “to exchange, barter”, a word of Celtic origin, from PIE root *kemb- “to
bend, crook” (with a sense evolution perhaps from “to turn” to “to change”, to “to barter”); cognate
with Old Irish camm “crooked, curved”; Middle Irish cimb “tribute”, from 1300 as “undergo
alteration, become different”; in part an abbreviation of exchange from late 14c especially “to give
an equivalent for in smaller parts of the same kind” (money). Meaning “to take off clothes and put
on other ones” is from late 15c. Related: Changed; changing. To change (one's) mind is from

According to Cambridge Dictionary the verb change has multiple meanings:

a) to exchange one thing for another thing, especially of a similar type;

b) to make or become different;

c) exchange to take something you have bought back to a shop and exchange it for something else;

d) to form a new opinion or make a new decision about something that is different from your old

e) to improve;

Online Etymology Dictionary
f) change your ways;

g) to improve the bad parts of your behaviour;

In this paper what we are interested in is the word change as a shift, as “to make, become
something different”.

II.2 Change in marriage concepts

Maybe nowadays marriage is not that important anymore. Maybe for some, a signed paper
doesn’t necessarily mean marriage. Some people live happily together for ages without being
married and others get a divorce after a couples of months of marriage. While in the Victorian Era,
‘if’ a couple divorced, the woman would have been alienated by society.

In my opinion, the idea of “marriage” is old. The concept of “marriage” is no longer a

beautiful moment. People do not go anymore to weddings out of pleasure and happiness for the
couple, it became a duty. There still exist parents that force or pressure their children to marry as
soon as possible, as if the world is ending. Some even end up doing it just to get away from their
parents continuous quarrel.

During the Victorian period it was a custom that every family that had a son or daughter
ready for marriage, it had to announce it with the participation at a specific ball. And again, social
ranking intervened. They were advised to look for partners from their own social class. After the
woman got married, her entire dowry was transferred to her husband, because he is was considered
the head of the family and the absolute power, while she, nothing more than a property. But
nowadays that is rarely happening. The woman is not bound anymore to give her dowry to her
husband. Nowadays, the married couples share the same rights and choose to have their belongings
in one place and manage it together, a characteristic of modernity.

In the novel, marriage is interpreted differently by every generation: Tom barely gathered
the strength and courage to ask Lydia to marry him. And he does it the old way, bearing a bouquet
of flowers and asking for permission to talk to her. This is specific to that generation, for whom
things have not and will not change that much. On the other hand, when Will asks Anna to marry
him, the scene presented is more relaxed, much lighter, in contrast with Tom’s, who took some
time to marry Lydia. But for Ursula, the idea of marriage was repulsive. She believed that getting
married meant her loss of freedom and identity. Only in the end of the novel, when it is too late
and Skrebensky leaves her, does she realize her mistakes, in perceiving marriage as the loss of
II.3 Change in status

The changes in status began as industrialization became even more prominent. The blood
line became less important if a family did not have the money. The line between social classes
especially within the lower upper class and upper middle class began to blur; when it comes to
professions there also appeared a shift. Before women could only be maids, governesses and
nurses. With the industrialization there came even more jobs that now needed to be occupied, thus
resulting in: women and children assuming this kind of jobs. Another reason for assuming these
kinds of jobs is also because of the discrepancy between rich and poor. The male figure in a
working class barely made the necessary money to survive if he had a family, this being one of the
causes in women and children working.

Another reason for this shift in profession became possible when women and girls started
to attend public schools. A clear example is Ursula that passed through Education meant
knowledge. Knowledge for some of the girls became desire to practise something that before was
not possible for women, due to the fact that they did not have the necessary knowledge in certain
professions: doctor, business owner.

Another reason for the change in status when it came to the relationship between man and
woman was the emancipation of women. What we need to understand is that emancipation was a
slow process that what was built up through the centuries. Queen Victoria was one of the major
“characters” for the empowerment of women, this being the first “step” towards equality between
men and women, husband and wife. What also helped was that women gained the right to vote.
Women slowly began to realize that they can also do some of the jobs that man can do. They can
decide and think for themselves.

In conclusion, we can see that society began to be “mechanized”. Knowledge was more
important. The free will of women began to become more apparent towards the end of the novel.
A clear example is Ursula that entertains sexual relationships with a man outside wedlock, but also
with a teacher from where she studied. But what it also made it more scandalous then having an
affair with a man is that she had an affair with a woman, her teacher. While not being a known
fact, people with same sexual orientation were seen as mentally ill people. In the novel that is no
more the case. For Ursula as well for the reader the affair she has with the woman is a way in
which she opposes society but also a way through which she discovers herself. In hope that she
could be fulfilled with this relationship, she ends up disappointed and finds refugee in teaching.

