1In his essay devoted to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Lawrence comments on relating sex to sin, asking bluntly: “Do you imagine Adam had never had intercourse with Eve before that apple episode? Many a time. As a wild animal with his mate. It didn't become ‘sin’ till the Knowledge-poison entered. That apple of Sodom” (SCAL 82). And he further argues that
when Adam went and took Eve, after the apple, he didn't do any more than he had done many a time before, in act. But in consciousness he did something very different. So did Eve. Each of them kept an eye on what they were doing, they watched what was happening to them. They wanted to KNOW. And that was the birth of sin. (SCAL 82, emphasis in the original)
2The dogma of original sin can therefore be understood as a metaphor to express how overpowering mental consciousness brought about an unbalance of the primeval being, a split in primal wholeness, severing the mind from the body. In this light, mental consciousness is akin to “knowledge,” the latter term embracing, in Lawrence’s vocabulary, an array of meanings ranging from the biblical coming to awareness to academic erudition, all often metaphorically referred to as “the apple” in his works. In Lawrencian terms, the split becomes the breach through which to assert one’s own will to power which thrives on primary desires.
3In the biblical story, the curse punishing Adam and Eve falls onto their children as they, in turn, inherit the fatal split and struggle with it. So it is quite relevant that, in the same essay about Hawthorne, Lawrence should set out to analyze the child character, Pearl, as “the scarlet letter incarnate,” “the demon of plague, or scarlet fever, in her red dress” (SCAL 93). Though he points out the thoroughly Puritan moral split in Pearl who is “unable to balance her spiritual and sensual beings” (Sklenicka 125), he celebrates the little girl as “perhaps the most modern child in all literature” (SCAL 93). Indeed, like Lawrence’s child characters, Pearl is not the innocent and morally free superior being of the Romanics, nor does she entirely fit the Freudian model of the child animated by sexual instincts and tormented by guilt. She is nearer to the Lawrencian child who strives to define its own self in the world it was born to.
4Bearing this in mind, I will examine what the Lawrencian fictional parents are seen to transmit to their children and what their children are emulating. Since Lawrence posits in his “Foreword” to Fantasia and the Unconscious that “this pseudo-philosophy of [his about education...] is deduced from the novels and poems, not the reverse” (PUFU 65), I will rely on the novels to show that the author’s modernist appropriation of the dogma provides him with a new aesthetic means through which to articulate the complexities of children’s feelings and their relation to their parents. Indeed, the features which make up the account of the Fall, such as the serpent, the apple, nagging desire, the challenge of authority, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, equally affect the plot, narrative perspective and also the structure of the novels, as Lawrence endeavours to portray parenthood and childhood.
5To begin, our study will focus on how the fragmentary features of the characterization of parent-child relationships mirror the original split and affect the structure of the novels. Then, by studying how the character called Millicent Sisson experiences desire for an ornamental ball in a scene in Aaron’s Rod, the paper will turn to Lawrence’s views on whether the much resented will-to-power is innate or acquired.
6In Fantasia of the Unconscious, Lawrence asserts that “a child exists in the interplay of two great life-waves, the womanly and the male” (PUFU 78). Indeed, in the novels, children are deeply affected by the degree of balance the parents achieve as a couple. When balance prevails, then, as young Anna Brangwen does, the child plays “between the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud in confidence” (R 91), the metaphor of the pillar borrowed from the Bible (Exodus XIII, 21) referring to parental guidance.
7But this is far from being the case in each family. On the contrary, Lawrence takes pains to depict the parents’ private tug of war. As the tension between polarities develops, the children are caught in between a contest of wills. The upsetting of the balance is at times seen to strengthen links between one of the children and one of the parents, while symbols, such as the blood that trickles onto Paul Morel’s hair after his mother has received a blow from her husband, become imbedded in the narrative to highlight such intimate ties (SL 53, see also Sklenicka 125). Even before the birth of the baby, conflicting wills to power violently strain Walter and Gertrude Morel’s relationship. Writing for instance about their increasingly violent rows in her study entitled D. H. Lawrence and the Child, Carol Sklenicka shows how even before its birth “the unborn child is a felt presence in the novel, responding to the mother’s moods” (43). One instance of this, carrying autobiographical elements, occurs in the scene when Walter pushes and locks his expecting wife out of the house. “Responding to Gertrude’s fury, ‘the child boiled within her,’” reads Sons and Lovers (33, see also Sklenicka 43). Writing about this couple in particular, the critic points out how “the crashing of the two life waves is so extreme that the children are damaged by what ought to nourish them” (Sklenicka 47).
