The Virgin and the Gipsy

by D. H. Lawrence

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The story begins with an account of a wife's adultery. Accordingly, the rector's wife has left him and their two young daughters for a young, penniless lover.

The rector grieves but is loath to forget his beautiful wife. Instead, he turns his attention towards their daughters, Yvette and Lucille. In the story, we are told that the rector particularly adores Yvette, who reminds him of his former wife, Cynthia.

After being given responsibility for a rectorate in the north country, the rector soon welcomes three people into his household: his cunning mother (known as Granny or the Mater), Aunt Cissie (his sister), and Uncle Fred.

For her part, Granny is a wily, manipulative character. She particularly enjoys keeping the rector and Aunt Cissie under her thumb, and she does so with cunning grace. Meanwhile, Aunt Cissie secretly despises Granny, for the latter has prevented her from ever securing a happy marriage. The reality of the situation is that Aunt Cissie has sacrificed her sexuality and feminine inclinations to care for Granny in her old age.

As a result, the household is a miserable place to live. Everyone is unhappy, and no maidservant stays for more than three months. The only one who manages to keep her zest for life is Granny. She devours most of the poorly cooked meals, while Aunt Cissie dispenses with meat in her diet.

As can be expected, Granny loathes both her grand-daughters as well, particularly Lucille (the older of the two). As the young women grow, they eventually come to recognize Granny's terrible hold over everyone and take steps to secure their independence.

For her part, Lucille takes a job in town and flirts with every virile young man she sees. At twenty-one, Lucille tells Yvette that it is every young woman's right to enjoy flings with eligible young men until she is at least twenty-six years old. Meanwhile, Yvette (at nineteen) isn't so sure. She is pursued by eligible suitors, such as Leo Wetherell and Gerry Somercotes. However, she feels little desire to settle into the traditional role of mother and wife.

Effectively, the women in her life (her mother, Granny, and Aunt Cissie) have destroyed her inclinations in that direction. Things soon come to a head, however, when Yvette is caught spending some of the proceeds for the church Window Fund. Accordingly, Aunt Cissie had had her eye set on a stained glass window for the fallen soldiers of World War One. The loss of the money becomes a bitter point of contention between the two and precipitates the further deterioration of Yvette's relationship with her father and aunt.

Meanwhile, Yvette's hatred for Granny intensifies. In this, she feels helpless, as her father will not entertain any complaint about the old woman.

As a consequence, Yvette begins to yearn for freedom. As the story progresses, Yvette has her fortune told by a fortune teller. It is then that she notices the fortune teller's virile, handsome husband (a gypsy). To Yvette, the gypsy epitomizes sexual magnetism, power, and unbridled freedom. In short, he represents everything she believes is missing from her life.

Yvette soon decides in her heart that her one fling (before she marries) must be with the gypsy.

The story, however, ends on a bitter-sweet note. On one fateful day, the river overflows, and the town experiences a flood of frightening proportions. In the house, Granny is inundated with water and drowns in the process. Yvette, however, is saved by the gypsy, who leads her to the top story of the house. There, the two take shelter in a back room. They discard their water-soaked clothing, and in response to Yvette's cries, the gypsy takes her in his arms.

Despite the strong sexual attraction between the two, Yvette and the gypsy do not consummate their affair. Exhausted by their ordeal, they fall asleep in each other's arms.

After Granny's funeral, the gypsy sends Yvette a letter. In the letter, he tells her that his name is Joe Boswell and that he hopes to see her again. The story ends here, and we are left to speculate about Yvette's future with Joe.

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