The Rainbow: Chapter 11 - Summary and Analysis

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First Love


      Ursula’s Adolescence. Ursula was now growing up. As she passed from girlhood towards womanhood, the clouds of self-responsibility began to gather around her gradually. She became aware of herself as a separate entity amid unseparated obscurity. She was less and less willing to accept the mystic spirituality of the Biblical stories. She rejected the idealism of Christainty and turned again to a life of the imagination becoming in her dreams rich, great or heroic by turns, yet she constantly yearned back to the time of her ecstatic acceptance of religious mysteries. It became a tale, a myth, an illusion, which however much one might assert it to be true as historical fact, one knew was not true.

      Anton Skrebensky. At the time when her soul was open for some new influence Anton Skrebensky came for a visit to the Marsh, and also came to them at the Yew Cottage. Anton brought her a strong sense of the outer world. He seemed simply acquiescent in his own being, as if he were beyond any change. He has a sense of fatality about him that fascinated her. "At this time she was nearly sixteen years old, a slim, smoldering girl, deeply reticent, yet lapsing into unreserved expansiveness now and then, where she seemed to give away her whole soul, but when in fact she only made another counterfeit of her soul for outward presentation." There was attraction between them from the very beginning. Anton Skrebensky was twenty-one and was an engineer in the Army. He was on a month's leave. Anton had very clear greyish eyes, slender figure and soft brown hair brushed up in the German fashion straight from his brow. His face was irregular, almost ugly, flattish, with rather a thick nose. But his eyes were pallid, strangely clear, his brown hair was soft and thick as silk, and he had a slight mustache.” Ursula imagined him to be one of the Sons of God who came to the fair daughters of Adam. They met twice or thrice and Ursula was captivated. He seemed more and more to give her a sense of the vast world, a sense of distances and large masses of humanity. It drew her as a scent draws a bee from afar. The third time Ursula met Anton Skrebensky she had a light summer dress on with fine blue and white stripes and a white collar and a large white hat. It suited her golden warm complexion. Anton admired her openly in that dress. She was thrilled with a new life. For the first time she was in love with a vision of herself. Her family was struck with the sudden transformation of Ursula. She became elegant really elegant. They began to go out together to enjoy the sights and sounds of their exclusive company. Once they went to a fair and returned together in a trap. He sat close to her touching her and she was aware of his influence on her. It excited her to feel the press of him upon her, as if his being were urging her to something. In the evening he escorted her home and with the same silent intent approach put his arm around her waist, and drew her gently to him. She seemed to be carried along floating, her feet scarce touching the ground, in a swoon, as it were. Then she felt his warm breath upon her face: his lips touched her cheek and she seemed to faint away. Then his mouth drew near, pressing upon her mouth; a hat, drenching surge rose within her; she opened her lips to him, in pained poignant eddies, she drew him nearer and nearer. She let him come further, his lips came surging and soft, like the powerful surge of water, irresistible, till with a little blind cry she broke away. At night she went to bed feeling all warm with electric warmth, as if the gush of dawn were within her upholding her. And she slept deeply, sweetly. In the morning she felt sound as an ear of wheat, fragrant and firm and full.

      Their Play at Kisses. Ursula met Anton frequently at home where he was a great favorite of her mother. Once they went to the shed and played at kisses. He kissed her asserting his will over her and she kissed him back, asserting her deliberate enjoyment of him. They knew that their game was daring and reckless and dangerous and each was playing with fire. But a sort of defiance of the world took possession of them. Like a flower, radiant and shaking in the sun, she tempted him and challenged him, and he accepted the challenge with a grim determination. So shaken, afraid they went back in the kitchen and dissimilated. But they were intensified and heightened, vivid and powerful in their being aware of the transcendent of their transport. They asserted themselves before each other; he all male and she all female. She could limit and define herself against him, the male, she could be her maximum self, female, triumphant for one moment in exquisite assertion against the male.

      The next morning, the young lovers went to the churchyard where they discovered a dim recess for their lovemaking. For a moment they stood apart and then they turned to each other for the desired contact. "She put her arms around him, she cleaved her body to his, and with her hands pressed upon his shoulders, on his back, she seemed to feel right through him, to know his young tense body right through. And it was so fine, so hard, yet so exquisitely subject under her control. She reached him her mouth and drank his full kiss, drank it fuller and fuller. "She seemed to be filled with his kiss, filled as if she had drunk strong, glowing sunshine. She drew away and looked at him radiant and glowing in full satisfaction. To him this was bitter that she was so radiant and satisfied. He remained unsatisfied: for him there was no self bliss, only pain and confused anger. It was agony to him, seeing her swift and clean-cut and virgin. He wanted to kill himself and throw his detested carcass at her feet. His desire to turn round upon himself was an agony to him.

      Time passed and it was time for Skrebensky to go away. He sent her a box of sweets all by herself, without sharing them with her sisters. Before his departure he had been very loving and tender to her. so when he was gone, she dreamed of him sometimes definitely and at other times only vaguely.

      Wedding of Fred Brangwen, Fred Brangwen was getting married to a school mistress. Anton too came to attend the marriage. He renewed his love intimacy with Ursula. They walked along the ridge of the canal till they reached a wharf. Here they saw a barge in which a sailor lived with his wife and child. Ursula was fascinated with the idea of living in a barge. She entered the barge and played with the child. The parents liked her name and decided to call their child Ursula. Ursula gave her a costly necklace she had been presented by Uncle Tom. They said very little as they hastened home to the big wedding feast. Anton was lost in his own thoughts. He was thinking why he could not desire the whole of a woman, her body and soul together, why he wanted her just physically.

