Necessary Physical Contant in D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love and Plato's Symposium
D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love, presents a complex model of female-male and male-male relationships. Lawrence’s model relies heavily on a similar model presented in Plato’s Symposium. The difference between the two works lies in the mode of realization; that is, how one goes about achieving a ‘perfect’ love relationship with either sex. Lawrence concentrates on corporal fulfillment, characterized in his recurring reference to obtaining a “blood oath,” while Plato concentrates on a mental, or “divine” bond. Lawrence’s concentration on corporal fulfillment of love only superficially differs from Plato’s concentration on the mind: both come to the same philosophy of bodily exchange as being a necessary component of relations with either sex.
As Barry J. Scherr points out in his article on the relationship between Women in Love and the Symposium, “ ‘Excurse’ [chapter 23] has been recognized by critics as a ‘central chapter’ of Women in Love” (210). The reason for this appraisal is that “Excurse” presents both a realization and articulation of Lawrence’s view of female-male relationships through the characters of Birkin and Ursula.
The transmittance, or “Excurse,” comes through bodily exchange: “[Ursula] traced with her hands the line of his loins and thighs … It was a dark flood of electric passion she released from him, drew into herself. She established a rich new circuit … released from the darkest poles of the body and established in perfect circuit” (358). It is through sexual intercourse, or, in the very least, bodily contact, that the connection between Ursula and Birkin is established. Scherr states that “This scene between Ursula and Birkin parallels the transcendental Platonic phenomenon of the nourishing of the soul” (215). This interpretation does not draw a distinct enough line between Plato and Lawrence’s philosophies: whereas the “dark flood of electric passion” may be transcendental, the connection itself, rooted solely within corporal exchange, is not. Lawrence narrates that the “strange fountains” of Birkin’s body are “more mysterious and potent than any she had imagined or known, more satisfying, ah, finally, mystically-physically satisfying” (359). The mysteriousness of this connection is how, “in touch,” the body functions to bring about “the maximum of unspeakable communication … that can never be transmuted into mind content … the mystic body of reality (366). Lawrence is stating that the body functions much like the soul in Plato’s philosophy in that both are “mystic.” Lawrence’s description of bodily exchange being “mystically-physically satisfying” conveys that both the mind and body are inextricably linked: the body is needed to establish a mental connection.
That mental connection is explained when Ursula describes to Hermione that Birkin “wants [her] to accept him non-emotionally,” and, “He wants [her] to...