Importance of the Role played by Winifred Inger in The Rainbow

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      Winifred Inger is introduced quite late in the novel. She is the young school teacher with whom Ursula has a brief lesbian affair and who later marries Ursula's, Uncle Tom.

      Lawrence, in his novels, not only deals with the relationship of man and woman but man and man and woman and woman also. Ursula meets Winifred Inger when she experiences her first passion of love for Anton Skrebensky and he has now returned to the Army and has been posted to South Africa to take part in the Boer War. Ursula is distraught not because Anton has gone away, but because at first she does not suffer as much as she thinks she should; there is 'a cold imperturbability in her soul’ and she feels 'as if some disillusion had frozen upon her.' It is when she is in this state, her spirit raw and sensitive, that she becomes aware of a very special feeling towards Winifred Inger.

      For a full-term Ursula dreams and day-dreams of Miss Inger and this new love helps her to forget the aching wound of Skrebensky’s departure. In Ursula’s last term at school the affair develops in that Ursula finds that Winifred reciprocates her interest. It becomes a physical affair with the touch of the teacher's fingers on Ursula's cheek and the following weekend the two go away together to a bungalow on the Soar. As always, Lawrence retreats from being specific; though the language of passion is used suggestively: 'she put her arms round her, and kissed her. And she lifted her in her arms, close... Ursula twined her body about her mistress', it is not clear how far the affair really goes, but is clear that Ursula later suffers a revulsion and wishes to have no more to do with Miss Inger. It is her second disillusionment in love.

      Winifred Inger is also the first woman to introduce Ursula to Women's Movement. The Rainbow was being written when Women's emancipation was very much to the forefront of the times and Ursula was brought into contact with several women who urge her interest in the development of women's freedom. After Winifred, Ursula finds that Maggie Schofield, a fellow teacher at Brinsley Street School, has a similar interest and later Dorothy Russell, Ursula's college friend, also talks to her on the same theme. Yet there is no point in the novel where we feel that she becomes committed to the Women's Movement. When Ursula feels that her love for Winifred Inger is going to cloy she makes what appears to be a cold-blooded decision to marry Winifred Inger to Tom Brangwen; Ursula who has previously held a great fondness for her uncle Tom has in some way became disillusioned with him too and we are told, She hated her Uncle Tom, she hated Winifred Inger. The coldness which follows the earlier warmth of love should perhaps prepare us for her rejection of Skrebensky later.

      The last we hear of Winifred after her marriage to Tom Brangwen is that she has borne him a child.

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