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Emotions and Otherness in D. H. Lawrence’s Mexican Fiction

Magali Roux
p. 215-235

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1In “A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” Lawrence defines “higher emotions” as “love in all its manifestations, from genuine desire to tender love, love of one’s fellow-men and love of God: we mean love, joy, delight, hope, true indignant anger, passionate sense of justice and injustice, truth and untruth, honour and dishonour, and real belief in anything” (LCL 312). The range of “higher emotions” is wide but what they seem to share is their intensity and authenticity. Even desire is considered as an emotion as long as it is “genuine.” According to Lawrence, the problem is that modern society has stifled true emotions, advocating instead standardization through levelling down. Therefore, if one wants to go through a truly emotional experience, one needs to depart from the everyday routine and embark on a journey, be it a spatial, temporal or mental one. Encountering otherness in all its various forms is for Lawrence a way of rediscovering the emotions that modern society has discarded or even destroyed. Lawrence was always fascinated by otherness and his travels across Europe and around the world bear witness to this. This paper will focus on the “Mexican” fiction, namely the novel and the short stories dealing with Mexico and New Mexico: The Plumed Serpent, “The Woman Who Rode Away,” “The Princess” and “None of That.”

2Emotions trigger motions, they are capable of moving people, both physically and metaphorically, so I will insist on the dynamics of emotion – linked to the notion of desire. First, I will focus on the Lawrencean conception of love as a superior emotion, “from genuine desire to tender love,” since love is the main emotion, and certainly the supreme emotion for Lawrence. Then I will show how the heroines of the Mexican fiction are moved – in the different meanings of the term and in various ways – by the irresistible appeal of otherness.


3Love is linked to but distinct from eroticism, as the Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz explains in his book, The Double Flame. Love and Eroticism, in which he denounces the commercialization of desire by the capitalist society, just as Lawrence had done some decades earlier. In “The Woman Who Rode Away,” the husband of the unnamed protagonist conceives of love only as a material achievement: “He loved work, work, work, and making things. His marriage, his children, were something he was making, part of his business” (CSS 548). This is the very example of the merchandising of emotions that Lawrence cannot stand. The American man has moved to a “wild” place, but his capitalist mentality has remained unchanged: he enjoys “making things,” achieving anything he undertakes. He owns a mine and he loves the natural environment around him because he can exploit it and get a profit from it. He considers even his family as part of his success: his wife and children may cost money but they bring in “a sentimental income” (CSS 548). On the contrary, the protagonist is completely uninterested in her husband’s business. She loves the mountains just for themselves, for their mere beauty and the sense of mystery that surrounds them. It is because she yearns for a different kind of love – which the narrow circle of her everyday domestic life cannot offer her – that the woman runs away. Real love, according to Lawrence, cannot be measured.

  • 1 Octavio Paz, La Llama doble. Amor y erotismo (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1993), 7.
  • 2 Ibid. 27: “For the philosophical tradition, Eros is a god that links darkness and light, matter and (...)

4Just as the English writer does, the Mexican, Octavio Paz advocates the need for an erotic re-education which would give meaning back to the empty shell that the word love has become. In the foreword to The Double Flame, he explains that the “red flame” of eroticism and the “blue flame” of love form together the “double flame of life.”1 In the first chapter, “The realms of Pan,” the following commentary is reminiscent of Lawrence’s oxymoronic “dark sun”: “Para la tradición filosófica Eros es una divinidad que comunica a la obscuridad con la luz, a la materia con el espíritu, al sexo con la idea, al aquí con el allá. Por estos filósofos habla la luz negra.”2 This conception of love as a force that goes beyond contradictions and produces a dark spark is in keeping with the ideas expressed in Lawrence’s Mexican writings. At the crossroads between love and eroticism, one finds the highly dynamic notion of desire.

5Desire is the driving force of love. There can be desire without love but no love without desire. It is difficult to define love, since the origin of this emotion remains mysterious: there is no magical combination of elements that might produce love. Each manifestation of love is unique, but it is always a very powerful emotion that escapes reasoning and wording. Whereas love is permanent, desire can vary; it is a flux that comes and goes, an élan towards the other that can be followed by a movement in the opposite direction.

  • 3 Georges Bataille, L’Histoire de l’érotisme (Œuvres complètes VIII, Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 23: “Es (...)

