Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 301
"Tickets, Please" is a short story by D.H. Lawrence that takes place against the backdrop of World War I, a time when men are away fighting and women take over the traditional roles of men. In this story, women are employed as streetcar drivers on a dangerous line that tends to stop in the dark night. They are portrayed as brazen-like soldiers, and they then attack a man in their fierce, male way.
The story can roughly be divided into thirds. In the first third, the women are portrayed as tough soldiers. Lawrence writes,
The girls are fearless young hussies. In their ugly blue uniforms, skirts up to their knees, shapeless old peaked caps on their heads, they have all the sang-froid of an old non-commissioned officer.
Lawrence's portrayal of these tough women is not flattering. The word "hussies" implies that they are impudent, and they are also described as unattractive. In the second part of the story, a streetcar driver named Annie has a date with John Joseph, an attractive inspector, and they are attracted to each other. In the final third of the short story, the tables are turned on John Joseph as a group of female streetcar drivers attacks him.
It is difficult to say whether this story is sympathetic to women or not. Clearly, Lawrence suggests that women in wartime take on the roles of men and that they will no longer put up with the kinds of treatment that are customary from men who take them for granted. To some degree, Annie seems justified in challenging the double-dealing John Joseph, but Lawrence also portrays her as a kind of crude, vengeful animal, suggesting that she is out of control. In any case, Lawrence suggests that women will no longer be content with their traditional roles.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519
As in so much of Lawrence’s fiction, the style in “Tickets, Please” helps to control the raw power of his content and thus becomes an integral part of the meaning. “Tickets, Please” opens almost like a children’s story, and the description of the Midlands tramway system reads like something out of “The Little Engine That Could” or—in a parallel from the story itself—the carnival rides that Annie takes with John Thomas. However, even in these opening paragraphs, there is a crucial contrast between the playful personification of the train and the “sordid streets” and “grimy cold little market-places” of this depressed and depressing industrial England. From the beginning, there is a contradiction in tone as there is in content (between, for example, the two conditions of women in the story, before and after their overthrow of John Thomas).
The narrator of “Tickets, Please” helps to mask this gap. There is a casual, familiar “we” in the opening narration: “Since we are in wartime.” This editorial “we” tends to moralize: “The girls are fearless young hussies,” the voice intones. After Annie starts seeing John Thomas and some of the other conductors are “huffy” to her, this voice is consoling: “But there, you must take things as you find them, in this life.” The narrator is preparing for the defeat at the conclusion; it is a voice of order and stability.
The language of the story also carries these themes. In the beginning of the story, the imagery is military: The tram-car is Annie’s “Thermopylae” (a famous battle site in Greece); she watches John Thomas “vanquish one girl, then another.” In the battle with John Thomas, however, this language becomes animal, and the girls become wild hunting creatures and bring John Thomas “at bay.” Throughout the story, the language is sexual. John Thomas’s name (especially his nickname, “Coddy”) refers to the male organ (as in “codpiece”), and there are several other phallic references; the sight of his “white bare arm,” for example, maddens the girls. Although at an intellectual level the story is about an attempted overthrow of the old patriarchal order, at the level of language and imagery the story is an example of Lawrentian “blood-lust,” in which the animal in woman tries to pull down the sexual power in man.
Although a novice reader of the story may be struck by the sexual symbolism and the psychological realism of the story, the humor and irony of “Tickets, Please” may not be as obvious. The playfulness of the opening sections is not only in its tone; serious as this struggle is, it is also inherently comic (and here the narrator’s voice helps). Similarly, the use of language can be highly ironic. When John Thomas quips to the girls in the waiting-room, “There’s no place like home,” the word “home” has several levels of meaning. It is ironic because it is “home” (security) with John Thomas that the girls want, and it is “home” that John Thomas assiduously avoids. Lawrence’s language, in short, can be as rich and bottomless as his meaning.