8Most Lawrencian families are therefore shown to go about their daily lives in a state of chaos, to the point where, in Lawrence’s later novels, connections between family members become as fragile as the Christmas ball which Millicent Sisson breaks at the beginning of Aaron’s Rod, eventually collapsing under the tension fuelled by clashing wills and desires. To the childless couple Somers and Harriett who, in Kangaroo, inspect the house they have just rented, the eleven siblings who used to live there are still conspicuously present. Their empty cots scattered across the premises and the remnants of chipped mismatching crockery littering the cupboards epitomize excess and consequently imbalance (K 83-85).
9As the plots move out of the family sphere to question a society at large run by mental consciousness, fragmentation features in other contexts, such as the smashing of Aaron’s flute, or the chapter in Kangaroo entitled “Bits” where newspaper clippings have been inserted into the narrative. In these instances, the fragmentary features of the families are reworked into the very narrative structure, through modernist disruptions of the narrative voice or of time sequences pointing to the damages the split of the primeval self entails.
10In Lawrence’s earlier novels though, fragmentation to be found in the characterization of children is more indicative of the building of the self. In such instances, as Sklenicka puts it, “Lawrence’s reimagining of childhood must be seen as part of the change in the representation of consciousness that he brings about in the modern novel” (4). Indeed, the child characters strive to sever their individual being from the parents and, by so doing, to achieve their own consciousness, and they are seen to either comply with or to rebel against the parents, and more specifically against the mother’s, aspirations for them, or against what Lawrence terms “ideal bullying” in Fantasia of the Unconscious (92). This is particularly true of Tom Brangwen, who, in The Rainbow, is “bullied by his mother into an ideal” (Sklenicka 67) when she sends him to grammar school, because “it was this, this education, this higher form of being, that the mother wished to give to her children, so that they too could live the supreme life on earth” (R 12). In fact, Tom, the mother’s favourite son, emerges as a distortion of her own ideal being, shaped by hopes of social elevation. She believes that by proxy she can fulfill her desire through academic erudition, what Birkin terms “the eternal apple” in the novel’s sequel (WinL 90). By staging this parental desire, Lawrence probes the question of whether education and experience grant individuals a higher social status, but since the mother’s desire appeals to the mind only, by exerting her parental authority, she runs the risk of jeopardizing Tom’s primal balance, of fragmenting his wholeness, which translates in a mechanized world as the split between being and having. The sheer omission of the mother’s first name is indicative of her own emulation of the previous generations of Mrs Brangwens when
[l]ooking out, as she must, from the front of her house towards the activity of man in the world at large, whilst her husband looked out to the back at sky and harvest and beast and land, she strained her eyes to see what man had done in fighting outwards to knowledge, she strained to hear how he uttered himself in his conquest, her deepest desire hung on the battle that she heard, far off, being waged on the edge of the unknown. She also wanted to know, and to be of the fighting host. (R 11)
11She too is a daughter of Eve. Thus, conveying the tension between sexes and polarities (land or blood versus knowledge), the text performs the trans-generational repetition of an original desire, since “the woman wanted another form of life than this, something that was not this blood-intimacy” (R 11), the elaborate structural repetition granting The Rainbow its notorious biblical ring (see Wright 84).
