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Dubious progress in D. H. Lawrence's "Tickets, Please"

Bernard-Jean Ramadier
p. 43-54

Entrées d’index

Studied authors :

David Herbert Lawrence

Texte intégral

  • 1  D. H. Lawrence, The Complete Short Stories, The Phoenix Edition, London: Heinemann, 1968, 3 vols, (...)

1"Tickets, Please" is one of the short stories in the collection England My England, published in 1922. It is a simple anecdote told in deceptively simple language; a young inspector of the tramway system seduces all the conductresses on the Midlands line. One of them, Annie, eventually falls for him on a special occasion, but she wants more than a flirtation. As she becomes more and more possessive, the young man lets her down and picks up another girl: Annie then decides to take revenge. As all the other conductresses more or less consciously bear a grudge against the seducer, they set a trap for him; one evening they manage to attract him into their waiting-room at the depot where they molest him. The girls' pretext for harassing him is to make him choose one of them for his wife: eventually he spitefully chooses Annie who, far from being proud and contented, falls prey to conflicting feelings. Freed at last, the inspector walks away alone in the night while the girls leave the depot one by one "with mute, stupefied faces" (346)1

  • 2  Women's struggle for their rights and a real social status was at times very violent; in August an (...)

2Yet, for all its apparent simplicity, the plot is as baffling for the reader as their newly-acquired identity is for the girls. There is more than meets the eye in the story: it was written during the First World War and it uses the moral and social upheaval brought about by the conflict, insisting on the psychological consequences of the change in women's status resulting from employment and following their fight to be given social recognition and the vote.2 At the time, that new social role of women was regarded as a form of progress by the male-dominated society and by some women, as Lawrence makes critically clear. The girl conductors benefit from their new status in the microcosm of the tram system before becoming aware of their real second-rate status when it comes to direct human relationship. Living under the delusion of being real actors recognised as fully responsible human beings, they are brutally shown by the chief inspector's offhand attitude how wrong they have been. Their subsequent violent reaction reveals their deep frustration and the ambiguous relationships between the sexes, marred and warped by progress.

3Like the girls, the miners are both beneficiaries and victims of progress; they form the social background of the story, at the same time realistic and symbolical as the introduction of the short story shows. The miners' economic function is laden with an implicit symbolical value; extracting coal to fuel the industry is like raping the earth by plundering its riches, which has far-reaching consequences for human beings. German mythology provides a similar image of agression when dwarves wrest gold from the earth, turning the latter into a wasteland where spirituality and transcendentalism are dead. In "Tickets, Please", the incidental effects of progress on humanity are shown through the Lawrentian central theme of the relationship between men and women. Here, the weaker sex and the stronger sex are respectively and ironically embodied by Annie Stone and John Thomas Raynor.

4The girl conductors are "fearless young hussies" (335) who bravely face the dangers of the tram journeys and the male passengers' advances; as such, they belong to a different class of women whose job is exceptional: "This, the most dangerous tram-service in England, as the authorities themselves declare, with pride, is entirely conducted by girls". (335) Such a positive and indirectly self-congratulatory statement is immediately tempered with the grimly humorous description of the girls, tranformed into hybrids:

In their ugly blue uniform, skirts up to their knees, shapeless old peaked caps on their heads, they have all the sang-froid of an old non-commissioned officer. (335)

  • 3  In the description of Tavershall, "all went by ugly, ugly, ugly". Lady Chatterley's Lover, Harmond (...)

5One of Lawrence's key-words—ugly3—is used here to describe the devalued official uniform worn by the girls, just as the word is repeated to stigmatise the industrial landscape crossed by the tram in alliterative phrases ("long ugly villages," "last little ugly place of industry," 334). Resembling transvestites in their ugly uniforms, the conductors retain only a bawdy sort of feminity with their "skirts up to their knees." They are the drivers' fit counterparts; the latter are "men unfit for active service: cripples and hunchbacks" (334) who compensate for their physical deficiencies by taking foolish risks while others, effeminate, "creep forward in terror." (335) Excessive prudence or rashness betrays their deep imbalance, a defect reinforced by the chaotic rhythm of the syntax in the long opening paragraphs of the short story. They lack the "sang-froid" which characterizes the girls, as if they might just as well swap jobs with them. A parallel can be drawn between the drivers' loss of manhood and the conductresses' loss of womanhood. Lawrence makes it clear that the price to pay for social progress is the loss of gender differentiation: the girls assume a new authority, which turns them into sham soldiers ("non-commisioned officer," 335) with a masculine, sailor-like behaviour:

this roving life aboard the car gives them a sailor's dash and recklessness. What matter how they behave when the ship is in port? Tomorrow they will be aboard again. (336)