The main theme of this novel is the change in the woman’s status, from a housewife to a
career woman. The best example is the difference between Anna and her daughter Ursula. While
Anna is satisfied with her position in life, just nurturing the children and keeping the house clean,
Ursula wants more and from an early age, she is not satisfied with her status, she wants and needs
something better than this. There aren’t any rules that apply to her, her rebellious personality
showing through the novel. Her relationships are not working out for her, because neither of her
lovers can make her feel fulfilled.

II.4 Change in views upon life

As previously analysed, the novel presents three generations of a family in the Victorian
Era. The more we get close towards the end of the novel we see the transition of the characters
views upon life, how toward the end a breakaway from traditions begins. We can clearly see that
moral codes and etiquette from the early Victorian Era does not apply anymore towards the end,
it being rejected.

At the beginning of the period, people were narrow-minded. Why? In order to maintain
order, they had a lot of absurd rules, protocols and habits. And they weren’t necessary. Only to
give the impression of a high class and to show off their wealth? People couldn’t express
themselves, wear what they wanted, or speak with who they wanted to because of this absurd code.
But in time, people started to change their mentality, women had their own voices, breaking from
this patriarchal society, they could do almost any work that men did and this way the journey to
equality between men and women started. Nowadays the rules considered essential in the Victorian
Era seem ridiculous, and some of them hilarious. In our time, people communicate more, they do
not have as many barriers as back then. People can wear whatever they like, talk to whomever they
want, not having to consider their social ranking. The society has changed throughout the years
and has become more open minded to the problems concerning sexual orientation. Opposite to the
Victorian Era, when people with different sexual orientation were considered mentally ill,
nowadays the majority of people do not judge these individuals as harsh as back then even if some
people are stuck with the same way of thinking and criticize the person next to them without even
knowing them.

II.5. Changes inside the family

Change was not happening only in the society, it was also happening inside the family.
From generation to generation, the relationship between children and their parents changed and
evolved, as we will see next. Tom Branwgen’s relationship with his daughter Anna is wonderful;
even if Anna was not his biological daughter she was his favourite. He loved being called a dad,
and when his son was born, he was happy, but that was all. Meanwhile every time he had the
chance of going out, Tom would always take Anna with him. She considered her dad an
“important” man. And she was happy that she could be alongside him. They wouldn’t just salute
her father, they should also salute her. The people started getting used to her and that made her
also feel ‘important’.

“Tom Brangwen never loved his own son as he loved his stepchild Anna. When
they told him it was a boy, he had a thrill of pleasure. He liked the confirmation of
fatherhood. It gave him satisfaction to know he had a son. But he felt not very much
outgoing to the baby itself. He was its father that was enough.”(The Rainbow, p.

“She loved driving with Brangwen in the trap. Then, sitting high up and bowling
along, her passion for eminence and dominance was satisfied. She was like a little
savage in her arrogance. She thought her father important, she was installed beside
him on high. And they spanked along, beside the high, flourishing hedge-tops,
surveying the activity of the countryside. When people shouted a greeting to him
from the road below, and Brangwen shouted jovially back, her little voice was soon
heard shrilling along with his, followed by her chuckling laugh, when she looked
up at her father with bright eyes, and they laughed at each other. And soon it was
the custom for the passerby to sing out: “How are ter, Tom? Well, my lady!” or
else, “Mornin’, Tom, mornin', my Lass!” or else, “You're off together then?” or
else, “You're lookin' rarely, you two.” Anna would respond, with her father:“How
are you, John! Good mornin', William! Ay, makin' for Derby!” shrilling as loudly
as she could. Though often, in response to “You're off out a bit then,” she would
reply, “Yes, we are,” to the great joy of all. She did not like the people who saluted
him and did not salute her.”( The Rainbow, p. 149)

As for Will, he has a strong connection with his daughter from the beginning. He could not
stand to hear her cry, he learned her every move, and the baby seemed to “understand” him.
“From the first, the baby stirred in the young father a deep, strong emotion he dared
scarcely acknowledge, it was so strong and came out of the dark of him. When he
heard the child cry, a terror possessed him” (The Rainbow, p. 386)