12Similarly, in The Plumed Serpent, parental desire induces what Lawrence identifies in a mercantile, mechanized world, as the deep split between being and having. Don Ramón, preaching the way to being which pertains to cosmic relationships, deplores his sons’ education, chosen by their mother and rooted in a mercantile, moribund world, that of having. He exclaims,
Why are you confused? If I talked to you about your new boots, or ten pesos, you would not be confused. But if I speak of the sun and your own souls filled from the sun like honeycombs, you sulk. You had better go back to your school in America, to learn to be businessmen. (PS 356)
13By bullying Tom into attending grammar school, Mrs Brangwen may also confuse the child as to his own identity, as was the case for Paul Morel whose exclusive bond with his mother prompted the debated Freudian readings of Sons and Lovers. The novel’s very structure bears witness to the distorted bond since, as Carol Sklenicka puts it, “interlaced perspectives and voices bring about a kind of reflective portraiture” (48). In consistence with modernist trends concerned with finding new narrative forms through which to articulate the delicate complexities of relationships, the bond which excludes the father is dramatized in a scene where the mother watches her son while she is ironing, and, in a mirror effect, Paul watches his mother doing her chores:
So after dinner he lay down on the sofa, on the warm chintz cushions the children loved. Then he fell into a kind of doze. That afternoon Mrs. Morel was ironing. She listened to the small, restless noise the boy made in his throat as she worked. Again rose in her heart the old, almost weary feeling towards him. She had never expected him to live. And yet he had a great vitality in his young body. Perhaps it would have been a little relief to her if he had died. She always felt a mixture of anguish in her love for him.
He, in his semi-conscious sleep, was vaguely aware of the clatter of the iron on the iron-stand, of the faint thud, thud on the ironing-board. Once roused, he opened his eyes to see his mother standing on the hearthrug with the hot iron near her cheek, listening, as it were, to the heat. Her still face, with the mouth closed tight from suffering and disillusion and self-denial, and her nose the smallest bit on one side, and her blue eyes so young, quick, and warm, made his heart contract with love. When she was quiet, so, she looked brave and rich with life, but as if she had been done out of her rights. It hurt the boy keenly, this feeling about her that she had never had her life's fulfilment: and his own incapability to make up to her hurt him with a sense of impotence, yet made him patiently dogged inside. It was his childish aim. (SL 91)
14I would argue that this modernist “interpersonal shaping of an identity” (Rylance 27) underscores how the boy’s budding self is stifled to the point that even the idea of redemption which should secure a return to primeval balance is fully oriented towards the mother as Paul painfully feels he should “make up to her,” at the end of the passage. Indeed, the dialectics at work in the mirror effect illustrate Lawrence’s incisive comments, to be found in “Education of the People”: “She wants her own mental consciousness reciprocated in the child. [...] If we are to save the ultimate sanity of our children, it is down with mothers! A bas les mères!” (122).
15In Sons and Lovers the interlaced perspectives certainly bind mother and son, until the sexual bond Paul experiences with Clara is structurally played out in the lovers’ own interlaced perspectives. Concomitantly to this fledging independence from the mother, Lawrence sets out to dramatize his personal reading of the Fall thanks to a series of unconventional images, as in the following passage:
They [Paul and Clara] felt small, half-afraid, childish and wondering, like Adam and Eve when they lost their innocence and realised the magnificence of the power which drove them out of Paradise and across the great night and the great day of humanity. It was for each of them an initiation and a satisfaction. (SL 398)
16Thus the challenging of maternal authority also epitomizes Lawrence’s subversion of Christian authoritative interpretations of the book of Genesis (see Wright 82).
17In The Rainbow, disruptions in viewpoints achieve a different aim. Indeed, as soon as Tom is sent to school, the shift in perspective grants him a distinct identity. His own viewpoint is enriched and its depth in psychological analysis strikingly alienates him from his mother’s ideal. Although he dutifully complies with the maternal demands set upon him, his keen perception of his weaknesses and limits shapes his independent self. As a consequence, he forgives his mother for her mistake, her desire for the apple, believing she “was right in decreeing school for him, but he knew she was only right because she would not acknowledge his constitution” (R 16).
