Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

To express the theme of revitalization, Lawrence uses symbols for a rite of initiation into the “mysteries” of the anima. His major symbols are the golden-brown snake, symbol of the unconscious that can return to the rocks—the “underworld” of blood instinct—after sunning itself in the external (conscious) world; the orange and the lemons, symbols of the vitality of the sun; and, above all, the cypress tree. The cypress was sacred to the ancient Greeks who once colonized Sicily and whose descendants, such as Marinina, still carry their ethnic traits. For example, in the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Kos, Greeks of the classic age were forbidden to cut down cypress trees. Once sacred both to Osiris, the “Dying and Reviving God,” and to Dionysus, worshiped for his vitality and ecstatic excesses, the cypress is also significant in this story as a link between the sun and the earth.

Being fully aware of the classical-mythological attributes of the tree, Lawrence symbolizes the cypress as “a low, silvery candle whose huge flame was darkness against light: earth sending up her proud tongue of gloom.” Like the snake, at home in both the underworld and the sun-heated rocks, the cypress is treated as though it were a “candle,” kin to the sun, but whose flame is “darkness” from the underworld (subconsciousness). Similarly, in the great poem “Bavarian Gentians,” Lawrence describes a dark-blue flower with “torch-like” points that serve as a connection between the consciousness and the subconsciousness, and that serve to illuminate the rites of the “marriage of the living dark.”

Through means of ritual—suggested, not directly stated, by the writer—Juliet first takes off her clothes as she sits by the cypress tree, as though she were an acolyte to the god. When her child has similarly been initiated into the sacred rites, he also responds to the tree. By that sacred place, mother and son are made whole, and “she herself, her conscious self, was secondary, a secondary person, almost an onlooker.” Ruled by the sun, she is reanimated; the true Juliet is “this dark flow from her deep body to the sun.”