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Women in Love

For other uses, see Women in Love (disambiguation).

Women in Love
File:Women in Love (first edition).jpg
Title page of the first edition
Author D. H. Lawrence
Language English
Genre Novel
Published 1920 (Thomas Seltzer)
Media type Print Hardcover and Paperback
Pages 536 (first edition hardcover)
Preceded by The Rainbow
Followed by The Lost Girl

Women in Love is a novel by British author D. H. Lawrence published in 1920. It is a sequel to his earlier novel The Rainbow (1915), and follows the continuing loves and lives of the Brangwen sisters, Gudrun and Ursula. Gudrun Brangwen, an artist, pursues a destructive relationship with Gerald Crich, an industrialist. Lawrence contrasts this pair with the love that develops between Ursula and Rupert Birkin, an alienated intellectual who articulates many opinions associated with the author. The emotional relationships thus established are given further depth and tension by an intense psychological and physical attraction between Gerald and Rupert. The novel ranges over the whole of British society before the time of the First World War and eventually ends high up in the snows of the Tyrolean Alps. Ursula's character draws on Lawrence's wife Frieda, and Gudrun on Katherine Mansfield, while Rupert Birkin has elements of Lawrence himself, and Gerald Crich of Mansfield's husband, John Middleton Murry.[1]

Plot summary

Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen are two sisters living in the Midlands of England in the 1910s. Ursula is a teacher, Gudrun an artist. They meet two men who live nearby, school inspector Rupert Birkin and coal-mine heir Gerald Crich. The four become friends. Ursula and Birkin become involved, and Gudrun eventually begins a love affair with Gerald.

All four are deeply concerned with questions of society, politics, and the relationship between men and women. At a party at Gerald's estate, Gerald's sister Diana drowns. Gudrun becomes the teacher and mentor of his youngest sister. Soon Gerald's coal-mine-owning father dies as well, after a long illness. After the funeral, Gerald goes to Gudrun's house and spends the night with her, while her parents are asleep in another room.

Birkin asks Ursula to marry him, and she agrees. Gerald and Gudrun's relationship, however, becomes stormy. The four holiday in the Alps. Gudrun begins an intense friendship with Loerke, a physically puny but emotionally commanding artist from Dresden. Gerald, enraged by Loerke and most of all by Gudrun's verbal abuse and rejection of his manhood, and driven by the internal violence of his own self, tries to strangle Gudrun. Before he has killed her, however, he realises that this is not what he wants, and he leaves Gudrun and Loerke and climbs the mountain, eventually slipping into a snowy valley where he falls asleep and freezes to death.

The impact on Birkin of Gerald's death is profound; the novel ends a few weeks after Gerald's death, with Birkin trying to explain to Ursula that he needs Gerald as he needs her—her for the perfect relationship with a woman, and Gerald for the perfect relationship with a man.


After years of misunderstandings, accusations of duplicity and hurried letters, Thomas Seltzer finally published the first edition of Women in Love in New York City on 9 November 1920. This had come after three drawn out years of delays and revisions.[2] This first limited edition (1250 books) was available only to subscribers; this was due to the controversy caused by his previous work, The Rainbow. Originally, the two books were written as parts of a single novel. The publisher had decided to publish them separately and in rapid succession. The first book's treatment of sexuality, while tame by 21st century standards, was frank for the mores of the time. There was an obscenity trial and The Rainbow was banned in the UK for 11 years, although it was available in the US. The publisher then backed out of publishing the second book in the UK, so it first appeared in the US. Complications also arose when Lawrence faced a libel suit by Lady Ottoline Morrell and others, who claimed their likenesses were unjustly drawn upon in The Rainbow.[3] The first trade edition of Women in Love was published by Martin Secker in London on 10 June 1921.


As with most of Lawrence's works, Women in Love caused controversy over its sexual subject matter. One early reviewer said of it, "I do not claim to be a literary critic, but I know dirt when I smell it, and here is dirt in heaps—festering, putrid heaps which smell to high Heaven."[4] It also later stirred criticism for its portrayal of love, denounced as chauvinistic and centred upon the phallus by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex (1949).[5] Camille Paglia has praised Women in Love, writing that while she initially reacted negatively to the book, it became a "profound influence" on her as she was working on Sexual Personae (1990). Paglia compared it to Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590).[6]

It has been suggested that Lawrence's fascination with the theme of homosexuality is manifested in Women in Love, and that this could be related to his own sexual orientation.[7] Paglia observes that while Women in Love has "bisexual implications", she is skeptical that Lawrence would have endorsed "full sexual relations" between men.[8]


Film adaptation

Screenwriter and producer Larry Kramer and director Ken Russell adapted the novel into the 1969 film, Women in Love, for which Glenda Jackson won the Academy Award for Best Actress. It was one of the first theatrical movies to show male genitals, when Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed) and Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates) wrestle in the nude in front of a roaring fireplace, in addition to several early skinny dipping shots and an explicit sequence of Birkin running naked in the forest after being hit on the head by his spurned former mistress, Hermione Roddice (Eleanor Bron).