“He learned to know the little hands and feet, the strange, unseeing, golden-brown
eyes, the mouth that opened only to cry, or to suck, or to show a queer, toothless
laugh. He could almost understand even the dangling legs, which at first had created
in him a feeling of aversion. They could kick in their queer little way, they had their
own softness.” (The Rainbow, p. 387)

“It began to be strong, to move vigorously and freely, to make sounds like words.
It was a baby girl now. Already it knew his strong hands, it exulted in his strong
clasp, it laughed and crowed when he played with it. And his heart grew red—hot
with passionate feeling for the child.” (The Rainbow, p. 388)

“When she was a little older, he would see her recklessly climbing over the bars of
the stile, in her red pinafore, swinging in peril and tumbling over, picking herself
up and flitting towards him.” (The Rainbow, p. 391)

“He gave her the nicest bits from his plate, putting them into her red, moist mouth.”
(The Rainbow, p. 393)


III.1 Ursula’s journey towards self-discovery – the change within

What differentiates Ursula from her mother and grandmother is her strong attachment to
her father. He is “the dawn wherein her consciousness woke up” (The Rainbow, p. 404). She feels
“transported” when she first accompanies him to church, “excited, and unused” when she helps
him in the garden. Clinging on his back as he leaps from the canal bridge, Ursula can be seen as
symbolically making her first leap into female unconsciousness: “He leapt, and down they went.
The crash of the water as they went under struck through the child's small body, with a sort of
unconsciousness” (The Rainbow, p. 412)

“Water here can be seen as signifying a feminine underworld, and crucially it is the father
who introduces Ursula to it. In this symbolic leap, Ursula measures her courage against that of her
father’s as they both risk drowning.” (Haritatou, 2010). This is a moment which might separate
them forever, but in fact brings them closer, nourishing this “curious, taunting intimacy they have”
(The Rainbow, p. 413). One interpretation of the scene is that it demonstrates Will’s “sadistic,
destructive, deathly instincts” (Smith) and has been connected with his wish to derive through
Ursula a sense “of self-verification”. However, Will’s urge to indulge in such dangerous actions
with his daughter might also suggest symbolically his wish to sink into the dangerous, threatening
waters of the female unconscious, something he never quite managed to fulfil through his wife. It
is such a fulfilment he seeks in the immature femininity of his young daughter, a search as
potentially fatal as any oceanic experience. As Marianne Torgovnick has pointed out in Primitive
Passions (1998), “Lawrence had strong affinities for oceanic nature, conceived as the sight of
eternity, the site of the oblivion of the autonomous self”. Will here ignores the grave danger to
which he exposes Ursula and himself in his desire for a passage to the unconscious feminine which
demands the abandonment of the “autonomous self,” the dissolution into “otherness.”

Will is willing to undergo all this in order to gain entrance into this mysterious, female
world. The water, symbol of female sexuality, becomes threatening for him just as a return to the
womb threatens the formation of the symbolic identity he bonds with his little daughter by making
her a partner in dangerous experiences: “He saved her, and sat on the bank, quivering. But his eyes
were full of the blackness of death, it was as if death had cut between their two lives, and separated
them. Still they were not separate” (The Rainbow, p. 412). Alienated from his wife, Will travels
from isolation to near death carrying Ursula on his back. However young Ursula is fearless. Will
has “a craving to frighten her, to see what she would do with him” (The Rainbow, p.411), but he
feels under the child’s grip the “deliberate will,” “set upon his” (The Rainbow, p. 412).

In his daughter Will sees the undaunted female his wife was: “She was always relapsing
on her own to the other end where Anna was and where Will never managed to be.” Ursula feels
“a spell over her” and her mind “darkened” in her father’s presence (The Rainbow, p. 438). But
unlike her male ancestors, she never feels puzzled or threatened by the male other that her father
represents in this early phase in her life. She does not wish to stay with him, on the contrary, like
the other women in her community, she feels this need to break the boundaries of the Cossethay
Society to see what happens “beyond.”

