The Rainbow: Chapter 8 - Summary and Analysis

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The Child


      The Oedipal Relationship of Will and Ursula. Right from the beginning Ursula stirred a deep strong emotion in Will's heart. William loved her and liked to take her up in his arms and play with her. She had a beautiful rounded head that moved him passionately. When she cried, he could not bear it. He held her in his arms and walked backward and forward troubled by her crying. When the second child Gudrun was born, Will devoted himself to the older girl and she went everywhere with him. He made baby furniture for her and wooden dolls, helped to bathe her and often took her into the church whilst he practiced the organ. Sometimes a spirit of evil moved him to test the child and he subjected her, together with himself, to frightening physical experiences. At one time he jumped naked off the bridge into the canal with the naked Ursula clinging to his neck, another time he took her to the fair and swung her up in the saving-boat until she was sick. The child often found it difficult to understand and resented his reproofs but she continued to love him most. She passionately resented her mother's superficial authority. But the father occupied a permanent position in her consciousness. When he was in the house, the child felt full and warm, rich like a creature in the sunshine. When he was gone, she was vague, forgetful. When he scolded her even-she was often more aware of him than of herself. He was her strength and her greater self.

      More Children. Anna had now four children and her husband was only twenty-eight. For seven years she had been absorbed in wifehood and motherhood. For years Will had gone on beside her, never really encroaching upon her. The burden of so many lives bore young William down; he looked haggard and was irritable. He now went out on his own not caring for his family responsibilities.

      The Empire Theatre. One Saturday night he went to the Empire Theatre in Nottingham to see a variety show. There he found himself sitting beside a young small woman with fresh complexion, he decided to attract her. After the show, he asked the girl to coffee and took her to a tea shop and then asked her for a walk. They went through the streets and turned into the park, where he tried, unsuccessfully, to seduce her. When he returned home in the evening, Anna sensed the change that had been coming over him. She was resolved to meet the challenge of the new turn of affairs. Her voice, her manner changed and she was ready for the game. She threw respectability, love, morality, everything overboard. He was the sensual male seeking pleasure, and so she decided to become the sensual female ready to give him that pleasure. "There was no tenderness no love between them anymore, only the maddening, sensuous lust for discovery and the insatiable, exorbitant gratification in the sensual beauties of her body" Will found her a stone of absolute beauties that drove him mad. "All the shameful, natural and unnatural acts of sensual voluptuousness which he and the women partook of together, created together, they had their heavy beauty and their delight. Shame, what was it? It was a past of extreme delight. It was that part of delight of which man is usually afraid. Why afraid? The secret, shameful things are most terribly beautiful."

      New Fulfilment for Will. Gradually Brangwen began to find himself free to attend to the outside life as well. His intimate life was so violently active, that it set another man in him free. A fifth child, a boy was born and slowly Will grew into a responsible member of the community. He organized a wood-work class for the village boys and took his place in the village life. Will had a natural blood affection for his children but he was the fondest of Ursula. She was fascinated with whatever he did. "Whatever he did, had a strange magic for her. Whether he came from Ilkeston with news of the town, whether he went across to the church with his music or his tools on a sunny evening, whether he sat in his white surplice at the organ on Sundays, leading the singing with his strong tenor voice, or whether he was in the workshop with the boys. He was always a center of music and fascination to her, his voice, sounding out in command, cheerful, laconic, had always a twang in it that sent a thrill over her blood, and hypnotized her."


      Lawrence prescribes different symbolic functions to each of his characters in The Rainbow. Here Anna is used as a symbol of the mother and the idea of motherhood.

      The relationship between Will and Ursula is even more Oedipal than was that of Tom and Anna. Will drifts towards Ursula because of his unsatisfactory conjugal relationship with his wife Anna. The depiction of the Oedipal relationship between Ursula and William is largely autobiographical. By showing that Will and Anna achieve satisfaction through sensuousness, Lawrence makes the fact that physical gratification is essential for fulfillment. Will is laid in comparison to Tom. However, there is darkness in Will’s character, that was never evident in that of Tom. Little Ursula is at the opposite pole, bringing light to set against his darkness.

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