Narrative Technique in the Novel The Rainbow

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      What is actually meant by Narrative technique is the art of narration that is used by the author in his novel. It may involve various factors like the way in which the story is told; the way in which the various parts are linked together to form a whole; what position the characters enjoy in the plot and how they are introduced and what is the attitude and position of the author who is telling the story. The narrative technique that Lawrence follows in The Rainbow is quite different from the one used in his earlier books. Lawrence pointed to this change in his narrative technique in his letter to Edward Garnett where he said:

"You mustn't look in my novel for the old stable ego of the character. There is another ego, according to whose action the individual is unrecognizable, and passes through, as it were, allotropic states which it needs a deeper sense than any we've been used to exercise to discover—states of the same single radically unchanged element."

      Lawrence was also tired of the hard, violent style, full of sensation and presentation. Thus, in The Rainbow. Lawrence is more interested in exploring the inner consciousness of his characters through different states, mutually contradictory and opposed to the law of consistency, still the states of one and the same individual, than in relating the story of their external life. According to Roger Sale, this is done with the introduction of new rhythmic pattern of sentence structure:

"There is the same general rhythm in a sentence or a paragraph that there is in the large movements from generation to generation, and it is this essential unity of movement that enables Lawrence to break down the 'old stable ego' and to assert the existence of a 'deeper sense' beneath."

The Ambivalent Time and Space.

      Lawrence artfully breaks down the usual process of building up the character. This particular style of his is clearly visible from the chapter Anna Victrix where he describes Anna as: "And she loved the intent for look of his eyes when they rested on her: intent, yet far not near, not with her. And she wanted to bring them near. She wanted his eyes to come to hers, to know her. And they would not." This description does not specify the time of the action. The 'when' which has been used is for 'whenever'. When Lawrence continues the description of the Will-Anna relationship he combines the imperfect when with the metaphor of the hawks. He succeeds in removing the action from any specified time and secondly he also removes it from its immediate spatial context. This is amply reflected in the following description: "Then immediately she began to retaliate on him. She too was a hawk. If she imitated the pathetic power running plaintive to him, that was part of the game. When he, satisfied, moved with a proud insolent slough of the body and a half contemptuous drop of the head, unaware of her, ignoring her very existence, after taking his fill of her and getting his satisfaction of her, her soul roused its pinions became like steel, as she struck at him."

      Lawrence breaks down the specific time by replacing it with a tight unity of the two figures. While describing the relationship of Will and Anna, Lawrence describes it as when he did this, then she did this, thus Roger Sale rightly says in his 'The Narrative technique of The Rainbow', how Lawrence has employed here "a syntax and vocabulary which continually modulates between a specific here and now, and a world beyond time, whose whole space is the inner dimension of being." The statement of Roger Sale becomes clear from the opening description of the Brangwen family settled in the land is symbolically suggestive of the style which predominates the novel. "They knew the intercourse between heaven and earth, the sunshine drawn into the breast and the bowels....the nakedness that comes under the wind in autumn...feeling the pulse and body that opened to furrow for the grain, and became smooth and supple after their plowing." This is a Prelude to the main sexual drama which is going to follow in the subsequent chapters.

The Rhythmic Pattern.

      We get a brief account of lovers of the first generation Tom and Lydia. We get an idea of the psychological states which bring about their union. The peculiarities of their relationship. Though it is later that we realize that their relationship is more successful than that of their children or grandchildren. There is a time in their life when they seem to have reached a complete break down. On being asked by Lydia about his desire for another woman Tom realizes that it is Lydia who might be lonely, isolated, unsure. It is now that they proceed to a knowledge of their uncertainty and fear. Acknowledging their failure, they reach out to each other, thus, forming a rainbow for their daughter. We are made to believe this because of the constant insistance on the relationship to the exclusion of time, space and stability of ego.

      In the second generation i.e. in the story of Will and Anna, the supremacy passes from man to woman. Their love is realized in the vivid scene of courtship, introducing them in a moon-lit night removing sheaves and piling them on the ground. The climax in their romance and courtship is reached in the magnificent scene which depicts their blissful moment after marriage 'when eternity was in their lips and eyes.' Then we have that splendid scene in which pregnant Anna dances naked in the frenzy of her exaltation, before the shocked eyes of her husband who is consumed with hate at her mad bit for triumphant freedom. In depicting the relationship of Will and Anna time and space are completely specified but Lawrence lays emphasis on the larger movement of the general relationship between men and women. Thus individual scenes and generalized actions of different sets of characters become organized into a large single movement.

      The relationship of Will and Anna is punctuated with prolonged duels and brief episodes of sweet love. Will by the rapture of the ecstatic leap of his soul gets completely absorbed in it while Anna resists the overwhelming pull of the Church by taking the support of the gargoyles, which stand there, asserting their individualities. Ultimately getting tired of the prolonged conflict, she hankers after stability and quietly settles down, to the business of bearing and rearing her children.

      Next, Ursula comes to the limelight as Anna had come in the second generation. Now, Lawrence's narration becomes more complex and elaborate, analysis is as important as explanation. This amounts to some repetition making it tedious for the reader. The scene is once again shifted to the home of the elder Brangwens. Here, he does not tell us about the actions that are going to take place in the future but rather tells us about the past. The main aim of Lawrence in the depiction of Ursula is to trace the gradual emergence of the modem woman who becomes a naked self after eventually freeing herself from all ties. Lawrence seems to be depicting his own youth through Ursula's life. Ursula awaiting the arrival of Sunday clearly depicts the attitude of Lawrence towards Sundays. Thus, the progress of the novel is checked with the specification of time. Roger Sale describing, Lawrence's loss of interest in the central theme says, "What is widened here is completely different from what is widened earlier; both the matter and manner have altered."

      Lawrence gives an elaborate description of Ursula's gradual progress in life The childhood of Ursula, her first illusion i.e. religion, her conviction that it is the real world of business that should matter to her. Then, her taste of romance not only with a man but also with a woman. In order to be economically independent, she takes up the job of a school teacher. Lawrence describes the final part of Ursula’s life with all the psychological acumen, and symbolic richness and suggestive force of the language. She gets massive strength from the rainbow which is a symbol of hope and progress.


      In The Rainbow, Lawrence breaks away from the conventional boundaries of specific time and space. We are made to look at another ego of the characters according to whose actions the individual is unrecognizable. In order to establish a basic unity, the author introduces an inner rhythm of symbols below the external structure. The rainbow has different symbolic meanings for the three generations. For instance, for the first generation, it symbolizes a happy union which has no beyond, for the second generation, it is symbolic of the world beyond which the woman sees in the distance but does not move towards it. Finally for the third generation the free woman will find her fulfillment in it as it is a symbol of the hope for the new world within sight. Thus, one can conclude with Roger Sale’s description of Lawrence’s achievement in The Rainbow: "The assertion of the supreme importance of human relationships finds its formal counterpart in the flow, the constant motion in time, the dramatic description of eternal movement in human experience as it reaches outward, through the door, towards the rainbow."

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