William Brangwen: Character Analysis in The Rainbow

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      William’s Origin. William Brangwen is the son of Alfred, brother of Tom. His appearance in the story is brought about when he calls at the Marsh from Nottingham with the letter of his mother to his uncle to the effect that he was going to join his place as a junior draughtsman in a lace factory.

      His Physical Appearance. William Brangwen is a young man of twenty, with a thin face and bright self-possession, with a dash of shyness, he has a wide mouth, a black moustache forming on his upper lip. He is interested in churches and in church architecture and as he settles in the drawing-room of his uncle and begins to talk of the various styles of churches and its parts, his voice rings and vibrates and thrills Anna like running flame coursing through her frame. Anna listens to him as he speaks of hatchet-carving and molding a tracery, speaking always with close passion of particular things, particular places, there gathered in her heart a pregnant hush of churches, a mystery, a ponderous significance of loved stone, a dim-coloured light through which something took place obscurely, passing into darkness; a high delighted framework of the mystic screen, and beyond, in that farthest beyond, the altar. It was a very real experience.

      William’s Courtship of Anna. The courtship of William and Anna is passionate, but it never achieves the finely strung accord of that of Tom and Lydia. The moonlight stooking scene, is indeed both beautiful and moving, but though it ends in Will’s proposal it shows a couple who are out of step; they finally submit to the passion of the moment, but they meet on no other plane. Their love lacks spirituality and hence, after their marriage when physical desire is partly sated, they have no real point of meeting, they are unable to communicate about the things that matter to them. In Anna’s company, William finds her in an electric state of passion. It is rarely that he kisses Anna, and even when he does, it is merely a touch of the lips, but it is enough to waken her eyes with a constant fire.

      William Marries Anna. William proposes to Anna before his uncle Tom who taunts him with his resourcelessness, which leaves him abashed yet implacable. At last they were married and moved to their cottage in the vicinity of the church. William abandoned himself completely to his passion. The external world was cast off like a hollow shell, and the naked kernel of his self separated from it. "They would get up late, sometimes almost in the evening, and at other times go to bed quite early. It was as if the outside world did not exist; they were a world to themselves. All principles and all rules were forgotten, and Will gave himself fully to the pleasures of the hour.

      Quarrels. However in course of time, Will and Anna returned to the plane of reality and Anna began to upbraid him for his unmanly clinging to her. He loved her, and yet he hated her for her blithely unconsciousness of him. Her indifference to him galled upon him, his pre-occupation with the outer world flayed his soul. As Anna busied herself cleaning the house, he hovered near her, wanting her to be near him and this irritated her beyond endurance. In the combat that ensued he had to yield ground on all matters. His claim to male superiority was sharply repudiated by her, and his proud hawk-like arrogance was met by the hawk-like posture of his wife. His belief in the Christian miracles was laughed at by her till he became ashamed of himself.

      William’s Simplicity. He was gradually dominated over by his wife. He was too frank and honest to hold his own against his wife. He yielded to her after every quarrel and she gained by inches upon him. But the unkindest cut of all was Anna’s refusal to gratify him sexually when she was pregnant: He wanted her to come to him, to complete him, to stand before him so that his eyes did not, should not meet the naked darkness. Nothing mattered to him but that she should come and complete him. For he was ridden by the awful sense of his own limitation. It was as if he ended incomplete, as yet uncreated on the darkness, and he wanted her to come and liberate him into the whole ...His need, and his shame of need weighed on him like madness. But Anna was complete in herself and he was ashamed of his need, his helplessness, of her. Yet he was quiet and gentle, in reverence of her conception, and because she was with child by him.

      William Surrenders. William became more gentle and considerate as Anna grew big with the child. He could not sleep away from her. He burned with fierce rage against his wife. One day he found her dancing naked in her bedroom. She danced ecstatically to nullify him and his soul was consumed that he could neither subdue her, nor do without her: “She was as the rock on which he stood, with deep, heaving water all around, and he was unable to swim" - and she beat him off. Gradually, he yielded. "He concluded it was no use combating her. He would insist no more, he would force her no more. He would force himself upon her no more. He would let go, relax, lapse and what would be, should be." He became quite indifferent to his own dignity and importance. He was no longer what is called a manly man. Since this adjustment involves abject surrender on his part, he fails to achieve real fulfillment and is subject to occasional fits of violent temper.

      William and Ursula. Anna was delivered of a female child which they named Ursula and the child provided a new centre for the father's affection. So he settled to work peacefully, paying his tribute at the same time to the matriarchy at home where his wife remained enthroned amid her growing brood. A time, however, came when he began to chafe at the narrow confines of his domestic life; and he was prone to neglect his work and spend his evenings at the tavern. Since he was dissatisfied with his marriage he turned to his daughter for his emotional fulfillment. He established a kind of Oedipal relationship with her. His flesh and blood vibrated to her and he was passionately moved by her beautiful, rounded head. There was a streak of perversity in his character. This was seen in the fact that he would jump into the swimming tank from great heights, with the child on his back. Once he swung her so high in a swing boat, that the people looked at them with amazement.

      Will's Sansuality. While at the tavern, one evening, he encountered there a girl of tender and soft body who aroused his manliness. He took her out and confidently proceeded to seduce her. But all of a sudden she refused and slipped out of his grasp. He returned home with the dark power of sensuality blazing in his eyes. His wife was quick to notice the change and grasp its meaning. She roused herself to accept the challenge and meet him on his own terms. Then followed an orgy of sexual intercourse, purely lustful, in which he was a wild, amoral and violently excited explorer seeking to discover the beauties of the various parts of the female body and surrounding himself to the delights, natural as well as unnatural which they could provide.

      William’s Other Interests. This violent exercise released him from his interest in the external world and he found fulfillment there. He found his interest in wood-carving and worked on it as his hobby. He also became a member of the Church Choir and regularly practiced for it. Later he also took to painting, jewel-making, etc.

      A Mixed Combination. William is a combination of the mystic and the sensualist, but there is no contradiction in his character. For the dark subterranean impulse emphasized in him flows in two channels, church mysticism and sexual orgasm, which have been described in a language which underlines their fundamental affinity thus he calls the church 'she' and his entry into it has been depicted by means of rose-symbolism : "His soul leaped up into the gloom, into possession, it reeled, it swooned with a great escape, it quivered in the womb, in the hush and gloom of fecundity, like seed of procreation in ecstasy."

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