Entering D.H. Lawrence's World of Spinners and Monks

Quinn Kenworthy, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2003

The power of D.H. Lawrence's prose is overwhelming, his every word taking the reader to different places full of different people. He describes the physical landscapes in such a way as to truly bring the reader to those very places, making him an effective travel writer. When we read D.H. Lawrence's first two sections of Twilight in Italy we are brought into his world of light and darks, doves and eagles, often sun-bleached and transient. We are insiders and outsiders, following Lawrence on his physical and spiritual journey through the mountains and through his mind as he attempts to uncover deeper truths about the world around him. His language is striking, his repetition relentless, his inward realizations thoughtful, and his panorama beautiful. In "The Spinner and the Monks" Lawrence comes across a woman spinning and describes the scene:

Turning around, on the other side of the terrace, under a caper-bush that hung like a blood-stain from the grey wall above her, stood a little grey woman whose fingers were busy. Like the grey church, she made me feel as if I were not in existence. I was wandering by the parapet of heaven, looking down. But she stood back against the solid wall, under the caper-bush, unobserved and unobserving. She was like a fragment of earth, she was a living stone of the terrace, sun-bleached. She took no notice of me, who was hesitating looking down at the earth beneath. She stood back under the sun-bleached solid wall, like a stone rolled down and stayed in a crevice.

D.H. Lawrence uses specific colors and descriptions to explain this scene, repeating "grey" and "sun-bleached" as well as the image of the "caper-bush." He also repeats that he felt like an outsider in many ways, that "she took no notice" of him, that there was a clear separation between himself and the spinner. Why does he repeat "sun-bleached" and "grey" and what, if anything, does the caper-bush represent? Why does D.H. Lawrence make it so clear to the reader that he felt like an outsider? Are we as the audience supposed to feel like an outsider in the scene as well? How does D.H. Lawrence push us away and bring us closer throughout "The Spinner and the Monks?"

Lawrence blends the natural and physical earth with human beings throughout this work and in this passage he describes the spinner as being "like a fragment of the earth" and "like a stone rolled down and stayed in a crevice." Why does Lawrence combine the natural environment with his characters? What does he mean when he says, "she was a living stone of the terrace, sun-bleached"?

Later in the word Lawrence writes about the spinner, "I became to her merely a transient circumstance, a man, part of the surroundings. We divided the gift of speech, that was it." And later, "To her I was a piece of the environment. That was all." Why (and how) does Lawrence make these claims? Is this effective for Lawrence as a travel writer? Does Lawrence, by saying, "That was all" take away the important connection between people and place, nature and humans? What is Lawrence attempting to convey to the reader about this deep connection and why does he use the character of the spinner to make his point? Are we as the reader sick of his excessive descriptions by the end of this or are we trapped in his travel narrative?


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Last modified 21 October 2003