In Grammar School, she aspires to a higher life among her equals, a life free from the sterile
confines of Cossethay. This proud demonstration of individuality differs from her mother’s selfish
arrogance: for instance, Ursula’s way to avoid the attacks of the “average self” is to make “herself
smaller” (The Rainbow, p. 497). Her introspection is both deep and revealing. Her strong character
and her relentless will to engage in endless soul-searching for a time turns her into an isolated,
distant figure, alienated and unapproachable. Ursula’s two years at St. Philips School represent her
apprenticeship in a man’s world. Her fascination with it, however, turns into disillusionment as
she finds herself “a foreigner in a new life, of work and mechanical consideration.” In her striving
for knowledge and control, Ursula remains alienated, divided into a more secular self and the other:
“She had within her the strange, passionate knowledge of religion and living far transcending the
limits of the automatic system that contained the vote” (The Rainbow, pp, 754-755).

Lawrence had declared to Sally Hopkins that he would do “the work for women, better
than the suffrage” and that he would do this in “a novel about Love Triumphant one day” (490).
If The Rainbow is this novel, then Ursula seems to be the idealistic feminine character in it, who,
urged by her instinct to find real meaning in a disappointing world defies its rules and its codes
and follows her own path to find her true self. Ursula refuses to marry: she does not want the cage
of marriage and conventional propriety the man offers. After her experience in college, her new
life and acquaintances in Beldover also enhance Ursula’s feeling of remoteness. She immediately
realizes the shallowness of it all, and her abhorrence for the mundane world around her grows.
Gradually, she outgrows the old, established identities and turns to new directions beyond her
conscious control.

“Ursula has access to a power which, for Lawrence, comes to people gifted enough to
contain it. It is a silent power, the voice of unconsciousness, which here transforms Ursula into a
deity of instinct and supernatural charisma.” (Haritatou, 2010). She possesses the real knowledge
of the dark world which Ursula’s soul “had acknowledged in a great heave of terror, only the outer
darkness.” Her feeling of not belonging to this world and her ability to sense another invisible dark
world – a signifier also of the deep unknown human self which Lawrence later acknowledged as
the savage, primitive self of the man – turns her into a figure who possesses mythical powers: “She
could see the glimmer of dark movement just outside of range, she saw the eyes of the wild beast
gleaming from the darkness” (The Rainbow, p. 808). This unconscious vision of Ursula signals “a
new degree of conscious awareness appropriate to the third generation,” which makes Ursula
overcome “all the contradictions of her grandparents and parents” (Kinkead-Weekes). She
combines the dark instinct of her grandmother and the supernatural awareness of her mother to
become a priestess with her own beliefs and ideas, although her choices might take her to the brink
of self-destruction. Ursula’s readiness to explore new areas of consciousness is aroused when she
meets Miss Inger, the schoolmistress of the school where she works. It is only the second time,
after her father, that Ursula feels admiration for anyone. Miss Inger is a clergyman’s daughter with
a “clear, decided, yet graceful appearance” and “a look of nobility” in her face. For Ursula, the
“fine, clear spirit” of her teacher, her “ringing voice” and “blue, clear proud eyes” made her “a
groomed person and of an unyielding mind” (The Rainbow, p. 620).

She feels a pang of alarm at Miss Inger’s androgynous appearance, her masculine power,
her mental strength and independence. Ursula, though sensitive to her feminine instincts, combines
such “male” characteristics in her personality: “She stretched her own limbs like a lion or a wild
horse, her heart was relentless in its desires.” Her contempt for the innocent lamb and her
admiration for the fierce lion manifest her masculine boldness. Just as she had immediately
perceived earlier the dryness of soul that characterized Skrebensky, so she quickly diagnoses the
problem with Miss Inger as she realizes that “she had no connection with other people. Her lot was
isolated and deadly” (The Rainbow, p. 634).

The next phase of Ursula’s process of self-discovery comes through her relationship with
Anton Skrebensky. She is immediately attracted by his masculine characteristics: “He was so
finally constituted, and so distinct, self-contained, self-supporting […] He had a nature like fate,
the nature of an aristocrat” (The Rainbow, p. 535).

The effort of the individual to find his/her real self is a painful process often connected
with their lost sexuality. Ursula is not afraid to face the darkness of the human existence and feels
that real knowledge lies somewhere further off than the stiff word of the “week-day life” (TR

D.H. Lawrence daringly makes the most individualistic of his characters a woman. In her
individuality, Ursula becomes an androgynous figure, a goddess who reconciles her spiritual,
masculine strength with her female appeal. Without compromising either materialism or
spirituality or even simple instinct, Ursula, knows that she has a mission in life and tries to achieve

Ursula’s affair with Skrebensky ends in disappointment. For a time, Ursula believes that
she has become a blasphemous figure. It is true that she feels attracted to the “splendid
recklessness” of life (The Rainbow, p. 549). She envies the passion of Skrebensky friend, a man
desperately seeking a woman, but then she faints in Skrebensky hands after their first kiss. Ursula’s
anarchic attitude is manifested in her views of nations and war which she states to Skrebensky: -
“But we aren’t the nation. There are heaps of other people who are the nation.” –“They might say
they weren’t, either.” –“Well, if everybody said it, there wouldn’t be a nation. But I should still be
myself”, she asserted, brilliantly.” (The Rainbow, pp. 572-573). Ursula appears as a revolutionary
woman, fearless and a critic of the world and the people around her.

