Hate and Death and Education: Or, D. H. Lawrence in Love

D. H. Lawrence Memorial, San Cristobal, NM

Some time ago I posted that men, on the whole, hate women.  I meant that.  I meant it in this way, from D. H. Lawrence who was a good hater, in Women in Love.

But it seemed to him, woman was always so horrible and clutching, she had such a lust for possession, a greed of self-importance in love. She wanted to have, to own, to control, to be dominant. Everything must be referred back to her, to Woman, the Great Mother of everything, out of whom proceeded everything and to whom everything must finally be rendered up.

It filled him with almost insane fury, this calm assumption of the Magna Mater, that all was hers, because she had borne it. Man was hers because she had borne him. A Mater Dolorosa, she had borne him, a Magna Mater, she now claimed him again, soul and body, sex, meaning, and all. He had a horror of the Magna Mater, she was detestable.

She was on a very high horse again, was woman, the Great Mother. Did he not know it in Hermione. Hermione, the humble, the subservient, what was she all the while but the Mater Dolorosa, in her subservience, claiming with horrible, insidious arrogance and female tyranny, her own again, claiming back the man she had borne in suffering. By her very suffering and humility she bound her son with chains, she held him her everlasting prisoner.

And Ursula, Ursula was the same — or the inverse. She too was the awful, arrogant queen of life, as if she were a queen bee on whom all the rest depended. He saw the yellow flare in her eyes, he knew the unthinkable overweening assumption of primacy in her. She was unconscious of it herself. She was only too ready to knock her head on the ground before a man. But this was only when she was so certain of her man, that she could worship him as a woman worships her own infant, with a worship of perfect possession.

Now, Lawrence loved too, but hated harder. But let’s ponder only briefly the way men have controlled women and how today men are working so hard in our Fundamentalist Land to make use of that hate in order to return women to complete subservience.  Interestingly, though cliche, it seems quite possible that the 15 years or so that we call the 60s and the “counter-culture” really were a glimpse at human freedom.  Perhaps it is no accident that Vietnam exhausted our humanity

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Still, hating women is an ancient calling at least in the world of Monotheism.  God is Father, and then Son, and then Spirit (though not gendered always somewhat equated with the YMCA review of angels, “It’s fun to stay at the Imperium…”).

And look, God breathes life into clay; God creates woman out of man, which is a direct reversal of biological process; Childbirth is a punishment to remind one of the fact of death as the ultimate truth learned out of Eden; Noah gives birth to all organic being out of the womb of technology, the massive man-made and God-directed Ark; and in the Christian Testament, Mary is “unsexed” and “used” by God to bring forth an Incarnation of Himself (interpret that “used” as you will).

Lawrence has plenty to say, a la Nietzsche, on the Christian ethos but he didn’t restrict his disdain and malice; he also hated humanity almost completely no matter its organizational hierarchy or belief system.  Because it was so vile on the whole.  It had the capacity to not be.  But “en masse” it was vile and he didn’t think it could improve or ever be improved.  In fact, this is 1913, and it was to him already a dead letter.    But he (and there could be others, Frieda, for instance) was Emerson’s “infinitely repellent orb.”

Here is a bit from that same mind on education in that same book in that same chapter (the women who are in love are school teachers).  The child referred to in the passage, Winnie, is the sister of a girl who has just drowned–this is what Gerald’s father “really feels.”

`Of course,’ he said, with a startling change of conversation, `it is father who really feels it. It will finish him. For him the world collapses. All his care now is for Winnie — he must save Winnie. He says she ought to be sent away to school, but she won’t hear of it, and he’ll never do it. Of course she is in rather a queer way. We’re all of us curiously bad at living. We can do things — but we can’t get on with life at all. It’s curious — a family failing.’

`She oughtn’t to be sent away to school,’ said Birkin, who was considering a new proposition.

`She oughtn’t. Why?’

`She’s a queer child — a special child, more special even than you. And in my opinion special children should never be sent away to school. Only moderately ordinary children should be sent to school — so it seems to me.’

`I’m inclined to think just the opposite. I think it would probably make her more normal if she went away and mixed with other children.’

`She wouldn’t mix, you see. You never really mixed, did you? And she wouldn’t be willing even to pretend to. She’s proud, and solitary, and naturally apart. If she has a single nature, why do you want to make her gregarious?’

`No, I don’t want to make her anything. But I think school would be good for her.’

`Was it good for you?’

Gerald’s eyes narrowed uglily. School had been torture to him. Yet he had not questioned whether one should go through this torture. He seemed to believe in education through subjection and torment.

`I hated it at the time, but I can see it was necessary,’ he said. `It brought me into line a bit — and you can’t live unless you do come into line somewhere.’

`Well,’ said Birkin, `I begin to think that you can’t live unless you keep entirely out of the line. It’s no good trying to toe the line, when your one impulse is to smash up the line. Winnie is a special nature, and for special natures you must give a special world.’

`Yes, but where’s your special world?’ said Gerald.

`Make it. Instead of chopping yourself down to fit the world, chop the world down to fit yourself. As a matter of fact, two exceptional people make another world. You and I, we make another, separate world. You don’t want a world same as your brothers-in-law. It’s just the special quality you value. Do you want to be normal or ordinary! It’s a lie. You want to be free and extraordinary, in an extraordinary world of liberty.’

Is it strange that I thought of that Play-Doh toy where you pressed the stuff through a hole in an apparatus that looked like a stapler and you could alter the extrusion with a shape template?

This is a great book, like Middlemarch, full of thinking, active thinking.  Chapter 16 also considers death (with the unmatchable insight, “It’s like an ordinary tomorrow”) right before what is offered on education.  It also addresses the evident love between the two male protagonists, Rupert and Gerald.  Maybe the best single chapter I’ve read in a while for confronting so much in such a short space.


Photo Credit: erocsid

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