Ursula Brangwen: Character Analysis in The Rainbow

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      An Important Character. Ursula is the last of the Brangwens that Lawrence deals with and we enter much more fully into her life. She is of Lawrence's own generation, growing up in his world, with many of his aspirations and much of his sensitivity accorded to her. She is an important character because she occupies our interest for more than half of the book. Ursula becomes a focal point for us in infancy and some of the early scenes in her life are among the most beautifully handled and evocative in the book. She is a child who from the first shows the sturdy independence inherited from her Polish ancestry.

      Urusula’s Love for her Father. Ursula is marked from her very birth by her father as his especial favorite, and he intertwines his very soul with the child, and comes almost to depend on her for his solace and protection. "She learned not to dread and hate him, but to fill herself with him, to give herself to his black, sensual power that was hidden at the day time." But her father was wont to lose his temper at her naughtiness, spoke angry words and at times even punished her. As a result of it she learned to separate herself from the rough hostile world, of which her angry father was a part and parcel, whom she could not love without a mixture of malice. Still love for her father was a constant factor, and with it grew up a dislike of the domesticity of her mother who was absorbed in the storm of fecundity and procreation, so that the house was becoming crowded with noisy children.

      Ursula’s Sense of Responsibility. As a child Ursula was fearless. She never cried when Will taught her to swim or jumped great heights with her sitting on his back. Once at a fair, he amazed people by swinging her so high in the swing boat, but Ursula faced it bravely. Since Ursula was the eldest of the Brangwen household, she had to share the responsibility of looking after the children. In Cossethay and the village, she is constantly at odds with the local children, drawn into quarrels which are not her own and beginning to consider the problems of inequality of wealth, intelligence and sensibility. Only at the age of eleven, she had the responsibility of escorting her three younger sisters to school. Gudrun, her younger sister, herself lived in a world of fancies and depended upon Ursula to face the realities. It so happened many a time that even though the other children did mischief, the parents anger was directed at Ursula. Once, as a result of such an incident, she is hit hard with a duster by William. Ursula is unable to forget this incident and is hardened towards her father. It is described by Lawrence that 'the seeds of mistrust and defiance burned unquenched, though covered up far from sight.'

      Ursula’s Education. It was only when Ursula was sent to school in Nottingham did she feel able to break away from the burdensome and constricting life of her own home. The three positive factors which exercised a healthy influence on Ursula were: her school, the company of her grandmother Lydia, and religion. At school, she was happy to find herself seated on the hill of loading above the noise and confusion of the world below. She was intelligent but not laborious and was soon disgusted with all learning and the routine as well as the discipline of the school. She felt she could always do as she wanted if she managed to avoid a battle with Authority and the authorized powers. She was. wild and free in her revolts; there was no law for her, nor any rule. She existed for herself alone.

      Ursula’s Mysticism. There was Ursula’s illusion of religion which asserted itself on Sundays, which was very precious to her. She recalled stories about Christ and a good many Biblical texts, some of which thrilled her, for she applied them to her own life. When she recalled how the Sons of God saw the daughters of men, they found them fair and took them as wives, she thought that had she lived in those days she would certainly have been chosen by them. Thus, she was living a double life, The Sunday life of visions and illusions, and the week days life of facts and actualities. She took delight in Christian rituals and ceremonies, but was anguished to think that they were not so thrilling in realization as in anticipation.

      Ursula as an Adolescent. As Ursula emerges into adolescence it is clear that her relationships are to be more complex than those of the generations that preceded her. She became herself as a separate entity, who must do something and go somewhere, but she was tormented to think that she had no sense of direction in which to proceed. In this awakening, the duality of life gradually disappeared and her attention came to fasten, more and more upon the facts of the real world. She realized that the material world could not be reconciled with the world of religion, religion lost its charm for her. Religion taught her that the rich cannot enter the gates of heaven, and that she should embrace poverty, but she did not like to be poor. She felt that one could not get on in the world without money. Religion taught her that if she were struck on one cheek, she should turn the other also, but she felt this would be cowardice and humiliating. She was sensitive in the extreme. She yearned to meet others, yet, deep at the bottom of her heart, there was always a childish antagonism of mistrust. Ursula was growing up which meant shouldering responsibility and she felt herself too young to shoulder the responsibility of life. "She yearned for security, for shelter, for the male breast which would protect her, and where she would find bliss and refuge, the man who would be her Christ and her savior."

      Ursula and Anton Skrebensky. It is at the age of sixteen, smoldering with her desires and dreams, her visions and revisions, that she happened to meet young Skrebensky, an engineer in the army on one month's holiday, who came to her place in company with her uncle Tom. Anton represents to her the outside world, the 'world of passions and lawlessness' which the shattered life of the girl makes doubly fascinating, though Lawrence calls the chapter in which the two meet 'First love' there is very little real love in their early relationship. Ursula is in love not with Skrebensky, but with the part of herself that she sees in him; ‘she was in love with a vision of herself,’ Lawrence explains, ‘she saw as it were a fine reflection of herself in his eyes’. Skrebensky, on his side, is inflamed to passion by the unthinking and ingenuous sexuality of the girl. They began to play the game of love, daring and dangerous and reckless, like playing with fire, but Ursula was prepared to defy the world to taste the honey of this love. So the round of romantic meetings went on till Ursula began to yearn for the coolness and cool liberty of the moon, to do entirely as she liked. "The passions had begun and it must go on, the passion of Ursula to know her own maximum self. She could limit and define herself against him, the male, she could be her maximum self, female, oh female, triumphant in one moment for exquisite assertion against the male, in supreme contradiction to the male."

