Saturday, May 20, 2006

D.H. wants to make you squirm....

We read D.H. Lawrence's short story, "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" (click the link for the full text of the story) in class the other day (as I've mentioned here several times already). I've had some experience with Lawrence's brand of fiction before...classic and sexy as hell. I read Lady Chatterly's Lover like any good horny teenager would--except I believe I was in my early 20s by then. Anyway, it's been a long time since I've read his stuff, and I've never read a Lawrence short story, so I was pretty amused last week when I read this short. In a nutshell, it's about a family who is in financial ruin after the father's death. The youngest daughter is up shit creek being a woman at the time. She has no options except to go live with her older sister and mooch, thus she decides to take her own life. Little does she know that the young doctor is watching as she walks into a pond to drown herself Virginia Woolf style. This is the sensual scene that results:

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He slowly ventured into the pond. The bottom was deep, soft clay, he sank in, and the water clasped dead cold round his legs. As he stirred he could smell the cold, rotten clay that fouled up into the water. It was objectionable in his lungs. Still, repelled and yet not heeding, he moved deeper into the pond. The cold water rose over his thighs, over his loins, upon his abdomen. The lower part of his body was all sunk in the hideous cold element. And the bottom was so deeply soft and uncertain, he was afraid of pitching with his mouth underneath. He could not swim, and was afraid.

He crouched a little, spreading his hands under the water and moving them round trying to feel for her. The dead cold pond swayed upon his chest. He moved again, a little deeper, and again, with his hands underneath, he felt all around under the water. And he touched her clothing. But it evaded his fingers. He made a desperate effort to grasp it.

And so doing he lost his balance and went under, horribly, suffocating in the foul earthy water, struggling madly for a few moments. At last, after what seemed an eternity, he got his footing, rose again into the air and looked around. He gasped, and knew he was in the world. Then he looked at the water. She had risen near him. He grasped her clothing, and drawing her nearer, turned to take his way to land again.

He went very slowly, carefully, absorbed in the slow progress. He rose higher, climbing out of the pond. The water was now only about his legs; he was thankful, full of relief to be out of the clutches of the pond. He lifted her and staggered onto the bank, out of the horror of wet, grey clay.

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Now, some of you are thinking, "Hmmm, she obviously has a thing for terribly unpleasant sex." Not the case! In the context of the story this scene makes TOTAL sensual sense. The doctor doesn't realize, before he saves her, that he loves her. So this scene is the culimination of a bunch of things: him falling in love, him falling in lust, and a symbolic death and rebirth. Sex is often equated with death in literature, so this is a melding of the two. It gives me CHILLS. If you still don't get the hype, read it out loud. Our prof read it out loud and most of us turned red and felt our heads almost ready to explode. No pun intended. Not to mention I'd had a sex dream about an unlikely classmate the night before. Don't ask.

16 comments:

  1. and on cue
    **Panties spontaneously burst into flame.**

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  2. Oh I miss school days and analysis of what we've read. Thanks for a good memory!

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  3. Uh, yeah, thanks for the memories. Except the memory is of me sitting in class saying, "Whaa? That was about sex?" Damn, I missed it. I'm off now to get the Cliff's notes. :)

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  4. AMS, good woman! Thanks for humoring me. :)

    Non, it's fun, isn't it? Were you an Englishy person in college?

    Findinheart, there's hope for everyone. Enjoy those Cliff's Notes! ;)

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  5. Yes, I was an Englishy person in college. I wish I would have finished but I got sidetracked. I still love the written word, though.

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  6. Non, I always knew you were extra-kindred. ;)

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  7. *mumbles* despite a BA in english I've never, ever, ever read any Lawrence.

    I did try reading one when I was 13 or so but it started out with a bullfight and I didn't like it.

    Plus 13, probably a bit young.

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  8. Start with this short story, Fence! And Lady Chatterly's Lover is great, too. It's much better than the sex, lemme tell ya. I'll probably try to read Sons and Lovers soonish.

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  9. Your current instructor and I taught that to a bunch of undergrads in the spring. Talk about some uncomfortableness from the students--they were never real sure how to handle sexuality in the class--too much high school brainwashing.

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  10. I hate to admit this, but I've never read a thing by D.H. Lawrence. Isn't that awful! I'm 47!!! Ok...I will eliminate that problem tomorrow and go to Borders and get something by him. Any particular one I should start with first? Seriously...I'll probably buy more than one...I always do, but which ones should I start with?

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  11. Jizzle, I can imagine that would've been quite uncomfortable. That's the diff between undergrads and grads...we just get turned on.

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  12. Vix, try the short story I linked to see what you think of the style. I would recommend Lady Chatterley's Lover (fabulous), and his other most famous work is probably Sons and Lovers, although I haven't read that one. I might also recommend a short story collection if they have one, as "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" was so fabulous. Keep me posted on what ya think!

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  13. Love D.H. I think we could've had a good thing he and I if he weren't a gay momma's boy -- and dead.

    I've read Chatterley, Women in Love, Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow and his shorts and poems. I think he's largely misunderstood as a writer. Even now.

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  14. I need to read more of his stuff...and will someday. When I have time. Ugg, I'll probably be dead by then.

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