The Woman Who Rode Away

by D. H. Lawrence

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Why isn't the woman afraid of the frightening landscape in "The Woman Who Rode Away"?

Quick answer:

In "The Woman Who Rode Away," the woman is not afraid to enter a frightening landscape, because she is ready to leave her old life behind, is excited to do something on her own, and has romantic notions of discovering something wonderful in the mountains.

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D. H. Lawrence’s story presents an unnamed woman who has grown completely dissatisfied with her life in a mining settlement. The curiosity expressed by a young American visitor awakens her interest in the green mountains beyond the home where she lives with her husband and children. Her imagination is stimulated by the young man’s notions that there must be something “wonderful” about the way that the Native American people live “in their secret villages.” His enthusiasm awakens in her a “foolish romanticism,” even stronger than she had once experienced as a girl. The woman begins to feel strongly drawn to venturing out and discovering how people live. The narrator summarizes the woman’s intentions:

She felt it was her destiny to wander into the secret haunts of these timeless, mysterious, marvelous Indians of the mountains.

Despite this sense of “destiny,” the woman has heard her husband denigrate the ways of “savages” and anticipates that he would not understand her desires. She keeps her ideas secret but tries to learn about the various Native American groups so she can choose a destination. For her “crazy plan,” she chooses to try to reach the territory of the Chilchuis. She is fascinated by the stories that they practice ancient religions, including “human sacrifices.”

After her husband leaves to accompany their visitor part of the way on his trip home, she rides out alone on her horse. The idea of going alone is part of the attraction. Although she had sometimes ridden with her husband, he never allowed her to ride alone. Now she intends to realize a pent-up dream, “of being free as she had been as a girl, among the hills of California.”

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