“Her own actions are divided between her male and female qualities: she responds to
people and events in a collected, rational manner, but she is also able to accommodate in her daily
experience the moments of oceanic, mystical consciousness” (Haritatou, 2010). Such transcendent
moment occurs during a wedding-feast, which Lawrence depicts with a ceremonial, mysterious
background: “Bright stars were shining […] And under the stars burned two great, red, flameless
fires, and round these, lights and lanterns hung, the marquee stood open before a fire, with its lights
inside”(The Rainbow, p. 587). It is a scene springing directly from the unconscious world where
Ursula’ s feminine soul swells with numinous, cosmic vitality and passion: “Waves of delirious
darkness run through her soul […] she wanted to reach and be among the flashing stars […] she
was mad to be gone.”(The Rainbow, p. 588) Once more, Lawrence uses water imagery to suggest
the intensity of the female presence and the fluidity of the scene. Tom Brangwen here, is “quick”
and “fluid” and as inaccessible as the creatures living in the water. The music is coming “in
waves”; the couples are “washed” and “absorbed” into the “deep underwater of the dance.”(The
Rainbow, p. 588) Everything is “a vision of the depths of the underworld, under the great
flood”(The Rainbow, p. 589). In the dark, turbulent flux of music and dance, Ursula loses her sense
of self and slips into the frenzy of the ecstatic and the subconscious, turning into a moon- deity:
“And her breast opened to it [the moon], she was cleaved like a transparent jewel to its light. She
stood filled with the full moon, offering herself.” Skrebensky interrupts this mystical union by
putting “his arm round her” and leading her “away”.

When Ursula comes back to her senses, the “day-time consciousness,” she feels an
emptiness of the soul, a slow horror overpowering her, caused by the presence of the man on her
side. Skrebensky is not the man with whom she can find real happiness: he cannot offer her what
her female soul yearns for. Ursula senses that her vital forces are under threat from Skrebensky
intellectual and psychological rigidity. She is not willing to waste her life energy uselessly on him.

The scene where Ursula is with Maggie’s brother becomes a similarly transcendent one,
with Ursula again identifying with the moon: “All this so beautiful, all this so lovely! He did not
see it. He was one with it. But she saw it, and was one with it. Her seeing separated them
infinitely”.(The Rainbow, p. 773) Every identification of the man with the moon takes place
through Ursula’s eyes: she alone notices the moon, and its numinous presence. Once more, the
mystical quality of nature comes to disrupt her relation with the material world. The moon,
frequently appearing in Lawrence’s fiction as the symbol of the feminine principle, the archetypal
symbol of fertility and the life cycle, is here an autonomous presence which directly influences
human decisions on matters of life and death (Haritatou, 2010). Skrebensky proves himself once
more as an inadequate lover, never carried away in awe and fear by the female mystery like Tom
and Will. “He only fears his own dependency on the woman.” Ursula threatens Skrebensky’s
masculinity. Since he is unable to let “a female possess his soul,” Ursula becomes for him a
negative, alien figure. In his eyes her metamorphosis is an evil one: she becomes the “angel before
Balaam” who drives him “back with a sword from the way he was going, into a wilderness” (The
Rainbow, p. 611). Ursula shows little interest in deciphering Skrebensky confused feelings towards
her, but sees his ineffectiveness, his inability to reach out and touch her: “out there in the strong,
urgent night she could not find him” (The Rainbow, p. 610). She realizes he exists “in her own
desire only” and leaves him. Later, when Skrebensky returns from South Africa, he immediately
senses in Ursula “some of the abstraction and gleam of the unknown upon her, and he started,
excited” (The Rainbow, p. 816).

