Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Rupert Birkin

Rupert Birkin a school inspector in the mining district of Beldover. As the novel opens, he has become disenchanted with Hermione Roddice and, in terminating their stultifying, prolonged affair, is finding his way toward a new mode of living. With some hesitation, he falls in love with Ursula Brangwen. After Hermione tries to kill him, he moves into his own lodgings at “the Mill” and struggles to reach an understanding with Ursula that will enable a marriage in which they can respect and preserve their separate identities. Impatient with conventions and the older generation, he argues fiercely with Ursula’s father when he asks for his daughter’s hand. Though sickly, he is essentially robust, and though his strong will and dogmatic pronouncements sometimes make him comical, he inspires Gerald Crich and the Brangwen sisters. His convictions ultimately are vindicated by events. He forms a deep friendship with Gerald and wants to swear blood brotherhood with him because he feels a need for a lasting friendship with a man in addition to marriage to a woman.

Ursula Brangwen

Ursula Brangwen, a primary school teacher in Beldover. She falls in love with Rupert Birkin, is initially put off by his demands, but ultimately reaches an understanding with him. Sensitive and thoughtful, she is horrified by Gerald’s treatment of his horse and retains a measure of distrust of Gerald throughout the novel. She has greater faith in traditional ideas of love and marriage than does Birkin, but she refuses to compromise her own soul and insists on speaking her mind. After learning that Birkin intends to see Hermione before she leaves for Italy, she impulsively throws away the rings he gave her. She relents, however, and they are reconciled. After her father forbids her marriage and strikes her, she immediately elopes with Birkin. It is the fact that she retains full possession of herself in the face of Birkin’s forceful personality that makes their relationship...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Draper, R. P. D. H. Lawrence. New York: Twayne, 1964. An accessible introduction to Lawrence’s chief works, including useful biographical background and extensive commentary on Women in Love.

Kermode, Frank. D. H. Lawrence. New York: Viking Press, 1973. Sheds light on the novel’s philosophical concerns.

Leavis, F. R. D. H. Lawrence: Novelist. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968. Includes a lengthy chapter on Women in Love that draws attention to overlooked themes. Reassesses the novel’s importance.

Miko, Stephen J., ed. and comp. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “Women in Love.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Does not cover recent studies, but provides convenient access to a range of important earlier essays and opinions.

Oates, Joyce Carol. “Lawrence’s Götterdämmerung: The Apocalyptic Vision of Women in Love.” In Critical Essays on D. H. Lawrence, edited by Dennis Jackson and Fleda Brown Jackson. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988. A brilliant discussion of symbolism and eschatology in Women in Love, informed by Oates’s own experience as a novelist.