Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Lawrence’s most powerful fiction often runs against the reader’s expectations or prejudices. Often the author treats a subject that appears to arouse erotic fantasies—usually male fantasies—then alters the expected climax by means of a psychologically realistic twist. In Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Virgin and the Gipsy (1930), “The Princess,” and other tales depicting male sexual domination over a submissive female, Lawrence tampers with the pattern in significant ways. The Fox, also, seems to follow a pattern in which a sexually capable male is supposed to interfere with a lesbian couple’s relationship and to dominate one (or, in pornographic models, both) of the partners. Lawrence, however, alters the rules of the game. Henry is by no means the anticipated male teacher—nor is Nellie the anticipated student—in an erotic game that ought, in fantasy, to end in the sexual education (or grateful fulfillment) of the woman. By forcing Nellie to submit to his will, he has deprived her of free choice—of her consent—so he has neither fairly won nor satisfied his mate.

For Lawrence, the symbol of male domination and aggressiveness is the fox. In popular myths cunning, deceptive, and rapacious, the fox is treated as compulsive as well. In other stories (“The Witch a la Mode,” “The Lovely Lady”) Lawrence examines the mythos of the femme fatale, the fatal or dangerous woman. Like a witch or vampire, such a woman absorbs the vital energy of her lover, depleting him of virility. In The Fox, however, Lawrence treats as counterpart the dangerous male, the predator who, like a fox, overpowers his lover through sheer strength of will. Instead of offering readers a comfortable ending in which the domineering male captures his swooning bride as a prize, this novella shows with great psychological acumen the error of manipulating people to change their erotic natures. For their destiny, a reader cannot help but pity Henry and Nellie alike.