18Tom Brangwen will eventually become a parent but starts out by being a step-father. These circumstances shed new light on the building of a child’s self, when the little girl, Anna, defines the role of her parents thanks to her relationship with her step-father and in doing so acquires the capacity to form her own mental concept of the parent. But in fact, rather than “intruding into the little girl’s consciousness through interior monologue” (Sklenicka 82), Anna’s striving to come to terms with these fresh ties is dramatized in scenes narrated from external perspectives, which, at times, foreground the parent’s point of view. In several instances, Anna is seen to answer back to her step-father, when she musters her will to resist the proffered family bond. Tom’s point of view is then voiced through biblical imagery linked to the dogma of the Fall, as the little girl is repeatedly compared to the serpent, the original dissenter who questioned the divine word: “She was sure to dart forward her little head, like a snake, with her biting: ‘Go away’” and “She meditated. Then she hissed forward her head: ‘I am not’” (R 67). The dogma of the Fall functions as a means through which not only to dramatize complex and realistic relationships between step-father and daughter, but also to represent the characters’ consciousness, a distinct trait of the modern novel.
19The relationship between father and child is secured one night while Lydia, Anna’s mother, is in childbirth. Anna, becoming “a mechanical thing of fixed will” (R 73), stubbornly calls for her mother (“I want my mother”), but can only be comforted by Tom, the new man in their lives. Taking her out into the cowshed, he gradually soothes her. As he quietly busies himself with his chores, still carrying the girl, he teaches her that he is the great provider of food for the beasts and the family, that he is the comforter whose warmth can quell tears. This realistic and poignant scene unfolds symbolically while a child, also called Tom, is being born in the house. Indeed, Tom himself is born into his identity as a father for the little girl, whose trust and acknowledgement now lull her to sleep. And she likewise is born to this second father, as the text reads, “a new being was created in her for the new conditions” (R 75).
20Gradually her father’s point of view fades away as he reaches old age, Anna’s wedding being the last scene in which his consciousness is fully revealed to the reader. Such disruptions in the narrative voice are so many modernist devices used to define parental roles and to disclose the child’s growing individual consciousness, each infant displaying its unique quality as it copes with the split in its wholeness.
21The next generation introduces Ursula, who in her pursuit of fulfilment embodies what Marc Schorer calls a “free” child.” “Free characters,” Schorer writes, "are those who actively seek out their fate through the plot movement,” while bound characters are “fixed in their social roles, and in rigid social scenes, and [...] are caricatures whose fate is sealed before the end” (53). In the light of the present study of images drawn from the dogma of the Fall, this aesthetic dichotomy carries new implications. Indeed, the split between “free” and “bound” characters turns out to be the split between those who achieve fulfilment and those who don’t. It also illustrates what Lawrence terms, in his most famous letter on the modern novel “a different attitude to [his] characters” (Letters 182), breaking away from conventional characterization, therefore producing a literary achievement in its own right.
22Ursula’s spiritual development implies questioning authoritative interpretations of the Bible, in particular the split between the spirit and the body (see Wright 104). In fact, she grapples with her parents’ spiritual battle which was epitomized in Will’s carving representing Adam and Eve (R 112, 169). His failed attempt illustrates how confused he was about his faith while, from a textual standpoint, the burning of the carving precludes any image drawn from the Fall to be fashioned to depict Ursula’s childhood. The absence of images linked as it is to the original split, is timely as a child character heading for separateness and fulfilment enters the scene.
23Will’s disillusions, together with the weight of responsibilities, develop into a morose sternness. Several times Ursula is seen to be harshly scolded and slapped, a chastisement which fosters an acutely ambivalent ambivalent relationship with her father and more painfully, fashions her dual nature harbouring a private and a public being. In “Education of the People,” Lawrence maps out the benefits of physical punishment to stimulate the child and enable it to recover its separate identity and its balance, so it is all the more striking that the perspective chosen to depict Ursula seldom sides with the parents. Rather than adopt a character’s point of view to depict Ursula’s hurt feelings, the narrator takes full charge of the description so that the reader is compelled to feel for the little girl. She cries bitterly but hides her pain by taking refuge under a sofa, “like a sick little animal, and was a long time before she crawled out” (R 210), and “when she crawled out, after an hour or so, she went rather stiffly to play. She willed to forget. She cut off her childish soul from memory, so that the pain, and the insult should not be real. She asserted her self only” (R 208). If, in the novel a slap comes as a means for Ursula to achieve separateness, the modernist handling of perspective reveals it is a painful process. Thus Ursula’s silent but stubborn resistance to parental will is as a means enabling this last “free” child character of the novels to turn into a modern teenager and woman.