      The Dance and the Moon. They hastened back home to the Marsh, for the wedding feast. After the feast there was a dance, and they danced together. The moon was rising in the sky and Ursula was filled with the moon. "She wanted the moon to fill into her, she wanted more, more communion with the Moon, consummation." There was a fierce, white, cold passion in her heart. But he held her close and danced with her. She was cold and hard and compact of brilliance as the moon itself, and beyond him like the moonlight, never to be grasped.

      Consummation of Love. After the dance, they went for a walk towards the stackyard. She looked towards him, with her face bright and shining in the Moon, and tempted him. He on his part was intent upon subduing her to his will, all his flesh burning and corroding as if he were invaded by some consuming poison. He sought to kiss her; she yielded to him. "And tremulously, his hands went over her, over the salt, compact brilliance of her body. If he could but have her, how he would enjoy her! If he could but hold her brilliant, cold, salt burning body in the soft iron of his own hands, nether, capture her, hold her down, how madly he would enjoy her. He strove subtly, but with all his energy, to enclose her, to have her. And always she was burning and brilliant and hard as salt and deadly. Yet obstinately, all his flesh burning and corroding, as if he were invaded by some consuming, scathing poison, still he persisted, thinking at last he might overcome her. Even in his frenzy, he sought for her mouth with his mouth, though it was like putting his face into some awful death. She yielded to him and he pressed himself upon her in extremity, his soul groaning over and over. 'Let me come - let me come'. She took him in the kiss, hard her kiss seized upon him, hard and fierce and burning corrosive as the moonlight. She seemed to be destroying him. He was reeling, summoning all his strength to keep his kiss upon her, to keep himself in the kiss."

      "But hard and fierce she had fastened upon him, cold as the moon and burning as a fierce salt, till gradually his warm, soft iron yielded, and she was there fierce, corrosive seething with his destruction, seething like some cruel, corrosive salt around the last substance of his being, destroying him, destroying him in the kiss. And her soul crystallized with triumph, and his soul was dissolved with agony and annihilation.”

      Gradually she came to herself. A seat of consciousness dawned upon her. Something strange, wonderful, and horrible had happened. She was seized with a frenzied desire that what had happened must not be remembered, and never be thought of. Skrebensky lay near her, almost like dead. She brought him back to life, by touching him. She now wanted to be his servant, his adorning slave. She restored the whole form and figure of him. But the core was gone. As a distinct male he had no core. The female in Ursula had triumphed over him, she had broken him.

      They returned home and she ran into her bed room. Her heart was bleeding; she had banished herself in annihilating him. In the morning the sun shone; she got up strong and dancing. Skrebensky was still at the Marsh and was coming to the church. On the fresh Sunday morning, life appeared to be enchanting; they sat together in the Church listening to the sermon. Ursula, caressed him, made love to him, but though gratified he knew that she was not with him, but against him, they exchanged tokens of love, but his heart was healed. He gave her a little ring. They put it in wine, in their glass and she drank, then he drank. They drank till the ring lay exposed at the bottom of the glass. Then she took the simple jewel and tied it on a thread round her neck, where she wore it. He asked her for a photograph of hers and she readily obliged.

      Departure of Skrebensky. The Boer war broke out and Skrebensky went to join it. She was uneasy at the thought of war, felt an agony of helplessness. Yet she wanted so hard to rebel, to rage, to fight the whole mad world. Skrebensky came to the Marsh before leaving; but he was a mere figure and did not even kiss her. He shrank from her; he had to be free of her spirit, Ursula stood near him with a mute, pale face which he would rather not see, there seemed some shame at the root of life, cold dead shame for her. For him, "The good of the greatest number was all that mattered. That which was the greatest good for them all, collectively was the greatest good for the individual. And so, every man must give himself to support the state, and so labor for the greatest good of all. One might make improvements in the state, perhaps, but always with a view to preserving it intact." he rested in the knowledge that the next day he was going away, his life was really elsewhere. She asked him if he would come back to her. He said yes, he would, and he meant it, but as one keeps an appointment, not as a man returning to his fulfillment.

      Ursula saw him off at the station, and suffered from terrible anguish when he was gone. She kept her diary, and poured down in it all her passion, all her yearning, and all her torment. Her soul seemed to travel to him. Weeks went by and bad news came from the war. Ursula was badly hurt; she felt the outside world was hostile to her. "Her sexual life flamed into a kind of disease within her."


      In this chapter, we are introduced to Anton Skrebensky whose love with Ursula is to be the major concern of the rest of the novel. The focus though has shifted completely to Ursula, yet there are constant reminders of the cycle of family history repeating itself. She and Anton walk under the ash-trees in the Cossethay hill where her grandfather had walked with his daffodils to make his proposal, and where her mother had gone with her young husband. Ursula shares her father's mystic beliefs though the book reflects change, it also maintains continuity, particularly in the symbol of the rainbow which, once of significance to Anna, is now a vital part of Ursula's thought. There are a number of love scenes all having the poetry and intensity of which Lawrence alone is capable. However, the love-scenes also make it clear that Ursula’s first love is bound to lead to frustration. It is too possessive and too physical to lead to fulfillment. It is bound to end in disaster.

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