Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

For readers of this story to understand fully, let alone empathize with, the extraordinary mythic journey of the Woman, they must take the same journey in imagination. Through accumulation of details, often hypnotically repeated, and through image and symbol, Lawrence attempts to break down the moral resistance of his readers to accept his thesis; his intention is that the reader acquiesce, no less than the Woman, to a frame of mind that judges her self-sacrifice as morally correct, that absolves her murderer-priest of guilt as a surrogate of the god, that accepts as just and appropriate the fall of Western ethos.

To achieve these tasks, Lawrence creates a psychological pattern of indoctrination that corresponds to the initiation ritual. Perfectly understandable are the stages of the Woman’s mental conditioning, so that she alters her consciousness according to the demands of her ritual guide. She is, after all, denied sleep for long periods; stripped of her Western clothing, forced to go naked and then to wear the special garb of the initiate; drugged with mind-altering potions; allowed long periods of silence, times that are alternated with other periods of camaraderie and instruction in the religious cosmology of her captors; finally, exposed to the sun in a ritual of rebirth. Psychologically, the Woman is conditioned to accept her fate.

To support this pattern of mind control, Lawrence’s images and symbols lead the Woman (and the reader) from the familiar to the strange, from the material to the spiritual, from reality to magic. The contrasting sensory and visual images of heat and cold, of sun and moon, are brilliantly concentrated in the cave of ice illuminated by a shaft of light from the sun. With great intensity, Lawrence turns attention away from the sacrificial knife lifted over the heart of the Woman and then “deep, deep to the heart of the earth, and the heart of the sun.”