Dancing with D.H. Lawrence

Jonathan Bortinger '04, English 171, Brown University, Autumn 2003

As a travel writer, D.H. Lawrence depicts not only environments in vivid details, but captures characters in fully bodied prose. He uses a great deal of action verbs to move his characters through the scenes he creates with the clarity and color of a photograph. Lawrence's combination of a heavy use of rich adjectives and powerful verbs makes him an effective travel writer. For example, even in a short piece, "The Dance," Lawrence can depict Italians and foreigners interacting with a great deal of energy and emotion. The reader feels as if he or she is watching the Italians dance rather than feeling like a dancer because Lawrence uses a voice that is distanced from the action, yet can still absorb it.

Then suddenly the dance crashed to an end, and the dancers stood stranded, lost, bewildered, on a strange shore. The air was full of red dust, half-lit by the lamp on the wall; the players in the corner were putting down their instruments to take up their glasses.

1. This passage is an example of how Lawrence fills his writing with crescendos and diminuendos. What techniques besides his word choice, like "crash" does Lawrence use to make these transitions? Since Lawrence guides the readers eye across the written landscape does he also guide the reader through the emotional landscape he experienced?

2. How does Lawrence treat his male and female characters? Since he focuses in on Maria to show the business aspects of such an emotional people, does he minimize her other characteristics? Does Lawrence reduce his male characters to pure energy? Why does he describe their physicality in such detail?

3. Lawrence uses several passages of Italian to illustrate the sound of the language and the people, whereas he does little to describe the sound of the music his companions are dancing to. How does he use sound differently to breathe life into his experiences on the page?

4. Lawrence passes little judgment on his characters in this scene and does not use it to illustrate something that should be changed about society, like what the sage writers would do. Is Lawrence avoiding the tradition of sage writing or is he extending it in a very different almost unrecognizable form from earlier writers like Ruskin.

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Last modified 28 October 2003