Lawrence and Capitalism in Italy

Eric Sedgwick, English 171, Brown University, Autumn 2003

In the chapter entitled "San Gaudenzio," from Twilight in Italy, D. H. Lawrence turns to a fabular style of writing, describing the simple tale of a peasant family whose mother longs for a new life for her children abroad, while the father remains attached to the old ways of life. At the end of the chapter, Lawrence explains the story in terms of a general shift in Italy away from a religious hierarchy and the concept of an elect, chosen people (the Signoria) towards a new hierarchy based entirely on monetary wealth:

The old order, the order of Paolo and of Pietro di Paoli, the aristocratic order of the supreme God, God the Father, the Lord, was passing away from the beautiful little territory. The household no longer receives its food, oil and wine and maize, from out of the earth in the motion of fate. The earth is annulled, and money takes its place. The landowner, who is the lieutenant of God and of Fate, like Abraham, he, too, is annulled. There is now the order of the rich, which supersedes the order of the Signoria.

It is passing away from Italy as it has passed from England. The peasant is passing away, the workman is taking his place. The stability is gone. Paolo is a ghost, Maria is the living body. And the new order means sorrow for the Italian more ever than it has meant for us. But he will have the new order. [94]

Lawrence uses the character of Paolo to represent the vanishing order of religious aristocracy and Maria to represent the new capitalist order of society. What is implicated in the gendering of these forms of society as male and female?

Why does Lawrence believe that the new order of capitalism will create more sorrow for the Italian than it has for the Englishman? Does he regard Italy as existing in a more primitive state than England?

Lawrence's method of travel writing in this and similar passages is to use individual characters as indices of broad social characteristics. Is this effective as a means of cultural analysis? Is it an effective literary technique?


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Last modified 26 October 2003