Remote and inaccessible, Ursula attains the stature of a strange goddess, in whose presence
“his dark, subterranean male soul” kneels and exposes himself “darkly”(The Rainbow, p. 818).
Skrebensky has changed, acquiring from Africa a mysterious aura which compels Ursula to cross
the boundary and enter “the fecund darkness that possessed his own blood”(The Rainbow, p. 826).
He becomes a creature coming from the darkness, a symbolic region already familiar to Ursula,
and “seduces” her with his newly acquired “manliness.” Skrebensky has come back from an
unknown mysterious land “rather browner” and “physically stronger”(The Rainbow, p. 817).
Ursula is puzzled. However, she feels attracted by his new aura: “yet she loved him, the body of
him”(The Rainbow, p. 820). It is through their physical contact that Ursula “became ever more and
more herself”(The Rainbow, p. 827). The description of their kiss, as in the wedding scene, is full
of water imagery, the language being characterized by a fluidity which reproduces the intensity of
the woman’s feelings, the dive into the subterranean world of senses and emotions, the loss of self
in communion with the male. This scene depicts the power of sexual contact. Ursula remains in
this state of trance for days. The experience is a moment of epiphany: her contact with the male
has completed her transformation, and her perception of the world has totally altered: “What are
you, you pale citizens?(The Rainbow, p. 828) Her face seemed to say gleaming. You subdued beast
in sheep’s clothing, you primeval darkness falsified to a social mechanism”(The Rainbow, p. 828).

Ursula has become the prophetess she was expected to be and has discovered another world beyond
the everyday. She is now fully aware of a new consciousness and has decided to allow to her new
self its proper place and value. It is a new strong sense of identity which was being gradually built
in her through all her encounters with the outside world. Ursula’s love-making scene is
represented as a mystic experience: “She entered the black fields of immortality” and “She
belonged to the eternal, changeless place into which they had leapt together”(The Rainbow, p.
834). She preserves her solitude, which is not indicative of an absence of energy and action, but a
way of listening to the inner, dark self and soliciting advice and guidance inaudible in the din of
daily life: “Her everyday self was just the same. She merely had another, stronger self that knew
the darkness”(The Rainbow, p. 834). It is a curious, separate strength that makes Ursula preserve
a sacred place within her, a place apart that nobody can invade, a place for communion with the
other invisible world. The Final Choice and the Promise of Rebirth From now on Ursula lives
entirely in this other world of her own: her own kingdom, the sacred place to which no one can
have access. She finds it difficult to console Skrebensky about her refusal to marry him: “She knew
he was waking up. She must modify her soul; depart from her further world, for him”(The
Rainbow, p. 874). Skrebensky feels this gradual alienation of hers as well as his inevitable
submission to her: “He was a screen of her fears. He served her”(The Rainbow, p. 859).

He seemed added up, finished. She knew him all around, not on any side did he lead into
the unknown. Skrebensky loses his magical aura (which was only superficial), and becomes one
with the rest of the mundane world. Ursula delivers the final stroke during their last night on the
Lincolnshire beach. This is the culmination of her “devouring” power over the male: “she fastened
her arms round him and tightened him in her grip, whilst her mouth sought his in a hard, rending,
ever-increasing kiss, till his body was powerless in her grip […] she seemed to be pressing in her
beaked mouth till she had the heart of him”(The Rainbow, pp. 888-889). At this point, Ursula’s
metamorphosis is complete. She is wholly repulsive to Skrebensky who cannot sense and share
her capacity to enter into other realms of psychic consciousness. But this capacity also means that
from now on Ursula must truly live alone on the borders of the civilized world, alienated from
others and uncertain of herself. This uncertainty inevitably becomes the source of torture and
internal conflict for Ursula who oscillates between the private world of instinct and impulse and
the public, material world, struggling to understand all her perplexing experiences and find a path
that will safely lead her to happiness and peace. In the final chapter of the book Ursula faces the
need to choose a life. Her pregnancy initially makes her decide to join the conventional world, a
world she truly despises and for a moment she realizes she has been blasphemous in separating
her own demands from those of other people: “Who was she to have a man according to her own

desire? It was not for her to create, but to recognize a man created by God”(The Rainbow, p. 913).
This psychological and mental pressure, under which Ursula lives, is vividly shown by Lawrence
in the scene where Ursula, alone in the landscape, feels horrified and threatened by the appearance
of some wild horses. For the critic Mark Spilka, the horses that threaten Ursula may represent
“powerful male sensuality” and “prevent the social devitalized marriage with Skrebensky”.

