How Relationships Play Out: The Rainbow
Of young Tom Brangwen we read, "He had not the power to controvert even the most stupid argument so that he would admit things that he did not in the least believe." And thus Tom Brangwen's quest for power seems to end in love for Lydia, a Polish widow with a little daughter, Anna. From Lydia's pregnancy to childbirth and onwards, Lawrence immerses the reader's consciousness in the subtleties of relationship politics. The story then singles Anna out to elaborate upon the theme of marriage and dominance.
Anna's love for, and subsequent marriage with, William Brangwen ties in with the continued dominance of patriarchal system in English society of the time. It is in this generation's marital relationship that Lawrence creates a flood of nonconformist questioning of tradition. Anna openly expresses her doubts about the validity of religious traditions of creations. We read her defiant words, "It is impudence to say that Woman was made out of Man's body, when every man is born of a woman."
Given the zeitgeist of the time, it is no wonder that all copies of The Rainbow were seized and burnt. The novel was not published in Britain for 11 years. More ulterior motives for this reaction against the book, perhaps, include the fear of sharpness of Lawrence's openness in divulging man's inner weaknesses and the reluctance to accept the helpless dependence that is essentially materialistic in nature.
As the story enters the third generation, the author focuses on the most grasping character of the book viz. Ursula Brangwen. The first instance of Ursula's negation of Biblical teachings is her natural reaction against her younger sister, Theresa.
Thereas hits Ursula's other cheek--turned to her in response to the first blow. Unlike the devoted-Christian action, Ursula reacts like a normal child by shaking the wee offender in a subsequent quarrel. Ursula develops into a highly individualistic character giving her creator (Lawrence) a free hand to explore a taboo subject: homosexuality. The gravity of Ursula's passion for her teacher Miss Winifred Inger and the description of their physical contact is aggravated by Miss Inger's negation of the falsehood of religion.
Ursula's love for the Polish young man Anton Skrebensky is D.H. Lawrence's inversion of the command of dominance between patriarchal-and-matriarchal values. Ursula falls for a man from her maternal line of descent (Lydia was Polish). Lawrence renders the relationship a failure. Love-and-Power becomes Love-or-Power in Ursula's case.
The individualistic spirit of the new age, of which Ursula Brangwen is the prime representative, keeps our young heroine from following the long-established tradition of marital slavery and dependence. Ursula becomes a teacher at a school and, despite her weaknesses, persists in living on her own instead of giving up her studies and job for her love.
The Meaning of The Rainbow
Like all his novels, The Rainbow testifies for D.H. Lawrence's prodigy of keeping the ideal proportion between the constructive and expressive quality of novel. Of course, we appreciate Lawrence for the wonderful insight and the quality of putting into words what otherwise could only be felt deep in our selves.
We know that a rainbow in mythology, especially in the Biblical tradition, is a symbol of peace. It showed Noah that the Biblical flood was finally over. So, too, the flood of power and passion is over in Ursula's life. It's the flood that had prevailed for generations.