Freud, Frazer, and Lawrence's Palimpsestic Novella: Dreams and the Heaviness of Male Destiny in the Fox
Balbert, Peter, Studies in the Novel
"You either believe or you don't." -D. H. Lawrence, Fantasia of the Unconscious
"If in the present work I have dwelt at length on trees..."--Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough
"There wants a man about the place."--D. H. Lawrence, The Fox
As any cumulative index of articles and citations on Lawrence's work suggests, no short fiction by him has received as much sustained consideration by critics through the years as The Fox. This voluminous criticism encompasses a wide variety of subject material and methodology, including a range of opinion concerning such topics as the open-ended conclusion of the novella, the relevance of the purported models for the major characters, and the success of the work as fictional art. (1) Surprisingly little attention has centered on the subtle reiteration and development in imagery and motivation that inform the characterizations of March, Banford, and Henry. This relative disregard of thematic pattern and stylistic repetition explains the perplexity and discomfort of many commentators over the uncertain ending of the work, as March and Henry nervously contemplate their decision to leave England and travel across the Atlantic. There exists no in-depth and linear study of The Fox that attempts to analyze organized patterns of Lawrence's techniques and doctrines as coherent preludes to the necessarily anticlimactic tone of the final scene. (2) Similarly, there has been little effort to relate the major revisions and radical lengthening of the first version (1918) into the novella (1921) to the changing state of Lawrence's own doctrinal vision within that period-an ideological realignment connected to the volatile context of Lawrence's marriage to Frieda and to his vulnerable emotions in those "nightmare" years during an especially difficult period in his life. Perhaps the most significant area of neglect involves the lack of relevant biographical and intertextual material on Lawrence's personal and aesthetic preoccupations as he moves from the unambiguous and tightly resolved tale to the more ambitious novella. (3)
When Lawrence began redrafting The Fox in the late fall of 1921, he had just completed final revisions on Fantasia of the Unconscious. That often dyspeptic and exhortatory volume of "pollyanalytics" (Fantasia 65) offers an elaboration of Lawrence's theories about such topics as sexuality, parenting, education, marriage, and the unconscious; the work is integrated by Lawrence's pervasive interest in the struggle between emotion and intellect that has preoccupied Western culture for centuries. At the center of his argument is a highly charged and cranky attack on Freudian theory. Lawrence asserts, in effect, that Freud dangerously rationalized erotic life and thus seriously underestimated the visionary and religious stimulus in human beings, a primal motivation that Lawrence insists must function irrationally, erotically and--above all--preeminently over the intellect. Philip Rieff eloquently described the oppositional stakes forty years ago: "Lawrence knew intuitively, if not historically, that reason defends mainly against impulse, and against what he considered the legitimate and undeniable power of love" (iii). Because of Lawrence's outspoken emphasis on instinct and on the existential primacy of the five senses, it is no surprise that he held Frazer's The Golden Bough in high esteem, given that monumental work's unpsychoanalytical inquiry into primitive habits, beliefs, and rituals, all part of a broad and impressive scholarship by Frazer that involved him in a complex and detailed outline of myths, symbols, and taboos enacted in a variety of pre-industrial societies. (4) Lawrence maintains that "knowledge must be symbolical, mythical, dynamic," and that "symbols must be true from top to bottom" (Fantasia 113).
He first read The Golden Bough in the fall and winter of 1915-16, …
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Publication information: Article title: Freud, Frazer, and Lawrence's Palimpsestic Novella: Dreams and the Heaviness of Male Destiny in the Fox. Contributors: Balbert, Peter - Author. Journal title: Studies in the Novel. Volume: 38. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 2006. Page number: 211+. © 1999 University of North Texas. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.