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URSULA BRANGWEN AND HERMIONE RODDICE - WOMEN OF THE TWO WORLDS


by published


INTRODUCTION

Published in the year 1920, D.H. Lawrence's famous, yet quite criticized novel, Women In Love, deeply talks about the affairs of the two main characters, the Brangwen sisters - Ursula Brangwen and Gudrun Brangwen, and the two men they are affectionate about. Their relationship is characterized via various emotions- hatred, violence, despair and anxiety. The characters not only keep struggling in order to redefine their love and relationship, but their struggle in order to find out their true identities, their understanding for the society, and the meaning of life itself has also been deeply highlighted in Lawrence's complicated work.

Being a literary innovator, we see that Lawrence in his work, deeply portrays the courtship of the Brangwen sisters and the consequences of their partnership with the two men, Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. Therefore, placing the text in a traditional style where the concept of marriage plays as a major guidance for the novel's plot. Shakespeare's writing style is quite evident in this novel. Shakespeare too used to portray marriage and courtship in a conventional manner, where class and romantic love played a major role. This concept of traditional courtship was further developed during the 18th and 19th centuries, where writers like Jane Austen, puts forward the fact that, courtship and marriage is highly influenced by economic and social aspects as well. But as the novel progresses, Lawrence entirely discards the idea of the traditional marriage system, as the concept of marriage and courtship has been viewed through philosophical perspectives, rather than from the common, and practical perspectives of the society. He further undermines the traditional system by highlighting the relationship between the two men, Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich- boldly bringing in the concept of homosexual love, more appropriately the ideas of bisexuality. He elevates the concept of homosexual romance to the same level as that of heterosexual romance, where his subversive treatement towards romance, courtship and marriage plays as an overarching theme for his famous work Women In Love. Not only does Lawrence merely critique the society, but he openly states that, the society and it's rules has become so rotten that it should be entirely discarded and should be redeveloped or rather reinvented again, for which he had to face harsh criticism from other critics and the society as well.

URSULA BRANGWEN

In the novel, Women In Love, it is quite evident that, Lawrence has weaved all the major characters with extreme delicacy, but they are filled with complexities as well, which works as one of the major reason for the disastrous consequences of their affairs. Among all the characters of the novel, Ursula Brangwen, the elder Brangwen sister is the one who shows the most growth. In the beginning of the novel, Ursula has been portrayed as an introvert character, who is quite stuck with her haphazard thoughts regarding life and marriage, and before taking any decisive step, she wants to experience and understand life in a better manner. But as she enters into a relationship with Rupert Birkin, one of the school-inspector of the country, it is seen that she engages herself in numerous passionate debates regarding the nature of life, relationships and many other aspects of partnership. Though Ursula was highly against marriage, and viewed it as a burden, yet she ends up marrying Rupert Birkin. Though being an introvert, she starts opening up and standing up against men like his father and also Gerald Crich, when she comes across their wrong deeds. But with the following of Diana Crich's death (Gerald Crich's sister), we see her making peace with the idea of death. Even in Tyrol, we see her letting go of her past that defined her complex characteristics, as well as the shame she felt regarding her intense sensuality. She rather starts accepting herself the way she is. Though at the end of the novel, we still see her ongoing debate with Rupert regarding various aspects of life, yet she successfully proves the fact that marriage has not made her complacent, nor has it stunted her drive to understand life in a better manner.

HERMIONE RODDICE

Hermione Roddice, being another major character of the novel, and an obsessed lover of Rupert Birkin, was said to be one of the most remarkable women present in their hometown, the Midlands. Her father, being a Derbyshire Baronet of the old school, Hermione was considered to be a woman of the new school, who was full of intellectuality, and was full of heavy, nerve-worn consciousness as well. We see that, she constantly tries to distract herself from her inner emptiness by providing herself with a life full of intellectual ideas, and as a result of that she keeps hosting visitors in the Breadalby Estate. She has a strong, possessive will within her that refuses to get thwarted and which constantly forces her to keep on trying to control the reluctant Rupert Birkin and their drowning relationship. As Rupert challenges her by quoting knowledgeable things that is beyond her understanding, we see her getting immersed into a feeling of dissolution that forces her to enter into a state of transcendentalism which was being controlled by her subconsciousness. Therefore, that state makes Hermione even more vulnerable than she already is, and hence she indulges herself in committing a crime, that is, she tries to murder Rupert Birkin by smashing a paperweight on his head. Though her guilt takes over her at certain point, yet she tries to console herself by saying that there was nothing wrong in her action. As the relationship between Ursula and Rupert deepens with the passing time, Hermione becomes unable to control her jealousy, and as a result she leaves for Italy.

