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Schapiro, B. (1999). Transitional States and Psychic Change: Thoughts on Reading D. H. Lawrence. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(1):44-54.
    

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(1):44-54

Transitional States and Psychic Change: Thoughts on Reading D. H. Lawrence

Barbara Schapiro, Ph.D.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SCENES in literature occurs in D. H. Lawrence's novel The Rainbow (1915). Tom Brangwen's Polish wife Lydia is upstairs in their home giving birth. Tom is downstairs with Anna, Lydia's four-year-old child by her first marriage. Anna is panic-stricken, screaming in terror for her mother, and Tom is responding to her with irritation and mounting anger. Like the child, he too is feeling shut out and abandoned by Lydia. Tom is made particularly furious by the “blind” and “mechanical” nature of Anna's crying.

“I want my mother,” rang automatically from the wincing, panic-stricken child, that felt cut off and lost in a horror of desolation.

… Brangwen sat stiff in his chair. He felt his brain going tighter. He crossed over the room, aware only of the maddening sobbing.

“Don't make a noise,” he said.

And a new fear shook the child from the sound of his voice. She cried mechanically, her eyes looking watchful through her tears, in terror, alert to what might happen.

“I want—my—mother,” quavered the sobbing, blind voice.

A shiver of irritation went over the man's limbs. It was the utter, persistent unreason, the maddening blindness of the voice and the crying.

“You must come and be undressed,” he said, in a quiet voice that was thin with anger.

And he reached his hand and grasped her. He felt her body catch in a convulsive sob. But he too was blind, and intent, irritated into mechanical action. [p. 72-73]

Tom undresses the resistant child, and as he lifts up her rigid body, the narrator tells us, “Its stiff blindness made a flash of rage go through him. He would like to break it” (p. 74). A moment later, however, Tom experiences what the narrator calls “a new degree of anger”; his consciousness or self-state shifts.

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