6Sexual desire is only one form of desire. The essays written in America often express a desire for the Indian characters that is not sexual. It is a desire to know them, to get closer to them, to communicate with them, no matter how hard – if not impossible – that may be. Lawrence clearly warns his reader: “But don’t, dear reader, when I say ‘desire,’ immediately conclude that I mean a jungleful of rampaging Don Juans and raping buck niggers” (PhII 455). This is not to say, however, that sex is considered as filthy and eroticism discarded to the benefit of some fleshless love ideal. Constance and Mellors’ playful teasing, truly erotic, is part and parcel of their relationship, which is authentic and powerful. The erotic dimension is precisely what distinguishes men from animals, as Georges Bataille states: “Essentiellement, l’érotisme est l’activité sexuelle de l’homme, opposée à celle des animaux. Toute la sexualité des hommes n’est pas érotique, mais elle l’est aussi souvent qu’elle n’est pas simplement animale.”3  Nevertheless, a love relationship cannot be entirely satisfactory if it is only based on sex. The dynamics of desire should trigger a real exchange between the lovers, and not a selfish satisfaction of each one separately, as is the case with what Lawrence calls “frictional” or “white” love. On the contrary, the writer advocates a “subterranean,” “dark” sort of love.

  • 4 Quotation from “Love,” an essay first published in the English Review in 1918.

7The idea that desire for the other is an élan towards the unknown recurs in different letters and essays, as in this letter written in February 1915: “Love is, that I go to a woman to know myself, and knowing myself, to go further, to explore in to the unknown, which is the woman, venture in upon the coasts of the unknown, and open my discovery to all humanity” (CL 318-319). Love is presented in terms of travelling even when there is no actual geographical motion: “And love is a travelling, a motion, a speed of coming together” (Ph 151).4

  • 5 Bataille, op.cit. 98: “the object is first known by the subject as other, as different, but at the (...)
  • 6 Ibid. 100 : “In a nutshell, the object of desire is the universe, which takes the shape of the woma (...)

8Georges Bataille defines the object of desire as essentially other: “l’objet est premièrement connu par le sujet comme autre, comme différent de lui, mais au moment où il se réduit lui-même au désir, l’objet, dans un tremblement qui n’est pas moins angoissé, n’est plus distinct de lui : les deux désirs se trouvent, se mêlent et se confondent.”5 The encounter of the two desires produces a great spark that gives a universal dimension to the object of desire, which is no longer the other as an individual but otherness as far as it embodies endless possibilities: “En un mot, l’objet du désir est l’univers, sous la forme de celle qui, dans l’étreinte, en est le miroir, où nous sommes nous-mêmes réfléchis. Et dans l’instant le plus vif de la fusion, le pur éclat de la lumière, comme un soudain éclair, illumine le champ immense de la possibilité...”6

  • 7 The essay was published in 1919 in The English Review as part of a series of texts on American lite (...)

9Lawrence also establishes a link between desire and the universe. The essay “The Two Principles” – which was meant to be included in Studies in Classic American Literature but was finally left out – 7 presents the issue of the “division of the sexes” in terms of “otherness” and compares it to the mystery of creation, in which division and unity occur at the same time. The text analyses the link between the individual and the universe, which is akin to love: “I am sky and flowers, I, who am myself. It is that movement towards a state of infinitude wherein I experience my living oneness with all things.” This experience of communion without fusion brings to mind the Deleuzian concept of “becoming.” Indeed, Lawrence writes: “we become the universe” (PhII 236). Love between a man and a woman is analysed in a similar way: “There is in the sexual passion the very blood surges into communion, in the terrible sensual oneing. There all the darkness of the deeps, the primal flood, is perfected, as the two great waves of separated blood surge to consummation, the dark infinitude” (PhII 236). Through love, since it allows union beyond division, man gets closer to the mystery of creation. This link with the universe does not concern only “sexual passion,” it can also be achieved through a fleshless relationship to otherness, as in “The Woman Who Rode Away,” in which the protagonist, thanks to her encounter with the Chilchui tribe, discovers she can connect with the cosmos: “she had gone into that other state of passional cosmic consciousness” (CSS 574).

  • 8 Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (The Centaur Press: Philadelphia), 1925.

