Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Women in Love, begun as early as 1913, was tentatively entitled “The Sisters,” then later “The Wedding Ring.” As the sprawling manuscript began to take shape over the next two years, Lawrence published the first part as The Rainbow (1915). With considerable revisions and a complete rethinking of the material, he published a second Brangwen novel in 1920. In its final form, Women in Love is less a continuation of The Rainbow than an altogether different novel. To be sure, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen persist in their quest for happiness. Yet the Gudrun of The Rainbow was a minor figure; in Women in Love, she is a major protagonist, with a fully developed psychology. Ursula’s change is even more dramatic. In the earlier novel, she was a woman of passionate independence, whereas in Women in Love she is subdued—less impulsive, less heroic, more nearly domesticated.
Their lovers, Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin, complement the sisters’ essential temperaments. Like the fiery, strong-willed Gudrun, Gerald is a controlling, domineering sensualist—one as habituated to subduing horses to his iron command as to overworking his laborers in the coal mines. In contrast, Rupert (a Lawrence-like personality) is sensitive, introspective, emotionally fragile in spite of his intellectual vitality and his charm.
Unless one reads Lawrence’s canceled prologue to Women in Love, a...
(The entire section is 981 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Ursula Brangwen and her sister Gudrun first notice Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich as the sisters are watching a wedding party arrive at a church. Ursula explains that Rupert, the best man, is trying to terminate his prolonged affair with Hermione Roddice, one of the bridesmaids. Some days later, Rupert comes to inspect Ursula’s classroom with Hermione in tow. Hermione, after arguing fiercely with Rupert, invites Ursula and Gudrun to visit her home. Once alone, Ursula inexplicably weeps. Gudrun is drawn to Gerald, the bride’s older brother; when the sisters catch sight of him swimming, Ursula tells Gudrun that when he was a boy, Gerald accidentally killed his brother.
When Rupert and Gerald meet on a train to London, they discuss whether love is the “center of life”; Rupert expresses his pessimism about humanity. That evening, Gerald joins Rupert and some bohemian friends at a café and sleeps with a young model after they all retire to her former lover’s flat. In the morning, Gerald joins Rupert and his friends as they chat, naked, around the fireplace.
The Brangwen sisters become better acquainted with Rupert and Gerald when they visit Breadalby, Hermione’s home. Gerald finds Gudrun arousing when the women, in silk robes, improvise a modern ballet. After Rupert and Hermione again quarrel, Hermione tries to break his skull with a paperweight.
Some days afterward, Gerald appalls the sisters when he brutally forces his...
(The entire section is 1103 words.)