The Role of Men in D.H. Lawrence's Virgin and the Gypsy
The role of the male characters in The Virgin and the Gypsy by D.H. Lawrence can best be summed up by Yvette's reaction to her sister's philosophy of marriage:
'I'm not sure one shouldn't have one's fling till one is twenty-six , and then give in and marry!'
This was Lucille's philosophy, learned from older women. Yvette was twenty-one. It meant she had five years to have this precious fling. And the fling meant, at the moment, the gypsy. The marriage, at the age of twenty-six, meant Leo or Gerry.
So, a woman could eat her cake and have her bread and butter (Lawrence, 99).
All of the male characters fall into one of three categories: bread and butter, cake or servants. None of the servants have names, they are all non-entities that are there only to serve a certain function. For example: tending the garden and warning of the approaching flood, or rescuing Yvette from the flood damaged house. Yvette might like talking to them, "...They had such fine, hard heads (Lawrence 11)," but they can never really have more than a passing relevance to her life.
Yvette is surrounded by these non-entities, the gardener, the policeman, Uncle Fred, but they are never really a part of her life. Her class background makes them essential for her existence, "but of course they were in another world (Lawrence 11)."
The bread and butter characters (the Rector, Leo, Bob, Gerry, Major Eastwood) are uninteresting. Yvette sees them as "house dog men (Lawrence 63). " She has no desire to spend her life with one of them, "She did not want to mate with a house dog (Lawrence 63)", although she clearly recognizes that it is her fate to do so. Only Leo, "a mastiff among house dogs (Lawrence 63)" holds any interest for her, and this is only passing. "She felt like offering him a set of her silk underwear to get engaged to (Lawrence 60)."
Lawrence allows us a few quick glimpses through the eyes of these "bread and butter " men. It is interesting that these are the only glimpses of the world through male eyes that we are allowed in this book. It is also interesting that all three of these glimpses into the male mind are related in terms of animals.
Bob expresses the feeling of being a "stuffed duck" while visiting with Mater. Leo expresses a dog-like interest in Yvette: " 'Catty little bitch!' he said to himself. But he was of the mastiff type, he rather liked the kitten to fly in his face (Lawrence 64)." Her father would "never dare to face the fat worm of disbelief, that stirred in his heart (Lawrence 38)."
These animal metaphors keep men and women separate, almost in the same way that class keeps Yvette separate from the servants. As long as she is a virgin, with her power being her vulnerability, she is unable to quite see men as human. That's not unusual, though, since they seem to have trouble identifying themselves as human.
The relationship of Yvette's grandmother, the Mater, and...