The Age of D. H. Lawrence - Analysis

Also Read

      Introduction. No writer can remain unaffected by the social, cultural, political and intellectual environment of Lawrence age. Every writer depicts the characteristics of his age as he generally transcribes from life. In order to understand well the writings of an author, a knowledge of the times in which he lived is indispensable. Hence, we shall analyze the social and the literary background which influenced the works of D.H. Lawrence.

      Industrialization. The rapid growth of industrialization in England in the Victorian age marked the shift of England to an industrial country from an agricultural country thus, forwarding a rapid change in the social life of the people. By the end of the 19th century there was a total change towards urbanization with a breakdown of the agricultural way of life. The simultaneous coming up of urbanization and industrialization brought with it many problems. The industrial towns grew haphazardly and congestedly, these congested places often lacked the basic amenities of life reducing the living standards of people to almost inhuman conditions. There was a marked rise in vice and crime and a gradual decline in the standards of spiritual and ethical values. There arose a mad race for the acquisition of wealth and this became the ultimate aim of a gentleman’s life. All human relationships came to be regarded in terms of money. The evil effects of industrialization are remarkably reflected in the works of the 20th-century novelists eg. Ruskin and Carlyle severely condemned the commercialization of this age. Certain spiritual values seemed to be vanishing with the gradual decline of the rural way of life and the urban society led to the establishment of material values in life. The new age was however not without its possible aspects, like there came into being a welfare state - the state was now responsible for the education, health and well-being of the individual. However, writers continued to think of the agricultural life as the ideal form of life and nostalgically referred to it in their works.

      The Emancipated role of Women. The twentieth century marked a change in the society from the reign of Queen Victoria. Various changes took place, the most important being the enhancement of the position of women. Women were no longer confined to the four walls of the house but had a significant role to play in the family and the society. The movement of women’s liberation got strong impetus with the spread of education and a tendency towards democratization. There was now a general allowance and encouragement for the women to go in for higher education and their right to vote was vehemently advocated. Christian Socialists like F.D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley struggled, for the higher education of women.

      The Spirit of Questioning. With the 20th century, there started a period of uncertainty and moral perplexity. The blind faith in social belief and traditions was given up with their rational and scientific questioning. However, the Victorian writer inspite of this questioning spirit was never really critical of the very fundamentals of the social and moral order. For eg. Dickens, though a critical writer criticizes only a few basic evils inherent in their social system. On the other hand, he has an acceptance of their way of life and he also takes pride in it. The beginning of the 20th century introduces to us writers like Shaw, Wells and Galsworthy who were highly critical of the existing social, economic and moral system. The different critical attitude of the writers which tends to be contradictory has led to confusion on the part of the common man. In the words of R.A. Scott-James : “the 20th century has, for its characteristic, to put everything in every sphere of life, to the question, and secondly, in the light of this reception, to reform, to reconstruct, to accept the new and attempt to mold it by conscious, purposeful effort.”

      Decline of the Conventional Authoritarianism. There was a great movement for the questioning of the male authority and assertion of the liberation of women. With the end of the war came a complete decline in the supremacy of the male authority. People instead of submissively following their leaders became suspicious of their manifestations. The incompetence of those in authority was no longer accepted by their subordinates and juniors who now did not hesitate to revolt against them.

      Rejection of Traditional Acceptance. The tenets of Christianity were no longer accepted unquestioningly. Contemporary religious scholars and philosophers like Max Muller shattered the concept of the supremacy of Christianity. The theory of evolution of Charles Darwin threatened the very basis of the Christian faith. Hence, the complacency of the Victorians was shed off and there was a gradual loss of faith in God and religion.

      The Impact of Freud and his Psychology. The assessment of human behavior was greatly revolutionized with the psychological theories propounded by Freud followed by Jung and Bergson. Freud laid emphasis on the powers of the unconscious to affect the conduct of man. Now more emphasis began to be assigned to the study of the unconscious. The normal was also recognized to be neurotic and abnormal to some extent. It has been rightly established by Freud and his followers that neurosis and other signs of abnormality are a result of repressed sex instincts. Mis theory of the Oedipus Complex was strongly propounded and thoroughly exploited by 20lh century writers like, D.H. Lawrence. It became established that man’s intellectual communications are actually the rationalization of his emotional needs. Emphasis began to be placed on feeling and intuition rather than intellect, which had all through been regarded as a means of true and real understanding.

      Changes in Human Relationships. The psychological theories of Freud and his followers were not only confined to the literary field, but imparted a considerable influence on the private and family relationships. The theory of the Oedipus Complex led to the interpretation of various relationships in its terms. It was now believed that the mothers could naturally be jealous of their daughters or daughters-in-law. The sons were supposed to have a greater attachment for their mothers rather than their fathers. The daughters were bound to be more attached to their fathers. All such relationships were pervaded with sexual undertones. All abnormal human conduct occurs from repressed sex instincts. T.S. Eliot interpreted Hamlet in terms of ‘Oedipus Complex.’ D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers also lakes the ‘Oedipus Complex’ as its major theme. The abnormalities of human behavior aroused a greater interest of the novelists. Infantile sexuality was also largely divulged. It was believed that the behavior of a man was a direct outcome of his early development as a child. The old authoritarian pattern of family relationships broke up, women began to realize their rights and the concept of male superiority suffered a serious blow. The authority of the old over the young also decreased as a result of the greater mobility resulting from the automobile and the railway train, increasing the rootlessness of man.

      Age of Anxiety. Tensions, frustrations increased and there was a strain in the authoritarian patterns of family relationships with the First World War. There began an era of revolt against authority as people began to question and suspect all manifestations of authority. The age became pervaded with a temper of anti-heroism. Various factors such as unemployment, economic depressions and overpopulation added to the hardship of life. The sense of security unlike the Victorian age because of the loose foundation of the social and political order besides the forces of labor legislation, democratization and dissemination of scientific ideas added to it. The evolution of strong durable convictions that forms the basis of emotional stability was not allowed because of the rapid scientific advancement. Man lost faith in God and became rootless and this rootlessness brought its own problems and frustrations and thus it led to severe anxiety which became the most important characteristic of the age.

      The New Religions. There can be seen a gradual weakening in the religious faith in the 20th century under the impact of science and rationalism. Public issues could no longer be molded with religious controversies. There arose a keen interest in the study of the nature of man in philosophy and metaphysics. Freud declared man to be a biological phenomenon, a creature of instincts and impulses, the theories of socialism and internationalism began to be strongly advocated and it made an attempt to supersede the theory of the supremacy of the Whites. Imperialism began to be vehemently criticized and there started a strong intellectual movement against it. Cosmopolitanism became more and more important with a study of comparative literature, comparative mythology and religion. The very idea of political subjugation became highly denunciatory.

      Cheap Literature. There was a rapid decline in the quality of the literature that was produced because of the commercialization of the printing press. The cheap literature catered to the needs of the general people and they were abundant in vulgarity and brutality. This development of a new taste in cheap literature rendered man incapable of fine and subtle emotional responses. Man lost his grasp of reality because the cinema, the television and the cheap novel instilled in him a kind of ‘daydreaming.

Previous Post Next Post