Their presence has also been interpreted as symbolic of Ursula’ s agony at her decision to
betray her spontaneous self and accept the conventional marriage with Skrebensky, while
Schneider believes that the horses stand for “the threat to her creative freedom”. Kinkead-Weekes
explains the scene as a reproduction of the “elemental world” of powerful forces, the forces of
“opposites” which her grandfather managed to master but which is completely incomprehensible
to the modern sophisticated woman of the twentieth century that Ursula is. The horses can also be
a reflection of Ursula’ s turbulent mind, a metaphor of her anxiety and fear as she senses that she
has committed “hubris,” offended the power of Eternity “to which she herself belonged”. For
Lawrence, Sagar argues, the human fear of horses covers a feeling of admiration for “their
beautiful, physical bodies,” a sensuality which is also to be found “in the great sensual male
activity”. The horseman is a symbol of the mastery over animal strength, strength to be harnessed
by reason. But horses are also associated with pride, nobility and independence. Ursula “stretches
her limbs like a lion or wild horse”; she feels the urge “to rebel, to rage, to fight”. She is a female
adventurer, running free in the vastness of the world. The horse was once her favourite animal, the
symbol of her wild soul, but it is now endowed with negative connotations. It is the threatening,
destructive force that oppresses her soul. Carl Jung in Psychology of the Unconscious (1947) points
out the significance of horses in myths as symbols of the unconscious, related to wild phallic power
and fertility and the elements: wind, fire and light. Lawrence sees in the horse a symbol that “roams
the dark underworld meadows of the soul”, what Jung called a “psychopompos,” to conduct the
soul to the other world. In this context, as Ursula has started losing her animal vitality and will,
the horse becomes a life-taking force. It stands as a symbol of the danger of abandoning the rational
self entirely. Guided by intuition alone, one may get lost in the unknown, deep side of human
consciousness, and Ursula feels it may have been a mistake to allow herself to be carried away by
her own fantasies and reject the people near her. This is an internal conflict, a dilemma Ursula has
never previously confessed to herself. In this context, the horses, which used to stand for her wild
independence of spirit, have now become abhorrent creatures which threaten her life – very much
in the same way her decision to accept Skrebensky marriage proposal threatens her emotional
vitality and freedom of spirit.

Bethan Jones points out that “bolting is clearly an important human impulse, and it is
balanced by the will to be controlled – by a fellow human, a social or moral code or some kind of
mechanical system imposing restraint”. Ursula’ s instinct for freedom from conventional similarly
“bolts” her mind. She can sense that deep inside she will never change, that she shall always belong
to herself, to her deep intuitive nature: “It was the unknown, the unexplored, the undiscovered
upon whose shore she had landed, alone, after crossing the void, the darkness which washed the
New World and the Old”(The Rainbow, p. 912). The decision to submit awakens the voice of her
instinct, warning her about the coming loss, the loss of the profound inner knowledge, the death
of the vital life force that lies deep within human beings. Discovering this inner power has been
Ursula’ s life purpose. Skrebensky refusal to take her back therefore comes to her as a relief. She
belongs wholly to eternity now, the vast power of life. Having endured all the initiation tasks, she
finally feels part of the great, invisible power of creation. At the end of the book, I suggest, Ursula
becomes a goddess of hope and rebirth. She has created her own spirited self, she has finally
learned to follow her knowing without feeling guilty about her choice. Dealing with life from her
own unique perspective, Ursula refuses to allow anyone to repress her vital energies. In the symbol
of the rainbow Ursula recognizes both her own reborn self and a hope for a world which would be
“built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitting to the over-arching heaven”(The Rainbow, p. 915). Her
vision is a religious one, as her rebirth was achieved through an intense, inner conflict. She is now
the holder of the secret of rebirth, possessing at least some of the secrets of man’s salvation.

In The Rainbow, Lawrence explores the tensions of sexual relationships by mythologizing

women’ s ability to perceive the world in their own unique way. This constitutes a source of
uneasiness and frustration for men who try to rationalize their behaviour in their effort to achieve
their “consummation” with the female. The focus on Ursula in the last part of the book shows that
The Rainbow is a novel about the deep questions of existence seen from a female perspective.
Ursula’ s existential dilemmas and her final decisions symbolize Lawrence’ s belief that if life is
to triumph, the “shell” which imprisons the old form of life must be broken, so that new forms of
the sacred can come into being .