      Their Love Consummated. Anton’s vacations came to an end and he went away, with the passing of time came the wedding feast of Fred Brangwen. Skrebensky came to attend the marriage and the love intimacy of Ursula and Skrebensky was renewed once again.

      After the wedding feast, Ursula and Skrebensky danced four or five times together. Ursula was filled with the Moon. Her two breasts seemed to invite the Moon in. "She wanted the Moon to fill into her, she wanted more and more communion with Moon, consummation." Ursula tempted Anton by appearing to be a gleaming power. It is here that they indulged in passionate love-making. "And timorously 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 net her brilliant, cold self burning body in the soft iron of his own hands, nether, capture her, hold her down, how madly he would enjoy her." He strove with all his energy to enclose her, to have her. 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. He sought her mouth with his and gave her a hard, fierce and burning 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, 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. So she held him there, the victim, consumed, annihilated. She had triumphed; he was not anymore."

      Repentance. After her experience, Ursula is filled with a frenzied desire that what has been should not be remembered, never be thought of. She now wants to be Anton's servant, his adoring slave. Ursula knows that the female in her has triumphed over him, she has broken him. The reason for Anton’s feeling annihilated is that, he is too limited a being; he can neither love the whole woman in Ursula nor help her to expand, to transcend her limits.

      Separation. Skrebensky left for Africa and Ursula had a cold parting with him at the station. The Boer War was declared and Anton had to keep himself in readiness to go there at short notice. She felt an agony of helplessness. She could do nothing about it. She felt bewildered and confused. Months passed and Christmas came. Anton had forgotten his own individuality in serving the nation. Skrebensky almost forgot Ursula in the discharge of his duty to his nation. She had an acute sense of foreboding. Before leaving for South Africa when he came to the Marsh, he was rather indifferent to her. "His life was elsewhere, the centre of his life was elsewhere, not with her. Ursula knew he would not find fulfillment through her; their love seemed to her futile."

      Ursula Continues her Education. Inspite of Ursula's dislike for studies, she continued to study for she was proud and she wanted independence. She wanted to go out into the man's world and conquer it. Skrebensky became a sweet memory and Ursula sank into a state of apathy. She became extremely touchy and her sexual life flamed into a kind of disease.

      Lesbian Relationship with Winifred. Ursula develops a keen interest in her class-mistress, Miss Inger, a beautiful, fearless—seeming athletic young woman of twenty-eight. They came closer and a sort of 'lesbian love' started between them, in which the elder lady kissed, embraced and fused with Ursula as if she were her male lover. Initially Ursula was excited by the charm and refinement of her mistress but soon she realized that the lady was a decadent female, corrupted by her mind and her worship of the machine and so she appeared to be a fit match for her uncle Tom, who had given himself to the management of a colliery and the cult of the machine.

      Ursula as a Teacher. Ursula resolves to be economically independent and thus is procured a job by her father at Brinsley Street School at Ilkeston the school situated in a poor quarter had no attraction for her but she accepted the job in the hope that she would be able to transform the School with her love and sympathy for the children till they would regard her as an ideal teacher. Unlike her expectations, she becomes a non-entity in a class of fifty-five boys and girls noisy, unruly and mischievous who could not appreciate her love and generousity as they were amenable only to the discipline of the rod. She also earned the passive antagonism of her head master Mr. Harby. Gradually, iron entered her soul, and one day she caned the boys mercilessly. The class was disciplined but she felt unhappy and frustrated. "Her only merit lies in the fact that though she compromises with it for a while, she does not allow her soul to be contaminated by its poisonous influence."

      Ursula at College. Ursula proceeded to college for higher education, and her father was appointed an Art and Handwork Instructor for Nottingham. The family was shifting to its new residence, Beldover, which her father had purchased. Even before the first year at college was over, Ursula's illusion about education and college began to fade and stark reality forced itself upon her attention that the whole business of teaching was stale and commercialized, a mechanical process of transferring second-hand stuff for success in the examination. Her heart recoiled from her studies.

      The Return of Skrebensky. Skrebensky returned to England when Ursula was in the second year of her college education. Their old game started, but before long he realized that she was getting out of his grasp. Her real self was hidden into the depth of her darkness which he could never panetrate. So he proposed marriage and after great hesitation she agreed to accept him. They were eventually engaged and the date of marriage was fixed. But Ursula was an unpredictable creature. Ultimately she told him that she did, not want to get married to him. Frustrated, he married his colonel's daughter and left for India without any intimation to Ursula.

      Pregnancy of Ursula. Ursula returned to Beldover, silent and dejected and soon discovered to her shock that she was with Skrebensky’s child. She wrote to him in India that the child in her womb left her no alternative but to marry him and live as his devoted wife. During these days, she had an encounter with wild horses who she felt were prancing and advancing towards her in a threatening posture. When she returned home she was seriously ill for a few days and was in a kind of delirium, she lost the baby and was glad that her last link with Skrebensky was finally broken.

      By the time the novel ends, Ursula has suffered the disillusion of various failed relationships and is ready to build her life anew on 'a living fabric of Truth' which the rainbow symbolizes for her. Her illness was a period of spiritual incubation, which resulted in the birth of her new self.

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