10The essay “…Love Was Once a Little Boy” – written in America and published in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine8 describes love as an eminently dynamic relationship which cannot be set in words because they are too abstract: “Love itself is a relationship, which changes as all things change, save abstractions. If you want something really more durable than diamonds you must be content with eternal truths like ‘twice two are four’” (PhII 444). The contrary of love is individualism rather than hate – which is also dynamic – since individualism imprisons the subject in its own narrow sphere and prevents it from moving. Lawrence laments the destruction of “genuine” desire by modern society and the reduction of love to a desire for fusion with the other – which is forever impossible and should be given up. Love between a man and a woman necessarily creates something new, it happens in an unknown territory, neither the man’s nor the woman’s but a space created by their union. At least, this is how it should be: “If we were men, if we were women, our individualities would be lone and a bit mysterious, like tarns, and fed with power, male power, female power, from underneath, invisibly. And from us the streams of desire would flow out in the eternal glimmering adventure, to meet in some unknown desert” (PhII 454). Lawrence explains that any being, from the most insignificant mineral to man, is shaken by flows of desire:

Everything that exists, even a stone, has two sides to its nature. It fiercely maintains its own individuality, its own solidity. And it reaches forth from itself in the subtlest flow of desire. […] And we, men and women, are the same as stones: the powerful resistance and cohesiveness of our individuality is countered by the mysterious flows of desire, from us and towards us. (PhII 456)

  • 9 Deleuze & Guattari, Capitalisme et Schizophrénie. Anti-Œdipe (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972), 347 (...)

11It is the experience of encountering otherness that led Lawrence towards the discovery of a new link, which is no longer a tension but a flow. This conception of desire as a flow is explained philosophically by Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Œdipus: “le désir n’a pas pour objet des personnes ou des choses, mais des milieux tout entiers qu’il parcourt, des vibrations et flux de toute nature qu’il épouse, en y introduisant des coupures, des captures, désir toujours nomade et migrant.”9

12For Lawrence, the genuine encounter with the other is a “love” encounter even if the other is not a person of the opposite sex but an animal – a serpent or a turtle –, an Indian – Rosalino the mozo, or a whole tribe –, a flower, a landscape, a volcano, a stone. And this encounter is necessarily dynamic and pulsed by the rhythm of desire.


13From the very beginning of the short story, “The Woman Who Rode Away,” the female protagonist is more in love with her surroundings than with her husband and it is the desire to discover a different world beyond the horizon of the mountains she loves to contemplate that pushes her to go away and embark on a strange journey of no-return.

14In “The Princess,” the female protagonist is also moved by a powerful and obsessive desire to know the mountains, which is underlined by the anaphora of “She wanted” in the following extract: “She wanted to look over the mountains into their secret heart. She wanted to descend to the cabin below the spruce trees, near the tarn of bright green water. She wanted to see the wild animals move about in their wild unconsciousness” (CSS 487). But in the Princess’ case, this desire is clearly linked to a male character, the Mexican guide Romero: “And she had just a fixed desire to go over the brim of the mountains, to look into the inner chaos of the Rockies. And she wanted to go with Romero, because he had some peculiar kinship with her” (CSS 493). Once she has seen the mountains and been terrified, the only reason left for not turning back is Romero:

She had looked down into the intestinal knot of these mountains. She was frightened. She wanted to go back.
But Romero was riding on […] (CSS 497)

15The opposition between the two movements, going back home and riding on, is brought forward by the change of paragraph along with the blank it creates and the conjunction “But” at the start of the new line.

16In all cases, desire for the other triggers powerful flows that upset the subject and test its stability up to the point of rupture. In “The Princess,” Dollie is unable to cope with her contradictory feelings for Romero:

She wanted warmth, protection, she wanted to be taken away from herself. And she wanted to keep herself intact, intact, untouched, that no one should have any power over her, or rights to her. It was a wild necessity in her that no one, particularly no man, should have any rights or power over her, that no one and nothing should possess her.

Yet that other thing! And she was so cold, so shivering, and her heart could not beat. Oh, would not someone help her heart to beat? (CSS 503)

17The use of negative forms (“in-,” “un-,” “no”) is particularly striking in this passage and it reinforces the opposition between the fixity of the state Dollie wants to preserve and the uncontrollable impulse of her desire. The latter is underlined by the preposition “away,” the adjective “wild” and the exclamatory and interrogative sentences which break the regularity of the repeated negations and bring in a new dynamic. The desire for “that other thing” is upsetting because it runs counter to the subject’s certainties and principles. The jerky rhythm of the sentences and the constant coming and going between affirmation and negation reveal the struggle that is taking place in the character’s mind.