III.2 The symbolism of ‘The Rainbow’

The meaning of the rainbow which Ursula sees at the end of the novel. Despite the fact that
the rainbow represents Ursula' s rebirth, the facts of her experience do not bear out its implications.
Ursula seems indeed a new woman but one who still has some strong elements of her old self.
These remnants are seen in terms of her high expectations for the future. Ursula sees in the rainbow

the recreation of life, the renewal of “the stiffened bodies of the colliers”(The Rainbow, p. 914).
who are like dead people. But Ursula seems to be blinded to her own past. Again she is escaping
from her past experiences and taking an overdose of hope through the promise of the rainbow.
Nobody, not even the author, can guarantee that the dead colliers will join her in her expectations.
Lawrence simply presents the rainbow as a false door. He himself does not assure the reader that
the door is not another gate to the next “ugly yard” (The Rainbow, p. 808) Ursula is going to enter.

The end is not convincing enough. There is the idea that the rainbow itself is like a faint
gleam of light at the end of a tunnel. When Ursula gets to the end of the tunnel, the light may be a
false light or it may vanish. The rainbow may extinguish itself when she crosses the hill looking
for the treasure at the bottom of it. It is therefore a false and individualistic hope, a rhetorical
gesture by the author which the details of plot and character cannot justify.

To sum up, The Rainbow closes Lawrence' s first phase in which the author has a strong
preference for women who are much connected with the mind. These women have defeated their
male partners because of their strong minds. The most significant representatives of this phase are
Anna and Ursula. Anna, in her victory over Will, may be seen as a strong woman meaning that
her self-sufficiency and independence have made her fight for what she believed in. Her husband,
on the other hand, is a weak male meaning that he simply could not defend his own beliefs, he has
let Anna super impose her will over him. We can say that Anna has replaced her husband in their
home exactly because he could not fight for his rights. Ursula is different from Anna because her
desire is not to defeat the male, at least as she did, but to find her own place in a society which is
completely masculine. The fact that she has defeated her first lover may be seen in terms of
Skrebensky’ s weak character. He “lost” not because he could not fight Ursula, but because she
has a self while he does not. Thus he could not compete with her. In fact Skrebensky can hardly
be defined as an individual, he is part of a structure — part of a machine — and without it he is
nothing. A person who is 'nothing' cannot compete with a person who has a self and is,
consequently, an individual.

Neither Will nor Skrebensky can be viewed as representing the dark lover. The only
characteristic that they share is their weak personality which causes them to be defeated by their

The most important characteristic of this first phase is therefore the active presence of the
“femme fatale “, the spiritual woman, destroyer of her love partner. Anna and Ursula are indeed
fatal females since all of them defeat their males. Their houses become thus „ matriarchal societies.
Ursula may be seen as a female who fights for a place in society, which is her main quest. The

negative aspect of this phase lies in the fact that Lawrence basically shows sympathy for the
independent woman: he does not overly criticize her even when she strays, like Ursula when she
exerted her 'maximum' self over Skrebensky in the moon scene which has led to his destruction.

My last point refers to “balance” in the relations. This phase does not present any balanced
relationship, except for Tom and Lydia' s marriage. This, as I have already pointed out, is not a
total success since the balance between the couple ends with Tom's death and Lydia then returns
to her previous, separate and unknown self. The search must therefore continue in the other novels
and stories.


Lawrence’s The Rainbow presents the evolution of the social code, traditions and changes
manifested in society through the life of the Brangwen family. The novel shows the contrast
between the thoughts, the way of living, despite the influences they received as children and while
growing up. Usually while growing up, children would remember and respect certain ideas learnt
from their parents. It would have been expected that with the passing of the three generations, the
latter would have shared some of the ideas, or the way of thinking as the former. But that is not
the case. While between the first and second generation there is a slight difference, between the
first 2 generations and the third there are clear discrepancies. Lydia in shy, conservative, family is
her main concern, while Ursula is like a dark, wild horse, she does not comply with traditions and
society rules and only seeks to fulfil herself.
In my opinion, the first two life stories seem like a gray washed film, while the third gains
colour. Ursula’s life is more dynamic, passionate, emotions and feelings are showed almost
everywhere. The majority of today’s people resonate more with the third generation than the first
two. This could be because our generation, like Ursula, has free hand when it comes to expressing

Ursula loves freedom and so do we, what for her was a desire, a wish, the utmost state of
happiness, for us it became something normal. This novel made me, as a reader, realize how free
I am, in fact, and how Ursula’s search and finding freedom back then represents nowadays a
normal life.

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