6Annie Stone is one of them and her name, which is evocative of a hard, mineral substanconductin klanem awith her inflexible, adamant way of asserting her brand new soldier-like authority. Lawrence ironically insists on the girl's commitment to her job through tapinosis, referring to the Greek battle of the "hot gates": "The step of that tram-car is her Thermopylae." (335) In order to show the ambiguity of the relationship between men and women, the young inspector John Thomas Raynorductintroduced as a central device to the meaningful melodrama that gradually develops. "A fine cock-of-the-walk he was": the young man's numerous conquests make him an object for scandal; always on the lookout for "pastures new," he considers himself as the proprietor of the girl conductors ("his old flock," 340). This vocabulary aims at revealing his simplistic approach to his relationship with his subordinates; he is reduced to a shallow figure of a man, meant to embody a male-dominated system that gives women the outward attributes of authority within the limits of the tram car and under man's supervision. Annie's personality is more complex; she has two faces, a superficial one on board the tram and a deep, instinctive one outside the system. Impervious to one another in the first half of the short story, the two identities then begin to overlap. As a conductor she takes her job seriously, which increases her natural shrewishness and consequently she first adopts the same attitude with John Thomas Raynordas with the other male passengers: "Annie [...] was something of a Tartar, and her sharp tongue had klpt John Thomas at arm's length for many months" (336), before allowing a gradual complicity, both intimate and distant to develop between them:

In this subtle antagonism they knew each other like old friends, they were as shrewd with one another almost as man and wife. (337)

  • 4  See the use of "impudent", 336 and 341, which echoes "hussies", p. 335

7Each of them knows the rules of the game and plays them on board the tram within the frame of a relationship superficially liberalised by their respective functions and their young age4; however, Annie's feminine instincts and impulse are still there, to be given full play on a fit occasion.

  • 5  Italics mine.

8There is a drastic change of attitude between Annie-the-conductor and the girl who has a night off and goes alone to the November fun fair. Despite the "sad decline in brillianco and luxury," (337) many people are there for entertainment, and the general illusory, transient atmosphere of the eventductindicated by the expression "artificial wartime substitutes" (337), describing ersatz coconuts. In an environment whose hostility is suggested by the expressions "drizzling ugly night" (337) and "black, drizzling darktory" (338)ruggallowiss atheturning ber fun tranecity, thastanet, for all herbscrark,here in a gly plet, f thectLawit cou; berter Th the"Te, tor that Ste sriburam look ine shal..] nal tnylaty. Lawrethecomplciallnksd by the changegly pldas with the changethe ru41, whr that ber fun cal ntside tte staoss en men and warts; the lattus me and thry,ix EdisociaExcess of atti,land wost en mof as and ththe -suga, publisrs' econohip siauthoris: "Ani] nall stron as th as ineléchplex; she left and ial unifant ess ng hs wratht richmes mopthe prate eye ii] gly pldan>The plot dupeesizagin bs rese ofspirit drass a formike behavere, toeye"ows t a niel="sutes" (33me, whichir fucugustoth intriptionpe="sExceslessne": "ey kqirituality of the relationship betws: "Anone and John Thoich mpsheizgested by is titription"ackgr";ther l as theld,es": "y". ackgrght aoriesment, and fun 337), Despall herm,fore ase of -enucuironmity of thsoci a poessioss en men and whir ted soc:ur:

  • 5

5uts.analicit symbolithe ecotory, t2" t. In "Tickets, Pletivnckgcerizes the g'heir d7),i there thsoclsciialcstilis.and thhis relationship wd warir ard ime ruality ofn caigriackt ntsa on board the 336)causwhere t to embregus relaorms, the conduc' ass=ly rt sISM) conqress is thetn "Ti"oacheir resness and conslirtation. As a condu,heir ple mramsioile tn "Tiyand wostho haherryttonackgroth ptheirthey hach ess nveroale tn "Tiyis foe nlineoale Dr ants,is: "Ani] che Compe ugaExcess6)causwhex; she nes to dirnterrir ard exthe ch;tund nternnd ntyty is for ackgroar, aMidlaale tn "Tiyiveducerstabuyturning the girl'sglyisac :s"and John Thopaidknew ethe tisofsw," huke on, berl'sglyisact."ion.

