Tom Brangwen: Character Analysis in The Rainbow

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      Tom’s Appearance. Tom is a typical Brangwen man, he is fair-haired blue eyed and heavy-limbed. He has some similarities with Lawrence also. We come to know about him through various incidents in the novel and the various comments that the novelist makes on him. We are told that he had a "pleasant sensuous warmth about him." He is also described to have young warm twinkling eyes. He has a peculiar fascination about him which is attractive to the ladies. Tom is the representative of the continuity and stability of the Brangwen family, rooted in the heart of the land which they have farmed for generations and which he himself now clings to. He is also representative of the social flux of his times; he is restless, filled with yearnings that he does not understand and cannot realize.

      Tom at School. Being the last child of the Brangwens, he was the favorite of his mother who wanted to make him a gentleman and forcibly sent him to the Grammar School in Derby when he was twelve years old. He went unwillingly though his mental constitution was unfit for education. He was a failure from the very beginning and he was aware of his failures all the while and he felt miserable sometimes but he was too healthy, too sanguine, too much alive to remain in the grip of misery for long. Tom felt glad to leave school and came back to the farm to which he belonged. He got himself involved in the active labor of the farm and the smell of the land experiencing the real blood intimacy like his forefathers.

      Tom's Self-respect and Hard-work. Unfortunately, when Tom was only seventeen he lost his father and the burden of the farm devolved upon him. He settled at the Marsh with his mother and sister and applied himself to his work. At the age of eighteen, with his elder brothers away. He started acting as the head of the family and doing everything his father had done. He worked and rode and drove for the market visited taverns with his companions and got tipsy occasionally. In other words, he was fresh and alert with zest for every moment of life.

      Tom’s Sexual Awakenings. The first sexual experience of Tom comes at the age of nineteen when after getting drunk at a public house he is allured by a prostitute to have intercourse with her. Next morning when he comes to his senses, he feels shocked and tormented. The only women he had known in his life were his mother and his sister. The mother image still hangs on him and he feels tormented and a sense of shame is created by the Oedipus Complex in him. There is also a lurking fear in his heart that he might have caught some disease from his contact with the fallen woman. But his youthful buoyancy got over the anguish of his heart, though he was tormented now with sex desires and his imagination recurred frequently to lustful scenes. But he did not return to loose women because his first experience had "been something, so dribbling, and so functional." There was a tension within him, and his natural gaiety and boisterous humor suffered a set-back.

      Tom Looses his Mother. When Tom was twenty-four, he lost his mother and he lived with his sister. He started losing himself to drinking because of the absence of any outlet to his emotional tension. Soon he became known at the The Red Lion a tavern at Cossethay because of his regular visits there, he was liked and respected by all because of his generous and frank-heartedness.

      Tom at Matlock. One day Tom rode to Matlock where he came across a handsome, reckless girl of twenty-four and spent an afternoon with her. He came back to the inn to see her with her man, a refined foreign-looking tactful man with a monkey-like self-assurance. This girl made him aware of what real passion is. She also brought to him the delight and graciousness of a genuine sex-experience.

      Tom Takes to Drinking. With the marriage of Effie, Tom is left alone in the house with a woman servant Tilly. Tom now often suffers from a sense of extreme loneliness. He feels extremely unhappy and in order to get over his loneliness he takes to drinking. He starts drinking for the sake of getting drunk. He gets up in the morning, ashamed of himself but also in a misery of bad temper. He becomes sick of his narrow life at home and has a feverish desire to go out and see the foreign parts, but he is obliged to stay rooted to the spot. Life becomes more and more dull and he begins to stay longer in the tavern to beguile his tedium by drinking with his boon companions. He often thinks of marriage and settlement in a peaceful domesticity.

      Tom Meets Lydia. At the age of twenty-eight Tom met Lydia Lensky. At this time he was ‘a thick-limbed, stiff, fair man with fresh complexion, and blue eyes staring straight ahead.’ Lydia Lenksy was a German widow of a Polish doctor who was living with her young daughter as the housekeeper of the Vicar. He fell in love with her at once impulsively, instinctively. "Lydia’s face was pale and clear, she had thick dark eyebrows and a wide mouth, curiously held." In just one meeting Tom felt that Lydia was the woman for him. Both were attracted to each other and every time they met the attraction increased. The lady hesitated because Tom was not her class but he was strong and fair and offered security to herself as well as to her daughter. Thus, when Tom proposed to her, she did not waver but accepted the proposal.

      Tom Marries Lydia. Accepting the proposal Lydia and Tom kissed and embraced and it appeared they were re-born and free of the ties and the concerns of the world. After marriage, Lydia came to live at the Marsh and they entered into a blissful state. “And he let himself go from past and future, was reduced to the moment with her in which he took her and was with her and there was nothing beyond, they were together in an elemental embrace beyond their superficial foreignness.

      Tom and Lydia’s Married life. The marriage of Tom and Lydia is the most successful relationship which Lawrence presents in this novel. Unhampered at the outset by any possibility of parental pressures, it is at the bottom firmly based on Lydia’s material and Tom’s spiritual needs: She was 'poor, quite alone, and had had a hard time in London,’ whilst he knew himself as 'incomplete and subject... without her he was nothing.' For Lydia and Anna, after their years of uncertainty and insecurity, Tom provides a stable and comfortable home and love, whilst she gives to him a new understanding of the meaning of life. It is not always a perfect union; particularly in her pregnancies Lydia often seems withdrawn, separate whilst Tom, on his side, is unable to abandon himself wholly to her. As Lydia's pregnancy advances, Tom feels more and more left out.

      Tom Turns to Anna. Tom turns his attention to Anna and spends much of his time in playing with her. Thus, Tom’s role as a husband is superseded by his role as a father as the story progresses and attention switches from Lydia to her daughter. Anna is a difficult child and in the beginning of their association, she almost resents him. But gradually Tom wins over her confidence and makes a companion of her. He would often take her out with him when he went to the town, or to his pub to have a drink. Her company consoled and soothed him.

      Final Fulfillment of Tom and Lydia. Lydia became aware of the restiveness of Tom and encouraged him to renew the old game. He approached her with hesitation till his mad desire impelled him to come to brass-tacks with her. Their second coming together was wonderful. "It was the entry into another circle of existence, it was the baptism of another life, it was the complete was the transfiguration, the glorification, the admission, the broken pillars of cloud and fire united again and Anna could play at peace between." He loved Anna with all his heart and encouraged all her dreams to be a high lady.

      Tom’s Generosity. One more crisis comes in Tom’s life when Anna who has grown up now falls in love with William and wants to marry him. When Tom tries to stop her, she bluntly tells him that he is not her father. He is stunned but he blames himself for his stupidity in clinging to the young, wanting the young to belong to him. In spite of all this he gives his consent to the marriage of William and Anna and even makes a handsome gift of money, hires a cottage for the couple and does his best to furnish it with all comforts and amenities.

      Tom as a Prosperous Farmer. Finally, we are given a glimpse of Tom as a matured and old gentleman farmer. He has succeeded in working out a sort of compromise with his wife and lives a happy married life. He has two sons who are gentlemen but are tied to him by filial ties. His only business now was to drive to the city, purchase things and drink hard before returning home. Ultimately he died by drowning in the flood after having fallen from his cab. His death symbolizes the death of an era.

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