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Literature / Women in Love

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"To know is to human, and in death we do not know, we are not human. And the joy of this compensates for all the bitterness of knowledge and the sordidness of our humanity."

Women in Love is a 1920 novel by English author D. H. Lawrence.

It is a sequel to his novel The Rainbow (1915), and follows the continuing loves and lives of the sisters Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen. 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 that are 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.

Adapted into a 1969 film directed by Ken Russell from a screenplay by Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart), starring Alan Bates as Rupert, Oliver Reed as Gerald, Glenda Jackson as Gudrun, and Jennie Linden as Ursula. The film received four Academy Award nominations, with Jackson winning for Best Actress.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Gerald accidentally shot his brother as a child.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: Gerald is blonde in the novel. In the film, he has black hair.
  • Alpha Bitch: Hermione in the 2011 series.
  • Author Avatar: Rupert Birkin. His characterisation and opinions are those of the author.
  • Beta Couple: The couples are foils for each other, with Rupert and Ursula ultimately learning to give themselves to each other, and Gerald and Gudrun having a harder time at it. In addition, each couple's central conflict approximates a gender-flipped version of the other's, with Rupert and Gudrun being the Rebellious Spirits.
  • Coupled Couples: The two women are sisters and their boyfriends are Heterosexual Life-Partners.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Rupert initially passes off his paperweight-inflicted wound to Ursula as having been caused by a fall.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Rupert comes close to this when he feels that both man and God have abandoned him.
    • Gerald crosses it at the end of the story.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone has moments, but especially Rupert and Gudrun.
  • Destructive Romance: Gudrun and Gerald.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The section with Gerald forcing his horse to endure a train riding past is written in a way that makes it sound like a rape scene, and it's very unsettling.
    • In the film adaptation, the scene with Rupert and Gerald wrestling in the nude is just this side of being a straight-up sex scene. It even ends with the two characters lying on the floor, panting, one asking the other "Was it good for you?"
  • Driven to Suicide: Gerald.
  • The Flame of Life: In the film, just after Gerald and Rupert have their wrestling match, the crackling flames in the background between them symbolize their passion for one another.
  • Foil: The stuffy and faux-spiritual Hermione to the worldly and open-hearted Ursula. Her possessiveness also makes her a foil to the sisters' mother.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Gudrun is sanguine, Gerald is choleric, Rupert is melancholic, Ursula is phlegmatic.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Gudrun has this tendency.
  • Good Bad Girl: Gudrun.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rupert and Gerald.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Rupert and Gerald. Played up in the 1969 film, especially in the wrestling scene.
  • I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Rupert worries about this when acting on his feelings for Ursula.
  • If I Can't Have You…:
    • Hermione attempts to kill Rupert with a paperweight.
    • Gerald begins strangling Gudrun in a jealous rage, but stops of his own accord.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The sisters' mother gives her husband his freedom. He returns to her.
  • Kick the Dog: Gerald forces his horse to stand close to a passing train.
  • Let's Just Be Friends: Rupert tries this with Hermione, and Gudrun with Gerald. Neither is well received.
  • Mad Dreamer: Gudrun, particularly in the dancing-in-front-of-the-cattle moment.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: The film contains an early example, in which Rupert and Gerald engage in a nude wrestling match in front of a roaring fireplace.
  • Manly Tears: Both men have them in the 2011 miniseries; Gerald on the death of his father, and Rupert when he despairs of his faith in the world in general.
  • The Masochism Tango: Gudrun and Gerald.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Hermione. Later Gerald.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ursula delivers one to Rupert, enough to snap him out of it.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Both Rupert and Gudrun are this.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Gerald invokes this after strangling Gudrun almost to death in a fit of jealous rage. He wanders off into the snow to die.
  • Setting Update: The book was set in the 1910s. The movie is set in 1920.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Both adaptations involve these, alongside actual sex scenes.
  • Skinny Dipping: All the main characters.
  • The Snark Knight: Rupert Birkin.
  • Snow Means Death: Gerald.
  • Snow Means Love: Gerald tries to invoke this with himself, Gudrun, Rupert and Ursula. It backfires.
  • Transparent Closet: Downplayed with Gerald.
  • The Unfettered: Rupert strives toward this.

Alternative Title(s): Women In Love