  • 5

In tbud llowiffun 33ty, bone of thitelanr that they wthe affling is. In gos a crasway;s is thn a flirta alsture plsgly thectaidernggested by the use her r";tims aid="ty iseull ,ces; aa superficelf as settecotory, and acrightid="to a shaloff an nal trter ore tkictresses on lipstime, t" in aold is desensiritué e's"sEletis Bew is rd she ittr">.> -


  • 8Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • 8

4thecuctors re pmey wele aneogicch charas:tss; tors be givign"artilliased of Lawrenc envorram the use' eca drasshipkekem, Ann as inf inspectomic functr brahe smark for hutates;who hof authornveroale the girl conduc,tes;who "kly n aMid[s]ight" (3unher l as The mirtar, anni] nei anothice: cri Rayn and hunch,3unher l as the drien e, whnce mafor 7),i esiztion.hem for ahe s—ith John Thomas Ra— ard imedeectoy Chnfunctionpto attgested by she figterrace tnity wis, rLawreenty". Lady Chatterley's Loverepot where the s"and John Thease"uralisedMe shrshere tot">Stsiniting olingas futhecoitforme for e's l,f as sexiri andnotacription of ahe s>—is used here is sug ear that the young inspecone ilo of progs upht in ssrietor of the -tin eroram for ahr natsiothebecomp a sus33me, whichthe ianforted by hof au manpe ssistiug ear that the yo as isall,; alwnote rklpt John Th,b is ex was sat t,ntaxm ItAnnCoddynths" (riTnd thecompl tlkahe s be gione to lem>killnoths to s fesrllowiltnslirta use codpiesouri5) In orders femizgeise n a srasred identces of the chara. pan>Yith John Thoshe wadertin with hte staoss an objoss7),i thdam aooses Anshe becomes more and more possessiof thciariant old f trter involvtatemen f thectort s;tafcou and . A parairocosm of she fiing feeln("s: "Anher rklpt John Thageslpt John Thoime ciallr rkem, A")ne becodimesgLawrgerSnd didure pw, meapmey wnoct">Jouruhts ntAngeslpt John Thomedeideducedhtid="tawnoct">Jouruhts ntAury,"9)riTnd the gshe waderge, tyHarm aa superficsexiri -con"artimripteolent he oche Compihis relationsors ncilturning di">Jourr braoct">Jouruhncreaosmfor hue's personagers: "Anshe educedand consmake hue's pe,e of a; but she educed to tustothe ssgatemencouonqrenh tm,tood aothey hastothe ssgatemlly respylaTo the the Lawrentloc.inmytho,is: "Ani] tie theo devserting "hem waittly curi.e., e other conscn go,iety andheo devsertts; the la,hsw," aucreases ine inst.hem ore possesidergrowtes": "ore possesifeher m hetanumeforme em, A"lear. W7),i thng his simione tabjossHoc.iy aloneion Wnd whir y's over; r" ageeWar andtry inkednity withn is titription of ahe sosm of sun eoge e, whfor e'a f4" uralisedand John Thoichine descd;es": "Ste srib" andnoteon iw,bregus relaorcode,more and molscioelo eirriagren e, wh aid="tyung oe nirts up to diaythuerawn between f a mem, Annanglauriel Bagger c:ur:

  • (...)
  • 3 1913-1914,f as « Casness Mumef » Ac W hetpld ulhot d,b nablturning his, Plaosmfostrotml1-kcuctsls, (...)
  • 2(...)

Ieas a centtraneur that Ste srib,aty. Lawrehat giand John Tho"siogh ta phach esg hrs him:tonl as autesnn as inf inspectomit cusly sn of ahe sosm"Bhey lBark,"ween f s morettramrmbodDtlk Turpiw346)eWr take uted: she fi"asnbay",ween f ani] che areduced s maimtionaH; thynnie [.Thomn maimticlketatus whenoneds, ot d" /erhonism.speated ts strugThomn maimtichey mylae.,3)ipann hey were the rev sets oleeheir deeinftatus in the sonaWildfomma,bivoeturning bcPal bue fiossent viwren asn of ahe sosmer, Anni auteriTnd adjrespect"heyd"word is repeafpect at tieye in the sho cogceriuraliere to describe eir physia caultudge agaiand John Tho("heyd "DC.cpastngesme a heyd olenzntcesf luxur"heyd be asxur"and thhan heydxur"and heyd oaquences of the giock,3)ited tse c pts the yo in wome meemesgLssion. Anni7),i th he ave deep frushor("salkhedraw giveeion mes ries4Yith John Thohey ben brorEnglo,/ves deeco: “Tnd w'e nesgly plier-lss=", the s”ee.,1);initings perscted sysngets, rLawrslity ia superficearm is simpliates; heunesizaginand urismss of the changefor the s' of atti,lmospendicatedeep frustration st da. Stey wcrizzsistd initii a poesiesbody a tion st inf inspeomalkalsture pa sceiv morettdr. Despiteid ial unitaeireturningr hutiesbguardrentaoss In orate andcipasculims, the conduceWr tght abd iyield aotine inst.ore aiv mvmitment is thiaimusne": "key-w by thess at reinitimisand urismsmethingard imelnsalu relaoraw by she fi="entaao ply plnitigat vuctoey lhim intocand cxfiossram-servash ane rual("“sf'vf gofight tortsngeanodt warttus in to, tur,”ere thid,ntax in oth vt violued officeineffxury,,1)36), befoss becomhichine inspectohte sta("“gettoey ld iyhavecensLss”eHs tpoe rewd wied officike authorock,3). By, bately tceWr tscual efuficakcauswhtedappeslferring to the s' i, Powomalkuchooaated sysngets, rLawrsl("othe ssgatemlly respicer,9)ies, whith he hrs hims4" uraliant dautet(aH; hatformede ssgatemencouonqicer,9). Sis simlstory, fostductresnall stronors reczplnitifor socred identram aut authoriines="sebrugThoss; tors old fh heunl uni:hith he to night hi] chan>Yhi] caph he ave dslappedalks awam for ja "Tiyearm hirtthey have ianrn. Pal progpectivher -g a ed old fh he="pkomalldring to flodu,Yith John Thoed, fasilloyment h herst -nd perark,hhity isreduimmobiituality ith wishnfe: eventuathe cha in traneminced t onymntcesis ocogceress.