24I shall now turn to Millicent Sisson and Winifred Crich, whom I will discuss as examples of “bound characters.” Though the little girls are both introduced in scenes related to upbringing, I would argue that Millicent is reenacting the desire for the tree of knowledge, whereas Winifred is given the means to find the tree of life. By briefly introducing both girls into the narratives, Lawrence also addesses the question of the innate and the acquired.
25In the scene where Millicent Sisson pines for the Christmas decorations her parents have just unpacked, archetypal elements belonging to the dogma of the Fall can be identified. The Serpent itself is lurking in the background, since just before the dialogue with the Sisson girls, the Christmas tree has been decked with snake-like features in “the swinging hissing tree,” “the tree pricked and stung,” “the sudden clutching hiss of the tree-boughs” (AR 6-7). In these instances, the internal focalization is on Aaron, crediting him with the disparaging comparison between the tree and the serpent, the latter standing for conflicting desires which torture Aaron on the eve of his estrangement from home.
26Eventually, Millicent is allowed to unwrap the Christmas decorations (AR 8-11), a permission which grants her a new power she uses directly over her younger sister Marjory. If the delicate ornaments symbolize the fruit of the garden that she may touch, as in the book of Genesis (I, 17), a law sets the limits to such freedom: “Don’t break it,” says Millicent to her sister (AR 9), voicing her parents’ silently conveyed admonitions. Millicent’s desire to grant her younger sister Marjory the permission she has herself received pertains to her will to power acquired by emulating her parents’ authority. However Marjory’s flouting of such usurped authority only increases her eldest sister’s desire to possess at all costs. Millicent is “instantly seized with desire for what she had not got, indifferent to what she had” (AR 10). Throughout the scene, the repetition of the possessives (“my” and “mine”), echoing the semantic chain of property (“irritating possession,” “fingers itched” and “I’ve got”) turns possession into a metonymy of acquired power and authority. Indeed, according to Lawrence, possession plays a prominent part in the building of the self, all the more so when the infant is able to relate to its individual consciousness through language:
Some children do not realise that they are themselves until they are four or five years old. [...] A child for some years has no conception of its own foot as part of itself. It is “the foot”. In most languages it is always “the foot, the hand,” and not “my foot, my hand.” But in English the ego is very insistent. We put it self-consciously in possession as soon as possible. (RDP 142)
27As in the book of Genesis, temptation, through which desire is triggered, targets mainly the sense of sight, beauty being the spur of the character’s desire. Millicent's exclaiming “Look Mother, isn’t it a beauty?” (AR 9) signals the reference to the original sin and to the archetypal Eve who “saw [...] it was pleasant to the eyes” (Genesis III, 6). This daughter of Adam and Eve then challenges the prohibition, asking her father, “Won’t it break ?” or “Should I try ?” (AR 10), where she is reformulating the Serpent’s challenging question which ran “Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis III, 1). Finally, just as in the biblical narrative, the act (“She took of the fruit,” Genesis III, 6) fuels lies and hypocrisy. When Millicent breaks the ball, her hypocrisy is manifest: “The child stood with her lip between her teeth, a look, half of pure misery and dismay, half of satisfaction, on her pretty sharp face” (AR 11). The little girl’s will to power is exposed by her father, who declares blandly, “She wanted to break it.” Like her other fictive counterparts, Millicent is asserting the consciousness she has acquired of herself over the years by emulating her parents, while, at the same time, giving in to innate desire (“But Millicent must go further” AR 11), since as Lawrence puts it “A human baby can’t help getting an idea into his head” (RDP 104). Indeed in his essay Education of the People, Lawrence circles the question of the innate and the acquired without providing an answer, but remarking jocosely:
The degree of blamelessness and ideal superiority we set out to attain, in educating our children, is unimaginable. Pure little spirits, unblemished darlings! So sad that as they grow up some of the grossness of the world creeps in! How it creeps in, heaven knows, unless it is through the Irish stew and rice pudding at dinner. Or perhaps somewhere there are evil communications to corrupt good manners: time itself seems the great corrupter. (RDP 116, emphases in the original)
28The mimetic quality of the Christmas ball scene is secured thanks to the detached extradiegetic perspective narrating the paradox which lies in a little girl emulating her parents’ authority while challenging it. However reading the scene against the account of the Fall sets in motion an eternal repetition of the original challenge to authority spurred by the desire for possession, a repetition the father, Aaron, calls “the unspeakably familiar” (AR 11) and which leaves little hope for fulfilment. The Christmas ball scene acquires its “rigidity” (Schorer 53), then, because it stages the workings of the original split as inevitable.
