The Virgin and the Gipsy

by D. H. Lawrence

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Why is the opening chapter of The Virgin and the Gipsy memorable and intriguing?

Quick answer:

The opening chapter of The Virgin and the Gipsy is memorable and intriguing because Lawrence uses the warped psychology of the main characters, including the rector, the grandmother, and Aunt Cissie, to hint at mysteries and foreshadow explosions to come.

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The opening chapter of The Virgin and the Gipsy is interesting because of the mystery it hints at and its foreshadowing of an explosion to come.

The narrator makes very clear that the true story of why Cynthia, the rector's wife, left him for another man has not been told. It has been replaced with a false narrative, a romanticized one that serves the ego of the jilted husband and the power needs of his mother.

In general, people sense that the rector is dishonest about what happened. For example, the narrator tells the reader:

Yet somewhere there was a false note. And some of the ladies, who had sympathised most profoundly with the vicar, secretly rather disliked the rector. There was a certain furtive self-righteousness about him.

Words like "false" and "furtive" suggest there is a story beneath the official, frozen one that has never been told.

Then there is the explosive mix of repressed and troubled personalities in the family. We have to be worried about the religious Aunt Cissie, a middle-aged woman who never married because her mother "sacrificed" this daughter's happiness to her own need for companionship. We are told twice of

Aunt Cissie's green flares of hellish hate.

"Green flares," indicating envy, and "hellish hate," a strong term, foreshadow that somehow Aunt Cissie is going to cause trouble because of her repressed rage. We are set up in this first chapter to be curious about how exactly this will play out. Likewise, we wonder about the mother, who we are told is not "warm" or "kindly." She wants power at all costs, so we wonder what will happen if that is threatened. We also worry about the two young daughters, growing up in this emotionally unhealthy situation.

Lawrence deftly uses human psychology to make an ordinary human drama, that of a broken marriage, fraught with all sorts of possibilities that keep the pages turning.

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