Television adaptation

William Ivory combined Women in Love with Lawrence's earlier The Rainbow for his two-part television adaptation for BBC Television (but simply entitled Women in Love), first transmitted on BBC Four on 24 and 31 March 2011. The cast was headed by Saskia Reeves as the mother, Anna Brangwen, with Rachael Stirling and Rosamund Pike as her daughters Ursula and Gudrun. Instead of death in the Tyrolean Alps, Ivory sets the final scenes in South African diamond mines and desert sands where Gerald walks out in the dunes and meets his demise. Other cast members included Rory Kinnear as Rupert Birkin, Joseph Mawle as Gerald Crich and Ben Daniels as Will Brangwen. This adaptation was directed by Miranda Bowen.

Editions of Women in Love

  • Women in Love (New York: Privately Printed by Thomas Seltzer, 1920).
  • Women in Love (London: Martin Secker, 1921).
  • Women in Love, ed. Charles L. Ross (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1982).
  • Women in Love, ed. David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). This edition is a volume in The Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of D. H. Lawrence
  • Women in Love, ed. David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen [with an intro and notes by M. Kinkead-Weekes] (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995).
  • Women in Love, ed.David Bradshaw (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • The First Women in Love (1916–17) edited by John Worthen and Lindeth Vasey, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-521-37326-3.[9]
  • The 'Prologue' to Women in Love[10]
  • The First Women in Love Oneworld Classics, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84749-005-6

Literary criticism

  • Richard Beynon, (ed.), D. H. Lawrence: The Rainbow and Women in Love (Cambridge: Icon Books, 1997).
  • Michael Black (2001) Lawrence's England: The Major Fiction, 1913 – 1920 (Palgrave-MacMillan)
  • Paul Delaney (1979) D. H. Lawrence's Nightmare: The Writer and his Circle in the Years of the Great War (Hassocks: Harvester Press)
  • F. R. Leavis (1955) D. H. Lawrence: Novelist (London, Chatto and Windus)
  • F. R. Leavis (1976) Thought, Words and Creativity: Art and Thought in D. H. Lawrence (London, Chatto and Windus)
  • Joyce Carol Oates (1978) "Lawrence's Götterdämmerung: The Apocalyptic Vision of Women in Love"
  • Charles L. Ross (1991) Women in Love: A Novel of Mythic Realism (Boston, Mass.: Twayne)
  • John Worthen, The Restoration of Women in Love, in Peter Preston and Peter Hoare (eds.) (1989), D. H. Lawrence in the Modern World (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan), pp 7–26


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ross, Charles L. The Proofs: Censorship and Revision. The Composition of The Rainbow and Women in Love: A History. UP of Virginia, 1979. 124-25
  3. ^ Ross, Charles L. The Proofs: Censorship and Revision. The Composition of The Rainbow and Women in Love: A History. UP of Virginia, 1979. p. 124
  4. ^ W. Charles Pilley in John Bull, 17 September 1921.
  5. ^ La Deuxième Sexe, page 229, by Simone de Beauvoir.
  6. ^ Paglia, Camille. Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. Penguin Books, 1994, p. 329.
  7. ^ Francis Spalding, Duncan Grant: A Biography. (1997) p. 169-170: "Lawrence's views (i.e. warning David Garnett against homosexual tendencies), as Quentin Bell was the first to suggest and S. P. Rosenbaum has argued conclusively, were stirred by a dread of his own homosexual susceptibilities, which are revealed in his writings, notably the cancelled prologue to Women in Love"
  8. ^ Paglia, Camille. Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. Penguin Books, 1994, p. 336.
  9. ^ This edition is a volume in The Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of D. H. Lawrence and displays significant differences to the final published version.
  10. ^ A discarded section of an early version of the novel and is set four years after Gerald and Birkin have returned from a skiing holiday in Tyrol. It is published as an appendix to the Cambridge edition, pp489-506

External links

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