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At the same time, Gudrun is not the character that could potentially match these lacks that Gerald has.
Indeed, first of all, Gudrun is an artist. There are several things that go with this brief characterization. First of all, she understands to seek a wide array of things from both life and a relationship, but all these are founded and based on the freedom of an artist.
Freedom is however only something she sees for herself not for the other individual of a couple. Her belief is that retaining her freedom in a relationship is equivalent to subduing the other individual involved in the couple, to the degree to which he will not be able to affect her personal freedom anymore. We can compare this to Birkin's perception of the couple as a joining together of two individuals in order to form a mutually beneficial and equilibrated relationship.
As Charles Rossman pointed out, "Gerald and Gudrun are locked in a struggle for mastery over one another." The fight in their case is over the supremacy in the relationship, the individual who will retain the power, as an ultimate sign of individual freedom, rather than in finding the common denominators to make the relationship work. Birkin proposes solutions in his relationship with Ursula: a couple and a relationship can be a joining together of two individuals without the underlying freedoms being affected.
In Gudrun's and Gerald's case, the question is more about how one of the two individuals in the couple can lose their freedom in order for the other to retain it. There is no middle ground and no open door that there may actually be a solution between these two extremes. There are several instances where the characters are actually joined by their common perceptions in terms of couple and individuals, but perhaps few gives an impression as these following lines: "In her tone, she made the understanding clear -- they were of the same kind, he and she, a sort of diabolic freemasonry subsisted between them."
The relationship between Birkin and Gerald is more difficult to define and evaluate. This is first due to the fact that the potential homosexual attraction between the two men is much more difficult to appreciate than the heterosexual. Second, it is also difficult because the relationship seems to define itself based, again, on the individual, or rather starting with the individual.
There is, first of all, a matter of balance. Previously in this paper, we have emphasized Birkin's superiority over Ursula as he was able to find balance in his relationship and as a couple. As an individual, however, he is still striving to attain that balance and the homoerotic attraction to Gerald is a clear sign that this is aimed at completing his own personality.
Some have argued that Birking wishes to construct himself somewhere in-between the "autonomy and icy impenetrability of the white-skinned northmen" and the "warm-fluidity of the dark-skinned men." This is probably the best argument for the continuous search of individual balance and equilibrium within Birkin. He does not have a well-defined identity, he is searching for one in-between these two extremes, although he is able to reflect an inner balance which we are not sure exists in his relationship with Ursula.
For Birkin, it is easier to find and accept balance in a relationship than inner balance. For him, the answer in a couple is as simple as allowing each individual to have the same freedoms the individual had before. It does not solve, however, his identity problem, because, virtually, it brings about no change from being a single individual.
This search of balance is one explanation of the openness towards bonding with Gerald. Others have explained the homoerotic attraction through a narcissistic perspective. In his relationship with Gerald, Birkin is trying to project his own individuality. At the same time, Gerald feels that in his relationship with Birkin, he is much more at large to manifest his individuality than he is in his relationship with Gudrun.
This does not necessarily make a comparison between Gudrun and Birkin in terms of who is stronger, but suggests that Gerald and Gudrun are too much of the same type of character to be able to find any kind of balance in their relationship. Gerald and Birkin actually complete each other in the ideal that Birkin speaks about: a combination of the northmen and dark-skinned men, for the creation of a common individuality with qualities from both types of people mentioned.
So, it would be reasonable to assume that DH Lawrence seeks to analyze and present the relationship between Birkin and Gerald as two sides of the same coin or rather two halves of the same coin that makes sense when brought together. Now we have the entire perspective of the three relationships that unfold in the book.
First, we have the relationship between Birkin and Ursula, which Birkin argues it can become the simple and non-regulatory joining together of two free individuals. On the other hand, Birkin's interior individuality is much more troubled and he seeks his own completion not in the couple relationship with Ursula, but rather in the relationship with Gerald. He is ready to assume that while the relationship with Ursula will leave him as he is, the relationship with Gerald will make him more whole.
Gerald seeks from his relationship with Birkin the quietness and balance that his relationship with Gudrun is not able to give him. With Gudrun, a Dionysian like him, he will not achieve the equilibrium that his relationship with Birkin, an Apollonian, is able to give him. The men seem to both seek their inner individuality, both in the relationship with the other individual of the same sex rather than in the heterosexual relationship.
The deaths in the book are somewhat intrinsically related. Both Gerald and Diana symbolically drown, Diana in water and Gerald in snow. The book leaves few explanations on Diana's death, however, one can speculate significantly on Gerald's death. Gerald's death comes, at first view, because of his incapacity to find inner balance, as well for his incapacity to find balance within the couple with Gudrun. Beyond the other realistic approaches such as the fact that Gerald's somewhat suicidal enterprise is an effect of the fight with Gudrun, the real cause is lack of individuality.
Gerald does not manage to find himself, and, even more so, he is handicapped from the very beginning, because it is much more difficult for a Dionysian to find and accept the equilibrium. The common denominator of drowning seems to join the two characters in their common fate.
Birkin and Ursula, on the other hand, choose to live and return from the mountains. Their symbolical opposite gesture marks their acceptance of their individual fates, as well as their fates as individuals part of a couple. Being able to accept their own individuality and project it in the couple and their relationship helps them overcome some of the problems that had marked the evolution of their couple destiny.
The number of relationships and the complex psychological implications deriving from the bonds between all the four main characters are fascinating. We are not only dealing with the heterosexual relationship between the two couples, but also with the relationship between Birkin and Gerald. Equally fascinating is the relationship between Ursula and Gudrun, and, even more so, their different perspective on life.
1. Perkins, Wendy. "Reading Lawrence's Frames: Chapter Division in Women in Love" the DH Lawrence Review. (3 Fall 1992): 233.
2. Kelsey, Nigal. DH Lawrence: Sexual Crisis. London: Macmillan, 1991
3. Dorbad Leo J. Sexually Balanced Relationships in the Novels of DH Lawrence. New York: Peter Lang, 1991
4. Rossman, Charles. "You are the Call and I am the Answer': DH Lawrence and Women." DH Lawrence Review 8 (1975): 255- 328.
5. Schapiro, Barbara. DH Lawrence and the Paradoxes of Psychic Life. SUNY Press. 1999
Perkins, Wendy. "Reading Lawrence's Frames: Chapter Division in Women in Love" the DH Lawrence Review. (3 Fall 1992): 233.
Kelsey, Nigal. DH Lawrence: Sexual Crisis. London: Macmillan, 1991
Dorbad Leo J. Sexually Balanced Relationships in the Novels of DH Lawrence. New York: Peter Lang, 1991
Rossman, Charles. "You are the Call and I am the Answer': DH Lawrence…[continue]
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