18Ethel, the protagonist of “None of That,” is in a similar state since she is unable to make sense of what she really feels for the torero Cuesta: “She didn’t love the fellow. Yet she was in a blind kill-me-quick sort of state, neither here nor there, nor hot nor cold, nor desirous nor undesirous, but just simply insane. In a certain kind of way, she seemed to want him. And in a very definite kind of way she seemed not to want him” (CSS 717-8). As in the extract from “The Princess,” the simultaneity of two contradictory feelings is rendered by the alternation between affirmation and negation, which goes even further here, since neither term can help to define Ethel’s state of mind – as the repetition of the dual structure “neither… nor” emphasises. Both Dollie and Ethel are rendered insane by their incapacity to sort out their relationship with the foreign man, who is irresistibly attractive and undeniably terrifying at the same time. Contrary to Kate in The Plumed Serpent, Dollie and Ethel are unable to reconcile opposite feelings or to breach the gap and overcome duality, and that is what kills them, either really in Ethel’s case or metaphorically in Dollie’s case.

19Emotions linked to otherness are always contradictory; there is no peaceful sort of encounter with the other. As soon as Dollie’s fantasy, namely being warmed by Romero, is realized, it is denied:

And he was warm, but with a terrible animal warmth that seemed to annihilate her. He panted like an animal with desire. And she was given over to this thing. She had never, never wanted to be given over to this. But she had willed that it should happen to her. And according to her will, she lay and let it happen. But she never wanted it. She never wanted to be thus assailed and handled, and mauled. She wanted to keep herself to herself. (CSS 504)

20Here, the anaphora of “want” noted in the extract quoted above is replaced by a clear distinction between “will” and “want.” In a way, the Princess acknowledges the existence of desire but she cannot confess she actually wanted what she desired to happen. The inability to reconcile “will” and “want” eventually destroys Dollie.

21However, in other cases, the coexistence of two contradictory movements can be highly dynamic, as Lawrence explains in the essay “The Two Principles”: “the centripetal force of spinning earth is the force of earth’s individuality: and the centrifugal force is the force of desire” (PhII 456). The combination of these two contradictory forces is the living force. This explains why love amounts to looking for completeness, though unity is never really achieved but always in the making; the two beings are always striving towards an unreachable completeness; there is a perpetual tension that neither can nor should be eased:

But the triumph of love, which is the triumph of life and creation, does not lie in merging, mingling, in absolute identification of the lover with the beloved. It lies in the communion of beings, who, in the very perfection of communion, recognise and allow the mutual otherness. There is no desire to transgress the bounds of being. Each self remains utterly itself – becomes, indeed, most burningly and transcendently itself in the uttermost embrace or communion with the other. (Ph 456)

22That explains why motions and emotions are so important in Lawrence’s apprehension of otherness.

23The absence of motion signifies the failure of the encounter. In “The Princess,” after Dollie refuses to acknowledge her desire for Romero and rejects his proposal, movement is stopped. After the long walk in the mountains, which had awakened desire, the characters remain in the same place. Dollie is unable to move – practically, because Romero has torn off her clothes out of rage – but this is only true because she is incapable of being moved – namely, of responding to Romero emotionally. She becomes an impermeable, empty shell: “The Princess sat absolutely motionless, transfixed” (CSS 511). She is eventually rescued and goes back to the village, but the return journey cannot really erase what has taken place in the mountains. It does not bring her back to her former existence. The only escape she finds is a sort of sleepy state, an uneventful and meaningless life that is summed up in a few short sentences. She goes mad because she is unable to cope with the situation, and she marries an older man, as if this could secure the stability to which she is now condemned. The wedding is only very briefly mentioned in the text because it is unimportant; it was obviously not the result of real love and Dollie’s new married life is devoid of emotions and not likely to trigger any new motion.

