Academic journal article Studies in the Novel

The Vampire Lust in D.H. Lawrence

Academic journal article Studies in the Novel

The Vampire Lust in D.H. Lawrence

Article excerpt

Recently, James Twitchell has provided a refreshing perspective on Lawrence's male-female relationships by examining them in terms of the vampire myth. In his study Twitchell sees the many love relationships in The Rainbow (1915) and Women in Love (1920)--Anna and Will, Ursula and Anton, Gudrun and Gerald--as unharmonious variations on an ideal represented by the relationship between Tom Brangwen and Lydia Lensky: "To explain why these later relationship are not harmonious is what the novels are about."(1) According to Twitchell, the disharmony or failure in the relationships is due to the weakness of the male characters; for "Lawrence's females in these novels are primal passions, fields of force whose surge and recoil, if not directed by the make will overwhelm their mates."(2) The females ultimately become vampires to their mates. For Lawrence a vampire "was simply a demon who had taken over the body of a sinner and who was using that body to prey on unsuspecting yet unconsciously willing victims."(3) Twitchell remarks in passing that the common image of blood--Minette's fascination with the bleeding hand, Blutbruderschaft, the death of Mr. Crich--reinforces further the vampire theme.(4) But Twitchell misses a crucial aspect of Lawrence's vampirism in that, for Lawrence, vampirism is more than simply a lust for blood or a means of energy transfer. It entails significantly a lust for knowledge of another being, an unpardonable sin in Lawrence's universe. This vampire lust for knowledge makes not only the female but also the male predatory in Women in Love and casts new light on a number of male-female relationships in the novel.(5)

Lawrence's understanding of vampirism can be seen most clearly in his essay on Edgar Allan Poe in Studies in Classic American Literature (1923). An earlier version of this essay appeared in the English Review for 1919. His revisions of the earlier essay show that Lawrence adopted metaphor of the vampire for love relationships. In the English Review the metaphor is inorganic; the comparison is concerned with physical forces.

And the force of love acts in him almost as an electric attraction rather than

as a communion between self and self. He is a lodestone, the woman is the

soft metal. Each draws the other mechanically. Such attraction, increasing

and intensifying in conjunction, does not set up a cycle of rest and creation.

The one life draws the other life with a terrible pressure. Each presses the

other intolerably till one is bound to disappear: one or both.(6) But is Studies love "is the mysterious vital attraction which draws things together, closer, closer together. For this reason sex is the actual crisis of love. For in sex the two blood-systems, in the male and female, concentrate and come into contact, the merest film intervening. Yet if the merest film breaks down, it is death" (p. 68). It is death because the "central law of all organic life is that each organism is intrinsically isolate and single in itself. The moment its isolation breaks down, and there comes an actual mixing or confusion, death sets in "(Studies, p. 68). This is why, in Lawrence's view, Poe's wife died.

His grand attempt and achievement was with his wife, his cousin, a girl with

a singing voice. With her he went in for the intensest flow, the heightening,

the prismatic shade of ecstasy. It was the intensest nervous vibration of

unison, pressed higher and higher in pitch, till the blood-vessels broke and

the blood began to flow out loose. It was love. If you call it love.

Love can be terribly obscene.

It is love that causes the neuroticism of the day.

It is love that is the prime cause of tuberculosis. (Studies, p. 70) For once the "finest imaginable wall between two blood-waves" breaks, "it means bleeding" (Studies, p. 69).

It is inevitable that Lawrence would resort to the vampire metaphor in connection to the blood imagery. …

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