URSULA VS. HERMIONE

"She was passionately interested in reform, her soul was given up to the public cause. But she was a man's woman, it was the manly world that held her." - (Chp.1;Pg.11)

Referred to as the woman of the man's world, Hermione Roddice was considered to have numerous intimacies of soul and mind with various men with different capacities. Whereas, the elder Brangwen sister, Ursula Brangwen, was an introvert, who seemed comfortable in being away from the lime-light, and keeping to herself. Though she had great faith in the traditional ideas of love and marriage, yet she considered marriage as an evil trap for women like her, that eventually turns out to be burdensome destroying the minimal amount of happiness remaining in one's life. Therefore, these idea of her’s clearly justified her action of staying away from people, or rather staying away from men in particular. But belonging from the same generation, Hermione was considered to be - "...a Kulturträger, a medium for the culture of ideas. With all that was highest, whether in society or in thought or in public action, or even in art, she was at one, she moved among the foremost, at home with them. No one could put her down, no one could make mock of her, because she stood among the first, and those that were against her were below her, either in rank, or in wealth, or in high association of thought and progress and understanding. So, she was invulnerable. All her life, she had sought to make herself invulnerable, unassailable, beyond reach of the world's judgement." - (Chp.1;Pg.11)

Though it seems like, if compared with each other, Ursula should be the one to have a life full of vulnerabilities due to her complex, self-contained characteristics, than that of Hermione, but as we proceed with the novel, we come across the fact that, even after being in an elevated position in the society, and associating herself with men of various classes and intellectuality, yet her soul remained vulnerable, exposed, tortured. With passing time, Ursula not only opens herself up, but her character goes through a drastic change, transforming herself into a character, who in the end of the novel has been seen as a strong woman, who knows how to express her thoughts and ideas, and standing up against the wrong deeds of people, rather than simply remaining numb to her surroundings. Just the way Ursula elevates in her position, Hermione keeps falling down to such extent that at one point, in order to hold herself together, she chooses to escape, rather than fight back.

"...She (Hermione) always felt vulnerable, vulnerable, there was always a secret chink in her armour. She did not know herself what it was. It was a lack of robust self, she had no natural sufficiency, there was a terrible void, a lack, a deficiency of being within her." - (Chp.1;Pg.11-12)

Hermione though keeps trying to control the reluctant Rupert Birkin, and even diligently becomes the submissive, and allows him to be the dominating one, putting forward another vulnerable side of her character, that in order to hold onto her dear man, even if she needs to face circumstances that may seem unjust, yet she is willing to put herself in that place. But, yet she was unable to protect her relationship from drowning. On the other hand, the debates between Rupert and Ursula, their numerous conversations regarding various aspects of life proved the fact, that Ursula though being an introvert, knows how to stick for herself, rather than simply accepting others' perspectives. Hence, her relationship with Rupert does not fails like that of Gerald and Gudrun, and Hermione and Rupert. Throughout the novel, Ursula is in a quest, to seek her true identity, whereas, Hermione though got the chance to portray herself as an ideal woman filled with intellectuality and confidence, yet she tremendously fails, due to her lack of confidence, and her over-possessive love for Rupert, that generally turned out to be more of a burden to Rupert, and the cause of downfall for Hermione. Even there have been many a case where we get to see Ursula's aggression towards Rupert, one being at the moment, when Rupert coveys that he will meet Hermione, as she is leaving for Italy, and as a result of that, Ursula throws her engagement ring, that portrayed her discontent towards Rupert's decision. But soon after we see them reconciling, Ursula being the one to take the first step, as she was guilty of her behavior. But on the other hand, due to her intense jealousy, when Hermione had attacked Rupert with the paperweight, we see that later she justifies her action, by blaming Rupert and her growing fondness towards Ursula. Therefore, this proves not only Hermione's discontentment for herself, but also her inability towards proper judgement which results to reckless actions. Even the above referred situations, puts Ursula to an elevated position than that of Hermione, due to her pure and just actions.

CONCLUSION

Ursula and Hermione, both the ladies are definitely flawed. But, one among them (Ursula) tries to reconstruct herself for her own benefits, but does not throw away her own understandings and perspectives, for the sake of others. Rather she tries and gains more knowledge from her surroundings, and in the end portrays herself as a woman containing strong will-power and intellectualities. Whereas, the other one, Hermione, though being quite a charmer and a knowledgeable lady, only because of her certain wrong perspectives, ends up to a position, that makes the audience feel sympathetic towards her.