24In “The Woman Who Rode Away,” the desire to know otherness is also materialised in a journey across the mountains that the protagonist embarks on in order to fight the immobility in which her marriage has entrapped her, a deathly sort of state that is both physical and psychological: “Her conscious development had stopped mysteriously with her marriage, completed arrested” (CSS 547). Immobility is the contrary of vitality; the woman at the beginning of the story is living the same kind of life as Dollie in the end, not unhappy but not happy either, just uninteresting. Her husband is incapable of moving her, he is present but as insignificant to the woman as the mine, the house or the furniture. That is why she decides to go on a journey towards otherness.

25If the dynamic is indeed launched, still, balance is not achieved in any of the three short stories mentioned so far. In the case of Ethel, it is because she wants domination: “Of course she did not love him at all. She only wanted to see if she could make an impression on him, make him yield to her will” (CSS 720). As far as the Princess is concerned, it is not that she wants to dominate but she refuses to be dominated: “I don’t want to be with anybody against my will. I don’t like you: at least, I didn’t, till you tried to put your will over mine. I won’t have anybody’s will put over me. You can’t succeed. Nobody could” (CSS 508). In these two stories, the narrator makes it clear that the woman doesn’t feel real love for the man. Ethel acknowledges that her desire for Cuesta is purely physical: “But my imagination has not fallen in love with him. […] He’s a brute. […] I’m afraid my body has fallen – not fallen in love with him, but fallen for him” (CSS 718). In Dollie’s case, it is different, since she could have loved Romero had she not stubbornly decided she would never love anyone:

He had a beautiful, alert figure. The Princess wondered why she did not feel sorry for him. But her spirit was hard and cold, her heart could not melt. Though now she would have called him to her, with love.

But she did not love him. She would never love any man. Never! It was fixed and sealed in her, almost vindictively. (CSS 510)

26Dollie’s pride sends Romero into a rage. So far he has been a perfect gentleman, but he cannot bear to see his male power thwarted and his violence is his emotional reaction to his pain and fury – this is, by the way, one of the rare passages in which the emotions of the other are mentioned.

27In “The Woman Who Rode Away,” on the contrary, the protagonist is completely passive once she has met the Chilchui Indians. Contrary to the Princess, the woman has no will of her own: “if she had had any will of her own left, she would have turned back, to the village, to be protected and sent home to her husband. / But she had no will of her own” (CSS 553). She lets things happen and even if she is afraid at times, she passively consents to her fate whereas surrendering is precisely what Ethel and Dollie cannot accept.

28It may be love that the Princess is afraid of more than of Romero himself, because for her, it would mean being given over to someone, and she refuses any submission; she must always be proud and independent. This fierce individualism is the contrary of love for Lawrence: you cannot meet the other if you absolutely refuse to surrender. This makes it impossible for Dollie to fulfil her dormant yet powerful longing; she is doomed to remain in a state of sleep, like a fairytale princess never awakened by her prince. Her fierce temper, a consequence of her education, is responsible for the failure. She would have been capable of experiencing strong emotions, but on the verge of the crucial moment, she steps backwards, she refuses to go beyond the limit she has set: she will not fall in love, never. Her will and her mind are stronger than her body, her emotions and this destroys her.

29Death looms large in the three short stories, which are full of forebodings. This extract is just one example among many in “The Woman Who Rode Away”: “And along with her supreme anger there came a slight thrill of exultation. She knew she was dead” (CSS 556). When the Indians ask her: “do you bring your heart to the god of the Chilchui?” she answers in the affirmative. This could be read as a misunderstanding, since she must mean it metaphorically whereas they mean it literally, yet she knows from the very start that she will die. If death was not really sought, it is accepted as no worse than the life she had on the ranch with her husband: “I am dead already. What difference does it make, the transition from the dead I am to the dead I shall be, very soon!” (CSS 579).

  • 10 There are twenty-seven chapters in the novel.

30In The Plumed Serpent, balance is never really achieved but it is always in the making and this dynamic allows the love relationship between Kate and Mexico to go on. Indeed, the protagonist of the novel is in love – no matter how ambiguous this love may be – with the whole country before falling in love with a particular man. The relationship between Kate and Cipriano is part of a wider experience and it comes late in the story: the narration comes to focus on the development of this relationship, following the fluctuations of desire, only in chapter XX,10 “Marriage by Quetzalcoatl.” After the murder attempt on Ramón, Kate feels emptied of her energy and Cipriano’s presence is reassuring and revitalizing. That is why she agrees to go with him to his house in Jaramay and thereby to truly become his partner and eventually his wife. But before actual physical contact, Kate feels Cipriano’s dark blood circulating in her veins: “She could see how different his blood was from hers, dark, blackish, like the blood of lizards among hot black rocks. She could feel its changeless surge, holding up his light, bluey-black head as on a fountain. And she would feel her own pride dissolving, going” (PS 315-316). The circulation of desiring flows is accompanied by an actual journey across the lake, which emphasizes once more the importance of motion. Kate is moved by Cipriano in every possible way.

