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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 289

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The theme of "Tickets, Please" is the changes in male-female relationships that have resulted from World War I. At the beginning of the story, Lawrence describes the new female streetcar conductors as "fearless young hussies," and calls the female protagonist, Annie Stone, "a tartar." Though the women who take the place of men on the trams are tough, Lawrence describes them in a way that suggests that their boldness and strength are ugly and hideous rather than admirable and courageous.

In the middle part of the story, Annie goes to a fair with the dashing John Joseph, an inspector who has dated many of the female tram conductors. Their script follows the traditional male-female dating pattern, as they have a good time, but Annie wants more from him. Lawrence writes, "Annie wanted to consider him a person, a man; she wanted to take an intelligent interest in him, and to have an intelligent response." However, John Joseph, in a typical male pattern, has moved on to greener pastures and has lost interest in Annie.

The last part of the story challenges the traditional male-female pattern, as Annie and her friends unleash an attack on John Joseph. It's clear that Lawrence is suggesting that wartime has heralded a new era in male-female relationships, one in which women will challenge their subordinate role. What's not clear, in this ambiguous, complex story, is whether Lawrence regards the women's challenge as positive or negative. John Joseph is portrayed as a thoughtless cad, but the animal-like way in which Annie and the other women attack him is described as savage. Perhaps Lawrence is suggesting that no one will come out ahead in the new war between men and women unleashed by the modern age.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 457

Like so many other Lawrence stories and novels, “Tickets, Please” concerns the sexual and spiritual war that is being waged just beneath the surface of civilized life. When that veneer is scratched, the psychological jungle is revealed.

It is appropriate that it is wartime. Aside from furthering the plot, the wartime setting is also a metaphor for the constant struggle between men and women. It is a “dangerous” but “exciting” time and, as in the stories of Ernest Hemingway at about the same time, wartime tends to show life in an exaggerated but intense reality.

This is particularly clear in the crucial battle between John Thomas and his vindictive captors. “Outside was the darkness and lawlessness of war-time,” Lawrence tells his readers at the beginning of this section. Inside, there is also “war” or “lawlessness” waiting in the depot, as in the hearts of these women.

When the women corner John Thomas, something happens to them, and they are transformed into powerful sexual animals. “Strange wild creatures, they hung on him and rushed at him to bear him down.” They have become the aggressors, and their new, animal, sexual power makes them feel “filled with supernatural strength.” However, this conquest of the male brings them no satisfaction; it is, Lawrence writes, a “terrifying, cold triumph.” Ironically, when they bring John Thomas down they destroy not only his male sexual advantage but also his sexual attractiveness; in his tattered tunic, John Thomas is nothing to them now. They have succeeded only in making him like themselves; they have gained nothing new.

Lawrence is thus predicting failure in the sexual revolution. When women band together (as they can here, under the special conditions of wartime), they can win. Their victory, however, is hollow, for they have destroyed the object of their “lust” at the same time that they have destroyed his superiority. They leave the depot “mute” and “stupefied” because they did not know their own, irrational, animal strength—and because they have really lost, not won. There has been a sexual revolt, but once the old order has been overthrown, the slaves have no new order to install and have lost the privileges of the old. It is a sad and pessimistic message. John Thomas and the women need each other as they are, Lawrence is saying, and there is apparently no way to undo the cruel and patriarchal sexual domination.

Lawrence’s story treats themes and motifs that would not be treated in such depth and detail again for half a century, until the women’s sexual revolution in the second half of the twentieth century became a literary revolution as well. In his sexual psychology and symbolism, Lawrence is a father of much of that literature.