Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The spiritual nature of contemporary man is D. H. Lawrence’s central theme, and it manifests itself in this novel through the marriage relationship between Richard and Harriet. With his genius for exploring the emotional lives of his characters, Lawrence portrays Richard and Harriet in their everyday world. The essential fact for Lawrence is that the everyday world can contain the most profound spiritual life. It is often the small moments, the seemingly unimportant daily event a walk on the beach, for example, that contains the detail that blossoms into the spiritually significant episode. Lawrence is at his best in such moments, and during them his characters become as compelling as any in fiction and his prose achieves a lyrical intensity that few novelists have ever equaled.

On a more prosaic level, Lawrence explores the possibility for political action in the character of Richard. Richard’s search for some worldly way to lead men toward a new definition of a godhead recalls Lawrence’s own ambitions. Yet Richard fails in that search; he realizes that politically such an action is not possible. In the very writing of the novel, Lawrence seemed to be exploring for himself what was possible in the political world and what was beyond political remedy.