31After that psychological experience, physical contact triggers an intense emotion: it is a moment of “unconsciousness” characteristic of authentic love according to Lawrence – contrary to the kind of intercourse in which the woman refuses to let go and wants to control her body and her mind: “She trembled, and her limbs seemed to fuse like metal melting down. She fused into a molten unconsciousness, her will, her very self gone, leaving her lying in molten life, like a lake of still fire, unconscious of everything save the eternality of the fire in which she was gone. Gone in the fadeless fire […]” (PS 318). The image of melting metal underlines the ardour of passion, and the repetition of the past participle “gone” stresses the distance metaphorically travelled by the protagonist in this intense moment: Kate is very far away from reality and from herself, and Cipriano is “the master of fire” who directs this journey into the unknown. However, although Kate undeniably enjoys this abandonment, this kind of relationship is difficult to accept since it demands some sort of abnegation: “It meant the death of her individual self” (PS 388). This passage is a very good illustration of the concept of love as the opposite of individualism presented in the essay “ …Love Was Once A Little Boy.” Dollie refuses the death of her individual self, but thereby condemns herself to another kind of death. On the contrary, the kind of death that Kate experiences is salutary. Besides, the necessity of giving up one’s individualism holds true not only for the woman – as some feminist critics have reproachfully argued – it works both ways and the novelist insists on reciprocity:

Alone, she was nothing. Only as the pure female corresponding to his pure male, did she signify. […] To a great extent this was true, and she knew it. To a great extent, the same was true of him, and without her to give him the power, he too would not achieve his own manhood and meaning. […] failing her, he would never make his ultimate achievement, he would never be whole. (PS 386-387)

In this passage, the parallel and the chiasmatic constructions linking the masculine and feminine pronouns show the reciprocity of the relationship. The love encounter is so intense that is allows a kind of renewal of Kate’s virginity, which is the miracle and the privilege of pure love:

So he sat in silence on his throne, holding her hand in silence, till the years reeled away from her in fleeing circles, and she sat, as every real woman can sit, no matter at what age, a girl again, and for him, a virgin. He held her hand in silence, till she was Malintzi, and virgin for him, and when they looked at one another, and their eyes met, the two flames rippled in oneness. (PS 392)

32The relationship between Kate and Cipriano, between Huitzilopochtli and Malintzi reactivates the Aztec cyclical conception of time. Love, because it is out of daily time and space, tends towards infinitude.

33However, moments of communion, in which the two lovers are in harmony and transported together into a dark and luminous realm where the flames of desire join in common burning, are so intense that they are necessarily limited: “Kate’s marriage with Cipriano was curious and momentary. When Cipriano was away, Kate was her old individual self. Only when Cipriano was present, and then only sometimes, did the connection overwhelm her” (PS 410). It would even be dangerous to try and have this connection last longer since it is too powerful and destabilizing. Thanks to the alchemy of love, Kate recovers a lost communion with the cosmos and with forgotten times: “She knew what it was that made Cipriano more significant to her than all her past, her husbands and her children. It was the leap of the old, antediluvian blood-male into unison with her. And for this, without her knowing, her innermost blood had been thudding all the time” (PS 415). The individual story recedes behind the greater history of the universe and projects the lovers into an endless time-space. The revelation is primordial but the communion has to be followed by moments of isolation; otherwise Kate would be destroyed, like the woman who rides away.

34What makes Cipriano and Ramón’s strength is that they manage to re-establish a relationship not only with their beloved but with the Mexican people. The dynamic of desire is not limited to sex: the spiritual leaders of the Quetzalcoatl movement succeed in arousing a form of desire among the people, by having the Mexicans, men and women alike, fall “in love” with them, provoking this powerful blood communion, that appeases and upsets one at the same time, and permits one to have a glimpse of a reality that is different from the desperate situation of contemporary society: “Now she understood the strange unison she could always feel between Ramón and his men, and Cipriano and his men. It was the soft, quaking, deep communion of blood-oneness” (PS 417). As is the case with sexual desire, the deep and indestructible link between men is obvious, but just as unexplainable as it is undeniable.

