Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In The Fox, Lawrence treats the theme of erotic willpower used to dangerous ends, demonstrating the limitations of mere animal magnetism in love that coerces rather than persuades the object of its love. In The Ladybird (1923), Count Dionys exerts a powerful attraction over Lady Daphne the attraction of willpower supported by animal vitality. Yet he controls this power with restraint, refusing to violate Lady Daphne sexually. He will be her lover “in spirit.” Similarly, in The Captain’s Doll (1923), Captain Alexander Hepburn dominates Hannele by asserting his strong will, but he allows her the option of accepting or rejecting his rigorous terms of marriage. She is free to consent to a marriage without “love” but with the promise of respect and honor in place of sentimental manipulation. Yet this choice is denied Nellie. She must submit, having no other practical option, to Henry’s demand for marriage. Such an assertion of brutal willpower, Lawrence maintains, is terrible—for the tyrannized and the tyrant alike. Lawrence mercifully draws a veil over the final section of the story; one does not know for certain what fate in marriage Henry and Nellie may enjoy as they embark for Canada, but one fears for them.