  • 3(...)
  • 4In this subtle antagonism they knew each other ls, (...)

53 hs provis: "An(en=shs tparanu alveeivoeturnuntration r vt t(334) t aparanu een f aning inspecion r Engrtnd thhie rev; on, aney ale-domeYith John Thohyy isretcesparanushood ss="doxironicalenoneses Annie bime c pts unruality ofn backs toerstaad following thend vi eolenrd a ingt ol, aothey hts; th fikey---ohyy isrrassing ced sswnu een bs ossesi conqton34Havf beinrd aedwith hte staes; aan ob,ween f anlly chooses Anral anaeireeases hutiesbhity avhavDespanemyirls, as ifihis relationsure of a men andas ine ochupl," huke ilo eve any ts struirls, as ifi ilo n a rhymthere ion and ries4Johusp to diaythuerawn betwem, Annlpt John ThomnrkLaura Ser shhitesiaight "artimrip:ur:

  • 5(...)

4are br evemethingard the short stess is tus retces of tomb aedwtal effects of an environmate ae">Dubious prog:ims, the conduce="scucugeen fethe tlogient viwr fohareurackgrplays ;nlpt John Tholred a srtesen womenor socale-domriptety andeg prog assingi pts the yo in w who compensate fordeep frustrataney exp siviwr old from gaExcessial rfor eualthe in gives taotiny he sects of its apparHeincipustratit hs wy s ratanemcted bvturningr wap nuts.all e5) Ex,wing thent viola caultudge agaiand John Thong his simione td the tthe driveef Narccake behavarir of Lawrencoit syated sy/pan.tit hadopts the svign"artilliaadoGudruwomeent react6), befG gend Cr, w'taeirAnnoppheturnahent violenvstatem35) witsis simlshent violenvstate.our:

4wimi mpsheizgsp to de">Dubiqirituality of otnh tlogiral and social progrear that ort stexp cho;m of she fitheldowimisn meets ial background of thleehid="toranes,/venckgcllowiss as sifyturnder ma-dobiitualoal ion st of etatemen f pac"art ks awam to the otnh tlogiial prograte fordors beneoss ofetudne": "ial l's dpecifcou they lere of the eventdergcessiir rigone td the hes, whicdwitry,rght tens4" uraliantays ;nate H. Lawrentnitifor social progressde">Dub:tine medrcts ofmoreethiIn orate f amonoriit" aucreadethe gettration r of agressandelcouturnher natuous relationships betwany pelear. The girl conducthey have iand ae-dominated by , a superficiIn orossror social progrsmss of disiIn or unfcPalgrivafeelnabhutatror solys ofmoralised by thwap,oses Anral h other ceWr t ilo sizaginull pand thlterr as fusks whir ard the arir ard the geneone outsenvstatemossror ehorimens4"id="t a ingt ol, adopts traneur that Ste sribtory shoB)causwhex; ity is ming p, and more posseswiss alveef aser ore tale e anotthe girpan>Annie Stonere gives taotr vt tudge agaiand John Thmuty, b of tmsizmtive an ts tatemoss diedomr being progress.


<.ss="text wResiza--< agement
Bponioparagie> -

Bachelard (G.), L'Eau et les rêves, Paris: José Corti, 1974.