  • 11 Paz, op.cit. 9-10: “There is a question that all lovers ask and the erotic mystery is condensed in (...)
  • 12 I am not arguing however that desire is always destructive in the short stories and can be presente (...)

35Octavio Paz has the following comment on the irreducible otherness of the loved one: “Hay una pregunta que se hacen todos los enamorados y en ella se condensa el misterio erótico : ¿quién eres? Pregunta sin respuesta [...].” 11 This mystery must remain unsolved because knowledge would be destructive. Desire must remain forever an élan, a flow; the other cannot be known or contained. The revelation of otherness as a presence whose obviousness is as powerful as it is impossible to grasp happens in the last part of The Plumed Serpent, after a long journey that never stops, not even at the end. Kate has needed time to accept this relationship with the other, and her acceptance is not one of resignation but it is dynamic. Without this long initiatory journey, desire can be destructive, as in the three short stories.12

  • 13 Ibid. 144: “Death is the force of gravity of love. The love impulse lifts us out of the earth and t (...)

36Regeneration is the aim of the dynamic emotional relationship to otherness. Octavio Paz is one among many critics who insist on the link between Eros and Thanatos, between love and the beyond: “La muerte es la fuerza de gravedad del amor. El impulso amoroso nos arranca de la tierra y del aquí; la conciencia de la muerte nos hace volver [...] El amor no vence a la muerte pero la integra en la vida [...] El amor es un regreso a la muerte, al lugar de reunión.”13 If complete fusion can only take place on the other side, as the poem “Bavarian Gentians” – quoted and analysed by Paz – illustrates, Lawrence’s Mexican writings show that there can be in the world of the living a dynamic of regeneration in which love and death commingle.

37There are nonetheless different kinds of death as there are different kinds of love. Death can mean destruction, as in “None of That” and “The Princess.” In the latter, destruction works both ways: Romero kills the Princess’s virginal self but he also dies because of her (he is killed by the men who come to rescue her).

38Death is more ambiguous in “The Woman Who Rode Away,” which could have been entitled “The Woman Who Had Died” considering the number of times her death is announced, or rather maybe “The Woman Who Had Passed Away,” to lay the emphasis on the transition from one world to another, because contrary to Ethel’s or Dollie’s deaths, which are equated with an abolition of movement, the death of the woman is a dynamic process. Strangely enough, death is felt by the protagonist: “feeling like a woman who has died” (CSS 552), “feeling again as if she had died” (CSS 555), “and she aware that she had died” (CSS 557). Death is not the negation of life but, on the contrary, the experience of a living being.

39As all these texts show, Lawrence is relentlessly looking for regeneration in Mexico. This is what he was after all through life, through all the continents, cultures and times. In “… Love Was Once A Little Boy,” he describes how desire for the other allows for the regeneration of the subject:

I am myself, and I remain myself only by the grace of the powers that enter me, from the unseen, and make me forever newly myself. And I am myself, also, by the grace of the desire that flows from me and consummates me with the other unknown, the invisible, tangible creation. The powers that enter me fluctuate and ebb. And the desire that goes forth from me waxes and wanes. Sometimes it is weak, and I am almost isolated. Sometimes it is strong, and I am almost carried away. (Ph II 457)

40The encounter between the self and the other is highly dynamic: binary structures create a to and fro motion but ternary rhythms go beyond duality towards synthesis.

41Knowing the other completely is impossible and even dangerous, but strong emotions triggered by the encounter with otherness lead to regeneration. Eventually, even the reality of death does not deprive love of its vital force and its beauty, and it is this miracle that Lawrence praised again and again till his very last day: “But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos”(AWR 149). Here the author celebrates the highly emotional rapture, the great cosmic dance of life, the beauty and the power of creation that he feels powerfully in his flesh. Observing the Indians in Mexico, their way of life, their culture and their lives, coming to know them without wanting to solve the irreducible mystery of otherness allowed Lawrence to rediscover the vital strength of higher emotions and their creative impulse.

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Bataille, Georges. L’Histoire de l’érotisme (Œuvres complètes VIII). Paris: Gallimard, 1976.

