The Rainbow: Chapter 2 - Summary and Analysis

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Chapter II

They Live at the Marsh


     Lydia Lensky's past. This chapter gives an account of the past life of Lydia Lensky, the Polish widow whom Tom marries. She was the daughter of a Polish land owner, and her mother was a German. She married a brilliant, young Polish doctor, named Paul Lensky. He was a staunch patriot working for the freedom of Poland from the slavery of the Russians. Lydia also became a patriot under the influence of her husband. They were poor but they were proud and conceited. They represented in Poland the rising spirit of nationalism. Lydia learnt nursing as a mark of her emancipation.

      The Polish Rebellion. There came the great Polish rebellion against the Russian rule and Lydia and her husband were in active sympathy with the rebellion. When trouble arose in Poland, they crossed into South Russia. Her husband worked very hard till nothing lived in him but his eyes. When they came back from Russia, they found both their children dead. Then they fled to London where her husband got a job in a hospital but was too excitable to remain there long. They lived in abject poverty; the husband, lost in his high dreams and the wife passive, dark as a shadow, but always in his power. With the birth of Anna, the doctor was spent up and the wife, in a stupor, nursed him as well as the baby. The husband died but she remained in England, as it was so aloof and so foreign. She walked without passion, like a shade, tormented into moments of love by her child.

      Lydia goes to Yorkshire. Lydia was sent to Yorkshire to nurse an old rector in his rectory by the sea. She once again came in contact with the open country and the moors. It hurt her but it roused her soul to attention. Time passed and seasons changed. She frequently felt uneasy and shrank into darkness. And yet the savage desire of life rose in her again, hurting her, and causing her great pain.

      The Death of the Rector. After the death of the rector, Lydia came to the Vicarage at Cossethay. Her bewilderment and helplessness continued and she moved about as if in a trance. "She was aware of people who passed round her not as people, but as looming presences. And then Brangwen crossed her way."

      Her Meeting Tom. Tom was a presence to be felt and accepted; he thrilled and excited her in the very first encounter. Her impulse was strong against him, because he was not of her own sort. But one blind instinct led her to take him, to have him, and then to yield to him. She felt rooted in the safety in him and the life in him. Also he was young and very fresh, her junior in age by six years.

      Their Marriage. Lydia thoroughly roused by her new life wanted to give herself to him, but he held away desiring to act honorably towards her. He would not accept her till they were married. Tom suffered very much from the thought of marriage, the intimacy and nakedness of marriage. He knew her so little, that marrying her was like embracing the dark unknown. At last they were married. At the wedding his face was still and expressionless. He wanted to drink but could not, she sat quiet, with a strange, still smile. Having accepted him, she wanted to take him, and she was not afraid. But his heart was tormented within him. He felt that the time for his trial had come. And yet it had been established that he was to be her husband. The advances of Lydia, gradually melted the ice and he plunged into her, deeper and deeper till past and future were bolted out and that single moment became eternity. But in the morning he felt uneasy again, though the belief that he was her mate and husband began to take root. For Lydia it was a new birth, radiant with vigor and joy.

      Tom After His Marriage. Marriage was changing the outlook of Tom. Things were appearing in a new light. Tom was unable to get over the foreignness of his wife. They could never be fully attuned to each other. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was connection between them again, the tension broke and the passionate flood flowed out in a tremendous rush. He came home and the touch of his wife set him on flame, and the glad operation of knowing and explaining started in earnest. Then she became pregnant and there was silence and distance between them. Tom was virtually cast out. Sometimes his anger broke on her but she did not cry. He took himself off anywhere. But he instinctively knew that she would receive him back again and this prevented his straying too far off.

      Tom Turns to Anna. Tom turned to Anna for solace, who was clinging to the mother, and repulsed all attempts at separation, but Tom was patient and steady in his pursuit to tame this child, was passionate and tender-hearted in quick succession. The night his first son was born, Tom helped Anna through a storm of tears and passion to peaceful sleep. Then Tom went upstairs and gentely touched his wife’s fingers. She opened her eyes and gave him an impersonal look. When her pains began afresh, he turned aside then he went downstairs.


      After the introductory section the events of the first chapter were mainly seen through the eyes of Tom Brang wen. This second chapter of The Rainbow shifts the perspective in order to look at Lydia’s earlier life until her marriage to Tom. After this, the consciousness of Tom takes over again and Lydia’s inner feelings are described. The dominance of Anna in this chapter prepares us for the story to follow, that of Tom.

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