Sexual Obsession in the Novel The Rainbow

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The Suppression.

      The Rainbow which was published in 1915 was suppressed under the Obscene Publications Act and the edition was destroyed. It was not republished in Britain until 1926 when Martin Seeker published a slightly revised version, which was reprinted a number of times. The Phoenix Edition of the book published - in 1971 restored the original text of 1915. This is now considered to be the definitive text of The Rainbow.

Charges of Obscenity.

      It can undoubtedly be said that Lawrence is guilty of a little indiscretion for in him there is nothing of the Victorian prudery or inhibitions with regard to sex. The scene which has been outrightly condemned for being obscene is the one In which the pregnant Anna dances naked in her bedroom. Then again he has shown Ursula and Anton running naked just for the fun of it. Once again Ursula is shown as admiring the naked body of Anton as he comes out of the bath. Their relationship has been depicted in an entirely promiscuous manner. Further, there is also the homosexual relationship between Ursula and Miss Inger in which both take delight.

      Lawrence felt that the suppression of his book was an indirect outcome of the offendedness of the authorities because of his views on war and also the suspicion against him on being the enemy’s spy, as his wife Frieda was a German. He felt that the obscenity of the book was a mere excuse to pester him.

      Besides the scenes already mentioned, we have the scene in which Ursula and Anton make fierce love in the moonlight which has been described without any or restraint by Lawrence. Then we have him talking about Ursula's ‘firm hard breasts’ and her breast 'rising and falling.' Then, the honeymoon of Will and Anna in the cottage provided by Tom deals elaborately with the physical aspect of their marriage. We have frequent use of words like, 'naked', 'womb', 'loins', 'bowels', etc.

The Sublimation of Sex.

       According to T.S. Eliot in his After Strange Gods, he raises sex to a spiritual level. “The distinguishment between the lower and the higher planes of being and consciousness is clearly made and he always emphasizes the spiritual significance of sex. Mere physical relationship like that of Anton and Ursula is bound to fail bringing no satisfaction to the lovers." Even A. Baker says that, to Lawrence not only was sex the way woman fulfills her being and man one of his chief creative functions, but the sexual experience was also a door to new realms of consciousness, an initiation into divine mysteries, the mystery of the other world that is close beside us.

      Thus, Lawrence was much misunderstood and charged unnecessarily with obscenity. He was neither a voluptuous nor a sensuous writer.


      It would be wrong to say that The Rainbow is sexy for Lawrence in this novel insists on the sacred nature of sex and on the religious element in its consummation. On analyzing the sexual scenes in The Rainbow one feels that they have been dealt with frankly but not vulgarly. The scene in which Anton and Ursula’s sexual experience is described, it is in rendering the conflict between the essential male and the essential female that is emphasized rather than the sexual aspect of it. Thus, sex has invariably been sublimated and spiritualized.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Was The Rainbow rightly condemned for being obscene and pornographic?
Would it be correct to say that The Rainbow deals with sex without being sexy?

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