Deleuze, Gilles & Félix Guattari. Capitalisme et Schizophrénie. L’Anti-Œdipe. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972. (Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane, London: Continuum, 2004).

Lawrence, David Herbert. Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation. 1931. London: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics, 1995. (AWR)

___. The Collected Letters of D. H. Lawrence. 2 vol. Harry T. Moore, éd. New York: The Viking Press, 1962. (CL)

___. The Complete Short Stories. 3 vol. New York: Viking Press, 1972. (CSS)

___. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. 1928. London: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics, 1994. (LCL)

___. The Plumed Serpent. 1926. New York: Vintage, 1992. (PS)

___. Phoenix. The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence. Edward McDonald, éd. 1936. London: The Viking Press, 1968. (Ph)

___. Phoenix II. Uncollected Writings. Warren Roberts & Harry T. Moore, éd. 1959. New York: The Viking Press, 1970. (PhII)

Paz, Octavio. La Llama doble. Amor y erotismo. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1993.

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1 Octavio Paz, La Llama doble. Amor y erotismo (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1993), 7.

2 Ibid. 27: “For the philosophical tradition, Eros is a god that links darkness and light, matter and spirit, sex and ideas, here and there. Through those philosophers, it is the dark light that speaks.” (my translation)

3 Georges Bataille, L’Histoire de l’érotisme (Œuvres complètes VIII, Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 23: “Essentially, eroticism is man’s sexual activity, as opposed to that of animals. Human sexuality is not always erotic, but it is erotic whenever it is not merely animal.” (my translation)

4 Quotation from “Love,” an essay first published in the English Review in 1918.

5 Bataille, op.cit. 98: “the object is first known by the subject as other, as different, but at the very moment when the object is reduced to desire, trembling with anguish, it is no longer distinct from the subject: the two desires join, mix and fuse.” (my translation)

6 Ibid. 100 : “In a nutshell, the object of desire is the universe, which takes the shape of the woman who mirrors it for the man who embraces her and who can see his own image at the same time. And at the moment of the most intense fusion, a pure brightness, like a sudden flash of lightning, illuminates the immense field of possibility[...]” (my translation).

7 The essay was published in 1919 in The English Review as part of a series of texts on American literature. Even though it was not included in Studies in Classic American Literature, it deals with the same aesthetic and philosophical issues, which were Lawrence’s main concerns at the time (the text was posthumously published in The Symbolic Meaning, a selection of texts edited by Armin Arnold in 1962, and in Phoenix II).

8 Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (The Centaur Press: Philadelphia), 1925.

9 Deleuze & Guattari, Capitalisme et Schizophrénie. Anti-Œdipe (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1972), 347: “desire does not take as its object persons or things, but the entire surroundings that it traverses, the vibrations and flows of every sort to which it is joined, introducing therein breaks and captures – an always nomadic and migrant desire.” (translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane, 322)

10 There are twenty-seven chapters in the novel.

11 Paz, op.cit. 9-10: “There is a question that all lovers ask and the erotic mystery is condensed in it : Who are you ? It is a question without any answer […]” (my translation).

12 I am not arguing however that desire is always destructive in the short stories and can be presented differently only in a longer novel. In “Sun,” the love relationship between Juliet and the sun allows regeneration and Juliet rediscovers the vitality she had lost in England.

13 Ibid. 144: “Death is the force of gravity of love. The love impulse lifts us out of the earth and the place we’re in: the consciousness of death brings us back […] Love does not defeat death but it integrates it into life […] Love is a return towards death, the place of reunion.” (my translation).

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Magali Roux, « Emotions and Otherness in D. H. Lawrence’s Mexican Fiction »Études Lawrenciennes, 43 | 2012, 215-235.

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Magali Roux, « Emotions and Otherness in D. H. Lawrence’s Mexican Fiction »Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 43 | 2012, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2013, consulté le 27 septembre 2020. URL :; DOI:

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Magali Roux

Magali Roux, a graduate assistant at the University of Toulouse, presented her PhD dissertation on Lawrence’s Mexican experience in November 2009. She has already published two articles in Etudes Lawrenciennes:Lines of Flight and the Dynamics of Creation in D. H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent,” n° 37 (2007) andSplit Identities in D. H. Lawrence’s Writings of the Mexican Period,” n° 38 (2008).

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