29Unlike Millicent, who clearly qualifies as a daughter of Adam and Eve, Winifred Crich never questions the adults’ word. Even if the little girl turns out to be a convenient foil which grants Gudrun a status in Women in Love as a Lawrencian character in search of fulfilment, her mother’s mental wanderings and her father’s impending death seem to endow her with an innate sense of self which she can only express by being “quite single and by herself, deriving from nobody. It was as if she were cut off from all purpose or continuity, and existed simply moment by moment” (292). Though Sklenicka takes the view that “her singleness of being amounts to a preference for those who will cater to her spontaneity” (151), I would argue that Winifred is another “bound” character, enabling the author to briefly circle the position of the modern artist in a mechanized world.
30Indeed, Mr Crich, Winifred’s father, chooses Gudrun out of sheer intuition, to improve his daughter’s artistic skills. He decides to
give Winifred into [Gudrun’s] hands as into the hands of a right being. Here was a direction and a positive force to be lent to his child, he need not leave her directionless and defenceless. If he could but graft the girl onto some tree of utterance before he died, he would have fulfilled his responsibility. (WinL 293, my emphasis)
31In the version of Women in Love now published by the Cambridge University Press as The First Women in Love, “the tree of utterance” reads “the tree of life,” a clearer reference to the book of Genesis and to its account of the Fall (FWinL 203). By nurturing his daughter’s artistic talents, Mr Crich, who can be seen as a Lawrence-figure, intuitively shields Winifred from the tree of knowledge so as to lead her towards the tree of life, which stands for primeval balance. As teacher and student draw the girl’s poodle called Looloo in an attempt to “get its Looliness” (WinL 309), to let it “exist in its own separate entity” (LEA 201), they redeem themselves by balancing mind and body in an act of creation. Indeed, the poodle’s Looliness in the novel is akin to the “appleyness” of Cézanne’s apples in Lawrence’s essay “Introduction to these Paintings” (LEA 213). In her study of the Lawrencian child, Sklenicka echoes the author’s comments on the “appleyness of the portrait of Cézanne’s wife” (LEA 212) to foreground the modernity of Lawrence’s writing in this respect, stressing that
[his] approach to the subject of childhood displays a courage of vision comparable to that which he recognized in Paul Cézanne’s still lifes [...] as ‘a real attempt to let the apple exist in its own separate entity, without transfusing it with personal emotion. Cézanne’s great effort was, as it were, to shove the apple away from him, and let it live of itself.’ (82)
32I would add that, in the tutorial which the parent, Mr Crich, has arranged for, the image of the graft hints at the complementary features, innate and acquired, of the child. Technically, onto the plant selected for its roots, is grafted a scion containing the desired genes to be duplicated in future production. The image Mr Crich is credited with brings to the fore the interaction between the innate and the acquired, as the former is nurtured by the latter when his daughter’s artistic talents are tutored. In this way, not only does the object of the painting exist in its own separate entity, so does the artist thanks to a redeeming creative act.
33I have argued that, throughout his works, scenes including parental education dramatize Lawrence’s adamant belief that the child should exist in its own separate entity, while images drawn from the account of the Fall encapsulate the ever repeated split between the mind and the body that upsets the individual’s wholeness and gives way to a contest of wills. The split also aesthetically separates the conventional characters from those heading for fulfilment, as the former seem to reenact the first lust for power while the latter seek the primal self.
34Thus when Lawrence challenges the authoritative interpretation of the biblical story so as to capture the essence of human beings, the modernity of the Lawrencian child mirrors the author’s own endeavour to reenter a personal Garden of Eden, which entailed breaking away from traditional narrative devices and taking “a different attitude to his characters,” an attitude he also urged his contemporary readers to take (Letters 182).