Although at first poorly received, Women in Love has come to be considered D. H. Lawrence’s most important novel, and it is one of the most remarkable novels of its time, both for its innovative narrative technique and for its psychological depth. Although the novel employs a narrative strategy familiar from nineteenth century novels, in developing the relationships among four distinct personalities, Lawrence revolutionizes narrative technique, replacing the traditional concept of character. He includes more basic dimensions of human existence: blood and flesh. His characters are motivated not primarily by conscious, ego-driven wills but by drives that originate at a deeper, more physical level. Lawrence, who knew the work of Sigmund Freud long before it became widely known in England, believed that “blood” possessed its own consciousness and had its own ways of knowing.
The novel’s plot results from the characters’ discovery of and attempts to satisfy their most basic demands. These struggles frequently entail reversals and paradoxes that are difficult to account for in strictly rational terms, since their motivation is at a deeper level than the rational mind. Rupert Birkin is the chief exponent of this point of view, but while he possesses some of Lawrence’s personal traits and often voices the author’s views, he does not function simply as a mouthpiece. Lawrence is careful to show Rupert’s flaws and to make him occasionally ridiculous. All the central characters somehow “represent” Lawrence as reflections of the self and antiself. At the same time, all four central characters, in trying to understand themselves and to make themselves understood to others, articulate a philosophy that, while it is...
(The entire section is 712 words.)