If he finds writhing around in plants and flowers naked more enjoyable than being with a woman he is weird and he's hiding his true self most of the time in the novel.
In his brief paragraph about Women in Love, Critic R.P. Draper claims that Rupert Birkin and Ursula provide a "creative counterpoint to the destructive relationship" between Ursula's sister Gudrun and Gerald Crich. It may come as a surprise to some readers of this novel that, according to Draper, Birkin plays a role as "prophet of a new conception of 'polarity' between man and woman, which involves both mutual commitment and a balanced independence" (Draper, 1991). Fortunately for his credibility Draper adds that Birkin "also believes in the need for a relationship of 'blood brotherhood" between man and man." This need to have a man on the side while married to a woman, Draper goes on is done "to complement the martial relationship between man and woman." Again, we find that characters need to hide behind falsehoods and lies, and certainly there is a gap in understanding between Birkin and Ursula.
Regarding Lawrence and sexuality, Murray S. Martin writes in the journal Gay & Lesbian Literature that for the author "sex…was a kind of touchstone of character. He wrote freely about 'manly love'… and his letters spoke often of friendship between man and man" (Martin). However, Martin asserts that "Characteristically" Lawrence claimed, "never to have formed such a friendship himself" (Martin). Critic Rebecca West admits that Lawrence's novel is "a work of genius" and the characters are "masterpieces of pure creation" (West, 1921). All the characters are masterpieces of pure creation -- that is all except Birkin West goes on. The one character that Lawrence has apparently designed as the "mouthpiece of truth never is." As readers can clearly see, West is right when she adds that Birkin "always is patronizing and knowing" like a correspondence writing his weekly report in a "provincial newspaper." Did Lawrence really create Birkin as a mouthpiece of truth? That's an opinion that is 88 years old, but critics have the right to make any statements they wish to and so Ms. West has added hers.
In another 1921 critique of Women in Love, Cal Van Doren reviews the four main characters (lovers) in the book without specifically pointing out the lack of information each shares with the other, or the deception. But it is clear Van Doren understands what a lack of pure truth can lead to: "Mad with love in one hour, in the next they are no less mad with hate," he writes (Van Doren, 1921). These lovers are "souls born flayed, who cling together striving to become one flesh and yet causing one another exquisite torture. Their nerves are all exposed," Van Doren continues. Sounding like he would like to be a writer with Lawrence's skill, Van Doren continues: "The intangible filaments and repulsions which play between ordinary lovers are by Mr. Lawrence in this book magnified to dimensions half heroic and half mad."
Meanwhile Eric P. Levy (2003) writes in the journal College Literature that Birkin's character is full of contradictions, which of course is part of the problem with his personality. He does not always come straightforward with what he is thinking or what he is going to do. The contradiction in Birkin's attitude toward love is interesting and no wonder Gudrun was confused from time to time. Levy: "On the one hand, he seeks unchangeable relationship through love which subsists 'perfectly, finally, without any possibility of going back...
"But on the other hand, he seeks to supplement the exclusive finality of one love relationship by achieving 'a little freedom with people' in order thereby to foster 'a greater power of individuality both in men and women'" (Lawrence quoted by Levy). In other words, he wants his cake (Gudrun) but he wants to eat it too, and have the opportunity to test the male market as well.
In the chapter "Moony" Birkin attempts to propose to Ursula but she wants assurances that he really loves her first. This exchange between them strongly suggests that Ursula has not really believed everything that Birkin has said to her -- and of course she is correct to question him. "I feel as if nobody could ever really love me," she said. He didn't answer. He said he wanted her to give him her spirit…that golden light which is you…which you don't know -- give it me…" "But how can I, you don't love me! You only want your own ends. You don't want to serve me, and yet you want me to serve you. It is so one-sided!" Ursula went on. Birkin doesn't answer as to whether he loves her or not, but beats around the bush, saying things like, "I want us to be together without bothering about ourselves -- to be really together because we are together, as if it were a phenomenon, not a thing we have to maintain by our own effort" (p. 288). He went on a bit and she said again, "You don't even love me" and he answered "angrily," "I do -- but I want…"
Nitya Bakshi critiques the discussion Ursula has with her sister Gudrun about Birkin's proposal, and Ursula decides to marry Birkin -- and this is the point where the sisters' relationship "begins to move on two different tracks and they come to identify less with each other and more with their lovers" (Bakshi, 2008). And so when the truth of the sisters' relationships with men is finally out in front, the sister's part. "So she withdrew away from Gudrun and from that which she stood for, she turned in spirit towards Birkin again. She had not seen him since the fiasco of his proposal" (p. 305).
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