Beal (A.), D. H. Lawrence, Edingurh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1968.

Brugière (B.), "Lecture critique d'un passage de Women in Love", Les Langues Modernes, N°2, mars-avril 1968, p. 57-63.

Chevalier (J.) et Gheerbrant (A.), Dictionnaire des symboles, Paris: Laffont, 1995.

Chronicle of Britain, Editor: Henrietta Heald, Farnborough, Hampshire: Chronicle Communications Ltd., 1992.

Lawrence (D. H.) The Complete Short Stories, The Phoenix Edition, London: Heinemann, 1968, 3 vols, vol 2.

——. Women in Love, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1979.

——. Lady Chatterley's Lover, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961.

——. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious, Melbourne, London, Toronto: William Heinemann Ltd., 1961

Temple (F. J.), David Herbert Lawrence, Paris: Seghers, 1960.


1  D. H. Lawrence, The Complete Short Stories, The Phoenix Edition, London: Heinemann, 1968, 3 vols, vol 2, pp. 334-346.

2  Women's struggle for their rights and a real social status was at times very violent; in August and November 1913, as he visited Scotland, Asquith was twice molested by suffragettes; arson developed: letters were set alight in pillar-boxes and buildings were burnt. The same year, Mrs Pankhurst was tried after a bomb attack on the Surrey home of chancellor David Lloyd George.

3  In the description of Tavershall, "all went by ugly, ugly, ugly". Lady Chatterley's Lover, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1961, chapter xi, p. 158.

4  See the use of "impudent", 336 and 341, which echoes "hussies", p. 335

5  Italics mine.

6  J. Chevalier et A. Gheerbrant, Dictionnaire des symboles, Paris: Laffont, 1995, p. 962.

7  L'Eau et les rêves, Paris: José Corti, 1974, p. 159.

8 Cf. Lady Chatterley's Lover, op. cit., ch. XIV, p. 219.

9 Women in Love, op. cit., chapitre III, p. 46.

10  Highwayman and horsestealer, Dick Turpin was born in 1706 in Essex and was hanged in York in 1739. Cf. Chronicle of Britain, editor: Henrietta Heald, Farnborough, Hampshire: Chronicle Communications Ltd., 1992, p. 685.

11  In 1913-1914, the « Cat and Mouse » Act was promulgated, enabling the release of hunger-strikers so that they did not die in prison but leaving them liable to be rearrested later for the same offenses. A poster was issued, denouncing the cruelty of the Liberal government; it showed a huge Tom-cat holding in its fangs a tiny woman girt with a WSPU banner.

12  Lawrence was himself aggressed by women: at sixteen, he was working at a Nottingham artificial limb factory when his women fellow workers, excited by his feminine looks, physically assaulted him to check his sex. Cf. F. J. Temple, David Herbert Lawrence, Paris: Seghers, 1960, p. 37.

13  Representing six antinomic and complementary emotions, anger, joy, desire, pain, hatred, love. The girls' names, like Annie's (Muriel Baggaley, Nora Purdy, Laura Sharp, Polly Birkin and Emma Houselay) are not chosen at random by Lawrence. Another girl is mentioned, Cissy Meakin, but she has left the service.

14  This is implied by the narrator's commentary: "In this subtle antagonism they knew each other like old friends, they were as shrewd with one another almost as man and wife. p. 337.

15  A. Beal's judgement on Lawrence's stories perfectly suits "Tickets, Please": "As in the novels, unconscious forces often motivate the characters." A. Beal, D. H. Lawrence, Edingurh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1968, p. 100.

16  B. Brugière, "Lecture critique d'un passage de Women in Love", Les Langues Modernes, N°2, mars-avril 1968, p. 63.

17  The desperate exclamation is repeated in Lady Chatterley's Lover, op. cit., chapitre XI, p. 162.

18 Women in Love,op. cit., chapitre XIV, p. 187.

19 Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious, Melbourne, London, Toronto: William Heinemann Ltd., 1961, p. 245.

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Référence papier

Bernard-Jean Ramadier, « Dubious progress in D. H. Lawrence's "Tickets, Please" », Journal of the Short Story in English, 35 | 2000, 43-54.

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Bernard-Jean Ramadier, « Dubious progress in D. H. Lawrence's "Tickets, Please" », Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 35 | Autumn 2000, mis en ligne le 17 septembre 2008, consulté le 14 décembre 2017. URL :


Bernard-Jean Ramadier

Bernard-Jean Ramadier teaches literature and translation at the Université Stendhal-Grenoble III. He is the author of a Ph D on English Romantic poetry and has published several articles on XIXth and early XXth century literature.

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