The Virgin & the gypsy

D.H. Lawrence was one of the most important English novelists of the first quarter of the twentieth century. He is known particularly for his novels and short stories dealing with sex, relationships and the psychological and physical aspects. He was one of the earliest of the modern English novelists to employ the principles of psychoanalysis in fiction. Because of thier outspokenness, several of his novels were banned in England and the United States, but these bans were soon removed.

Lawrence’s novel “The Virgin and the Gypsy” written in 1930,  is set in a country village in Northern England in the post World War I era – around the dawning of the Sufragette movment when a few women started demanding their rights as people.  It features a wide spectrum of characters. The key character is Yvette. Yvette has her mother’s rebel spirit and yearns to be in control and to break free of the restrictions made by her father, granny and her aunt Cissie . Yvette’s character represents the free spirit of a new age. Yvette wants to be recovnised and not follow the stuffy set of conventions paved out for her and her sister Lucille. Lucille too, has some of the ways of their rebel mother “She who was Cynthia”, but not like Yvette. Lucille is responsible, and to her father and granny’s delight has a job and it seems will settle down.

Yvette’s home environment is claustrophobic. There is no fresh air and the household smells of age, decay and stuffiness. It is noted that the windows in the house are kept closed. This metaphor emphasises Yvette’s father’s decision to shut out the world of change and new ways, after “She who was Cynthia” left. However when Yvette meets “the Gypsy”, she is instantly attracted. He represents a defiant free spirit. A spirit that Yvette covets. The Gypsies are free of all socail constraint. “The Gypsy”, his wife and their five children live outdoors, cook outdoors, breathe free and go where they will when they want. “The Gypsy’s” name is only revelaed at the end of the novel when he writes a farewell note. Yvette realises she didn’t even think of him by name….she hadn’t in fact noticed that she did not know his name. This emphases that to her he is not a real option for love – not a viable person, in her “real-life”, but he is a symbol of freedom, discovery of love and desire, and most of all her discovery of her SELF as a free individual with choices. She is grown up and independent now, through her experience of knowing him. He is her “Rite of passage”. This is an interesting read, and it is thought provoking to see how women have been treated in by gone eras.