In D. H. Lawrence’s 1915 novel The Rainbow, the author employs various contrasts—including the contrast between men and women; between farmers and outsiders; and between the Brangwen men and the vicar—to explore the existential crisis of the woman who slowly develops an understanding of class and inequality and questions the purpose of life. As Lawrence juxtaposes various observations of the woman, he also delves into the women’s realm of consciousness to bring to light the emotional experience—an intellectual awakening of the woman who eventually comes to the conclusion that “a question of knowledge” determines gender and class hierarchy.
While Lawrence employs the use of contrast throughout the passage, the technique especially stands out in the first paragraph—where the author contrasts men’s way of life with that of women. Using figurative language and personification to establish an image of farm work, Lawrence draws the readers to the field and describes Brangwen men as busy fulfilling their tasks and a sense of purpose. As each line run parallel with each other, the sentences in the first paragraph all support the idea that men are “full and surcharged” when they dedicate themselves to farm work. The structure of the first paragraph, with the extensive use of parallelism and juxtaposition of descriptions, all help demonstrate the repeated and strenuous nature of farm work. The final line, for instance, paints a complete image of men with their faces “turned to the heat of the blood, staring into the sun, dazed with looking towards the source of generation, unable to turn around.” The determination, attentiveness, and hard work of men contrasted with the women, who “wanted another form of life than this.” The detailed descriptions in the first paragraph all render the woman confused and dissatisfied—as she opts for a life without “bloody-intimacy.” The woman’s negative attitudes toward the “warmth and generating and pain and death” is going to foreshadow her subsequent revelation as she continues her existential journey.
In the second and third paragraph, Lawrence shifts the center of contrast to life at and outside or the farm. As the woman looks out “to the road and the village with church and Hall and the world beyond,” the author takes the readers from the farm to the village, showing life beyond the small circle of the farm. By doing so and describing the outside world, the author creates a second contrast that further emphasized a sense of emptiness and desire for a better life of the women. Using words and phrases with positive connotation like “dominant and creative” to describe men in the village, Lawrence vividly contrasts the woman’s condition that stands opposite to men—who get to “enlarge their own scope and range and freedom.” In the last line, the author directly contrasts the two different ways of lives as he ends the line with Brangwen men facing inward “to the teeming life of creation, which poured unresolved into their veins.” The vivid language and personification help create an image of the helpless and miserable condition of Brangwen men—which further reveals the helpless condition of the woman.
After juxtaposing the two contrasts in the third paragraph to illustrate the shallowed vision of Brangwen men and the intellectual journey of the woman who witnesses the “activity of man in the world at large,” the author ends the excerpt with a final contrast between the Brangwen man and the vicar—two characters with distinct social classes. Lawrence again directly contrasts men from the outside with her own men—who are “fresh, slow, full-built” but “easy, native to the earth” and “lacking outwardness and range of motion.” This time, the author chooses a very specific character who “had yet a quickness and a range of being” that serve as a foil for the Brangwen men, who in turn becomes “dull and local.” The subsequent series of rhetorical questions bring the woman’s existential struggle to a higher level, as she questions the source of inequality and hierarchy between humans. Having realized that “Brangwen had power over the cattle so the vicar had power over her husband,” the woman then asks herself, “what was it in the vicar, that raised him above the common men as a man is raised above the beast?” Asking yet another rhetorical question in the next line and answering it by first excluding potential answers like position and money, the woman eventually comes to the conclusion that knowledge is the source of all forms of inequality—including the inequality between women and men; between men in the village and farmers; and between Tom Brangwen and the vicar.
As the passage develops, the sentence structure, diction, parallelism, figurative language all support the contrasts between the rich and the power; the powerful and the powerless; and between the knowledgeable and ignorant. Therefore, with the realization, the woman hopes to raise, if not herself, her children beyond farm life to escape a dull, purposeless, oppressed, and pathetic lifestyle.
Information: The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence