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Cocksure and Hensure Women in Women in Love

Marina Ragachewskaya

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With the two kinds of femininity go two kinds of confidence: there are the women who are cocksure, and the women who are hensure.
D. H. Lawrence. “Cocksure Women and Hensure Men” (written in 1928)

  • 1 I would like to mention especially the in-depth research into the novel by Charles R. Ross, Joyce (...)
  • 2 I am grateful to Keith Cushman for this suggestion.

1These quotes draw a connecting line between Lawrence’s curious, if not controversial, theories on women as they appear in his later articles, published as the collection of Assorted Articles (1930), and his possible earlier “drafts” for these clear-cut categories of women. In spite of an incredibly rich corpus of Women in Love studies,1 the task I am undertaking may be helpful in understanding female characters in one of the most complex and kaleidoscopically “re-assemblable” texts – Lawrence’s novel Women in Love (1920). His ideas look like a consistent philosophy rather than some random thoughts, and, therefore, I do embrace here Joyce Carol Oates’ pronouncement about the novel that it “concerns itself with far more than simply women in love; far more than simply women in love” (Oates, 143). I will consider the novel in retrospect from the position of the two essays about women. Ordinarily it is difficult to take such a piece of journalism – written for a popular audience and designed to be controversial or even annoying – seriously. The mentioned essays are not well regarded among critics. However, I will argue that it is indeed possible to take them more seriously than they have previously been taken.2

2“Cocksure Women and Hensure Men” and “Give Her a Pattern” appeared in the Assorted Articles with their general ironic tonality combined with a jovial metaphoric quality. Harry T. Moore in The Life and Works of D. H. Lawrence (1951) points out that the Lawrences spent the summer of 1928 in the Swiss Alps, and “many of the Assorted Articles essays were written there” (Moore 293). The year 1928 in general was “one of public storm and stress for him [Lawrence]” (Aldington, 313), according to Richard Aldington. It was the year when the writer finished Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Escaped Cock. It was also a time in his life when he was consciously, with a mature sense of lived experience, reviewing or summarizing his philosophies, concepts, earlier beliefs and judgments. Commenting on this stage of Lawrence’s life and career, Catherine Carswell observes:

[…] the potentialities were there – the wisdom, the sanity, the fine incalculableness, the incorruptibility and the passion that is never all spent – in short the capacity to accept responsibility and to blossom afresh in bearing it. Like Mr. George Moore, Lawrence would always have remained an artist, yet like Mr. H. G. Wells he would always have realized that our age needs most of all a certain life activity in the artist which forbids his preoccupation with artistic perfection. Abundant evidence for these conclusions will be found in his latest works – in Assorted Articles, Etruscan Studies, and the magnificently measured Apocalypse […] (Carswell, 239)

3To refer to Moore again, “The essays made Lawrence's ideas familiar to a good many people who previously knew only his name. And, since these articles appeared so soon after Lady Chatterley's Lover, that name could command special attention. Most of the articles, moreover, were about the perennially interesting subject of sex, and some of them had kindling titles” (Moore 293), like the two mentioned above. Oates notes the precision, dogmatism and the almost preacherly quality of Lawrence’s essays (and fiction) (Oates, 50). Moore, however, gives credit to the style and language of these late articles: “It is true that they are often colloquial, even slangy, but they have a vitality beyond the ordinary range of the medium” (Moore 295).

4In the essays in question – “Give Her a Pattern” and “Cocksure Women and Hensure Men” (1928–1929) – Lawrence makes a categorization of women. Among these are the demure and the dauntless, the “baby-faced,” the “child-wives,” the cocksure and the sensible ones (“not fools”), to name just a few. The motivation that drove Lawrence towards these classifications has remained obscure. Why did he need to “offer popularized versions of what had been demonstrated in treatises and dramatized in novels” (Moore, 294)? Freud says that “classification is the first step in any scientific endeavor” [quoted from: Zelinsky-Wibbelt, 131], and Moore explains that “by using a popular medium and a popular style, Lawrence could deliver his message to an unusually wide audience” (Moore 294).

5Lawrence began thinking on the subject of women types perhaps as early as he attempted to dramatize femininity in his first stories and novels. These clear-cut categories, or types, must have come from Lawrence’s earlier reflection on women. Moreover, fictionalized femininity is strongly rooted in the notion of character, no matter how obstinately Lawrence might deny it. Already in The Rainbow he attempted to give a collective portrait of the Brangwen women:

The women were different […] [They] looked out from the heated, blind intercourse of farm-life, to the spoken world beyond. They were aware of the lips and the mind of the world speaking and giving utterance, they heard the sound in the distance, and they strained to listen […] She [woman] faced outwards to where men moved dominant and creative, having turned their back on the pulsing heat of creation, and with this behind them were set out to discover what was beyond, to enlarge their own scope and range and freedom […] (TR 3)

6Martin Secker thought “Women in Love” to be a provocative title and suggested changing it “for the very reason from D.H.L.’s point of view to be as unprovocative as possible in order to get the book taken anywhere” (quoted from Introduction, xliii]). The choice of the final wording for the title, however, as suggested by Lawrence in 1916, was also the one Frieda was in favour of. I find Women in Love to be a kind of platform for Lawrence’s thinking of his relationship with women and his perception of them, both as separate individuals and en bloc. There is a more direct connection between the Assorted Articles and Women in Love. Thus, the novel features a conversation where Birkin airs his views on equality:

We are all different and unequal in spirit — it is only the SOCIAL differences that are based on accidental material conditions […] We’re all the same in point of number. But spiritually, there is pure difference and neither equality nor inequality counts […]

But I, myself, who am myself, what have I to do with equality with any other man or woman? In the spirit, I am as separate as one star is from another, as different in quality and quantity. Establish a state on THAT. One man isn’t any better than another, not because they are equal, but because they are intrinsically OTHER, that there is no term of comparison. The minute you begin to compare, one man is seen to be far better than another, all the inequality you can imagine is there by nature. (WL 103-104)

7If we compare this powerful rhetoric with Lawrence’s article “Democracy” (written in 1919), where the same thought, but a different narrative strategy to lay bare this thought is employed, we can see the same concept stylistically brushed up and revised in accordance with the genre of the essay:

Since every individual is, in his first reality, a single incommutable soul, not to be calculated or defined in terms of any other soul, there can be no establishing of a mathematical ratio. We cannot say that all men are equal. We cannot say that A=B. Nor can we say that men are unequal. We may not declare that A=B+C.

8Where each thing is unique in itself, there can be no comparison made. One man is neither equal or unequal to another man. When I stand in the presence of another man, and I am my own pure self, am I aware of a presence of an equal, or of an inferior, or of a superior? I am not. When I stand with another man, who is himself, and when I am truly myself, then I am only aware of a Presence, and of the strange reality of otherness. There is me, and there is another being. That is the first part of the reality. There is no comparing or estimating. There is only this strange recognition of present otherness. I may be glad, angry, or sad, because of the presence of the other. But still no comparison enters in. Comparison enters only when one of us departs from his own integral being, and enters the material mechanical world. Then equality and inequality starts at once. (D 92-93)

9This is the point of departure for Lawrence’s categorization of women in his essays. He speaks clearly of types:

For, of course, just as there are many men in the world, there are many masculine theories of what women should be. But men run to type, and it is the type, not the individual, that produces the theory, or ‘ideal’ of woman. (GHP 162)

10Is Lawrence’s own speculation about the “cocksure” and the “hensure” women just another such theory? Lawrence alludes to many other concepts of women: the Roman ideal of the matron, Nero’s “fast” type, Dante’s chaste and untouched type, the learned women of the Renaissance, Dickens’ child-wives, followed by the Victorian noble woman, pure spouse, devoted mother. He, however, outlines his ideal in his article “Cocksure Women and Hensure Men”:

Demureness, to be sure, is outwardly becoming, it is an outward mark of femininity, like bobbed hair. But it goes with inward dauntlessness. The girl who has got to make her way in life has got to be dauntless, and if she has a pretty, demure manner with it, then lucky girl. She kills two birds with two stones. (CWHM 125)

11The “demure” and the “dauntless” types in the late article find their correspondences in the novel. The clearly shaped female characters who receive Lawrence’s abundant direct commentaries on their traits and features include Ursula, Gudrun, Hermione and Pussum. Other minor characters, such as Mrs. Brangwen and the younger Brangwen girl Dora, the Contessa, the Crich girls, female laborers and house guests make this gallery of women vibrant and representative, but the four more prominent women characters reflect Lawrence’s ideas expressed in the later articles. Mark Schorer points out the two modes of existence for what he terms Lawrence’s “free characters” (Ursula and Gudrun among the females) in Women in Love: “They have their social existence, and they have their psychic existence” (Schorer 53). Graham Hough says of Ursula and Gudrun: “[…] the two girls are newly emancipated members of a class that has hitherto been tied to the narrow local scene” (Hough 92). Schorer considers the fictional characterization of the rest (except Hermione) to be “the familiar technique of caricature, maximum selection” (Schorer 53).

12In the introduction of the two major protagonists in the “Sisters,” chapter one, the following sentence may puzzle: “The sisters were women” (WL 8). It is as if Lawrence yet again stresses the importance of femininity, his emphasis falling on this species of humankind. There is definitely an attempt to classify them. Cornelia Zelinsky-Wibbelt in her book Discourse and the Continuity of Reference: Representing Mental Categorization (2000) ranks categorization as a mental activity along the lines of “paradigmatic dimension” (Zelinsky-Wibbelt, 131). Thus, “categorization consists of schematization into more fine-grained or more coarse-grained semantic categories as instantiated by contextual information” (ibid.). The perceptible paradigm of several concepts about femininity is grounded in what might appear to be Lawrence’s misogynist stance, as Kate Millett emphasizes in her Sexual Politics (1969) almost simultaneously with Katharine M. Rogers in The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature (1968). Indeed, this interpretative approach has much evidence to support it. Even in the essays discussed here, I may point out the aura of scorn and negativity in the terms Lawrence coins in “Give Her a Pattern” for the types he distinguishes in the cultural thought. A neutral register for the chosen term is undermined by bottomless irony: the term “matron” matches the Romans’ “property lust”; the type of “fast” women goes on to denote “fast enough for everybody”; “a chaste and untouched Beatrice” begins to “march importantly”; the Renaissance “learned” woman “buzzes” mildly into verse and prose (the verb expresses an emotionally negative connotation). The only condescending exception in the article is made for the “modern woman” who “isn’t really a fool” (GHP 164). The fact that modern men are fools, however, so vehemently asserted by Lawrence, immediately disarms accusations of sexism and misogyny. The men who are fools - presumptuously and unwaveringly stated as such - do not possess the dimmest knowledge of the pattern they want now for their women, which accounts for astonishing challenges that women face, after they have reenacted a number of historical patterns:

Man is willing to accept woman as an equal, as a man in skirts, as an angel, a devil, a baby-face, a machine, an instrument, a bosom, a womb, a pair of legs, a servant, an encyclopedia, an ideal, or an obscenity; the one thing he won’t accept her as, is a human being, a real human being of the feminine sex. (GHP 163)

13In Women in Love these modern women, who turn out to be surrounded by modern men, do reenact the patterns of the previous ages, albeit permeated with or contaminated by the tragic calamity of the war years which Lawrence wants us to take into account, too, “[…] so that the bitterness of the war may be taken for granted in the characters” (WL 485). Birkin reflects about women in general, highlighting the issue in animalistic metaphors, as in the later article: “And woman is the same as horses: two wills act in opposition inside her. With one will she wants to subject herself utterly. With the other she wants to bolt, and pitch her rider to perdition” (WL 141). This internal and eternal conflict seems to drive women in the novel in their subconscious search for a pattern to fit, resulting in curious hybrid and distorted types of consciousness, of which cocksureness is perhaps the “deadliest” of sins in femininity.

14Except for Ursula, no other female in the novel is fully likable. Their only merit lies in their facial and bodily features, in the striking and beguiling colours and fashions they wear. However, these constitute the necessary stage decorations against whose backdrop the types, later reduced by Lawrence to the dauntless cocksure and demure hensure, stand out. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that “cocksure” means “confident in an excessive or arrogant way”; and dauntless is “showing fearlessness and determination.” It is a new, modern type of consciousness, as contrasted with Mrs. Brangwen’s and Laura Crich’s demureness (as Lawrence describes them on the latter’s wedding day). At almost every instant Gudrun appears to reveal the cocksure quality, always having a “finished” idea of a person or thing, almost in every instant speaking with “confident assurance” (WL 171), a “finality” corresponding to the characteristics of a cocksure woman in the article: she “doesn’t have a doubt nor a qualm” (CWHM 125) – and this, for Lawrence, clearly represents an anti-ideal.

15Lawrence compares an “animal farm” with the “vast human farmyard.” Cocksureness in the hen is futile and misleading, for her cock-a-doodle-do is unanswerable; it harbors no real defiance to the other cocks, no challenge. Likewise, Lawrence asserts, the modern woman “outmans” the man when, after years of laying eggs with business efficiency and crowing cocksureness, she “realizes she has lost her life” (CWHM 127). The essence of cocksureness in men apparently lies in meaningful defiance and even death. In a woman, it becomes a one-sided, meaningless form of self-destruction and alienation. Gudrun’s portrayal reveals its recognizably similar characteristics: she wears her clothes “in pure defiance,” being “quite definite” (WL 7) in her character, with a “mask-like,” “expressionless” hard-looking face (WL 9), with a look of “confidence and diffidence” and “sang froid” contrasting with Ursula’s “sensitive expectancy” (WL 8). As if trying to imitate the cocksure rooster - Lawrence’s emblem of male potency and natural power - Gudrun envies men their “freedom, the liberty, the mobility” (WL 87) and then performs a wild and reckless act of dancing in front of the bulls, exposing herself to danger. Besides, much like a cock, Gudrun, as Peter Preston noted, is drawn to violence (Preston 51).

16In the novel, the concept of cocksureness acquires additional connotations, when Ursula mocks her lover for claiming to know exactly what kind of love she has for him: “'So cocksure!' she said.'How can anybody ever be right, who is so cocksure? It shows you are wrong.'” (WL 153). This notion of cocksureness is negatively colored and this transpires through Ursula’s condemnation of it. Cocksureness causes the annihilation of other vital forms of knowledge, as it is primarily the knowledge of answers to all questions which constitutes this essential and destructive component of female cocksureness in Gudrun, “mocking and objective,” as she watches and registers everything (WL 87) with “an exhaustive super-consciousness” (WL 346). People may become “summed up, paid for, settled, done with” (WL 263) for her. In the following passage, Lawrence watches his fictional creation closely, to substantiate this image of a young woman striving towards absolute knowledge:

Gudrun watched them closely, with objective curiosity. She saw each one as a complete figure, like a character in a book, or a subject in a picture, or a marionette in a theatre, a finished creation. She loved to recognise their various characteristics, to place them in their true light, give them their own surroundings, settle them for ever as they passed before her along the path to the church. She knew them, they were finished, sealed and stamped and finished with, for her. There was none that had anything unknown, unresolved […] (WL 14)

17This scrutinizing zest is metaphorically parallel to Gudrun’s strange preference for the view “through the wrong end of the opera glasses” (WL, 39). In her inner monologues and free indirect discourse, the verb “to know” predominates, even in matters of the heart. Seeing Gerald, she asserts: “I shall know more of that man” (WL 15).

18This summary of Gudrun’s qualities only stresses the visible, outward, assertive form of dauntlessness, which is already cocksureness. This dauntlessness is a defense mechanism, or reaction formation, in which she is acquiring a form of conduct strictly opposite to her feeling. This is fully disclosed in the dancing episode where Gudrun conquers her fears by reversing them, taking on a mind-numbing courage: “Gudrun, who was usually frightened of cattle, now shook her head in a queer, half-doubtful, half-sardonic motion, a faint smile round her mouth” (WL 167). In my research into dance in Lawrence, I interpreted this scene as “femme power,” “when a woman is aware of and enjoys harnessing the power, strength and mysteries commonly associated with notions of femininity” (Ragachewskaya 128). I can add to this, that it is exactly the dauntlessness of a superficial, cocksure type – the opposite of the inner fearlessness covered by demureness. It is the form of fear of the male dark power surfacing in Gudrun in the mare-subjugating scene, which she later realizes, is “a voluptuous resonance of darkness” (WL 115) that causes her repulsion in a relationship: a form of the overall “apprehensive horror of the people in the mass” (WL 158). This great numbing fear is reversed with Gudrun’s “dangerous hostile spirit that could stand undiminished and unabated” (WL 122). Commenting on Gudrun’s performance of Dalcroze rhythms in the presence of livestock, Schorer observes that “this scene does not quite escape the ridiculous” (Schorer, 58). This again testifies to the incongruity of Gudrun’s courage: it is of a false kind, which does not spring from the deep inner recesses of dauntlessness, but is all put on like another “mask on her face.”

19Though “coarse-grained,” the above portrayal becomes more dynamic when we consider another defense mechanism in Gudrun, which occasionally accounts for her lapses into moments when she appears as the “child-like, clinging woman to the man” (WL 164). These are rare moments, surging up to the surface from unconscious fear and repression. One of these moments crowns Gudrun’s unfulfilled quest for knowledge. It seems she eventually gets what she wants at the beginning, in loathing and refuting marriage, or the very meaning of it. As a result, in the novel’s denouement, she is left amid the debris of her destroyed, broken love life and selfhood. When Gerald’s body is found, she resorts to childish ignorance, though not in a conscious way: “What should she say? What should she feel? What should she do? What did they expect of her? She was coldly at a loss” (WL, 475). All that is “perfectly correct” (WL, 239) in Gudrun ultimately makes her repulsive to the reader.

20The other two meaningful and difficult feminine presences in the novel (leaving Ursula out for now) further Lawrence’s exploration of women types: the “baby-faced” Pussum and the demoniacal Hermione. They expand his gallery of women who show an advance in emancipation to varying degrees. They are aware of the social changes that have broken down the sexual taboos for women. However, they still struggle to fit into the desired pattern their men have created for them. Lawrence speculates on the way those imposed patterns distort the vital and mysterious inner femininity, inevitably making Pussum almost a caricature.

21Pussum embodies the type which Lawrence scorns, in his relentless sneering in “Give Her a Pattern” – namely, the “baby-faced child-wives” whose creation and elaboration the writer ascribes to Dickens and George Eliot. This type, he argues, had replaced the frustrating image of the “noble woman,” “the pure spouse,” “the devoted mother [… who] simply worked to death” (GHP 162). The child-wife came in handy as a replacement. Following the logic of the article, according to which a doctor will produce a capable nurse, and a business man a capable secretary, in Women in Love, the artist Halliday willfully produces a capable artist’s model. Plunged into the men’s world of artistic bohemia, Pussum, with her small and delicate features, is obliged to live up to her man’s pattern: “He wants a pure girl[, …] with a baby face” (WL, 95). Halliday, with his own “soft, rather degenerate face,” with a “warm corrupt nature” (WL 65), is able to produce this same type. Together with possessing some baby-faced features, Pussum is also an “eternal secret ideal of men – the prostitute” (GHP 163). This type, however, is short-lived, as she fulfills her man’s desired pattern too fast, and so he dislikes this “lurid fille de joie” (WL 21). Lawrence’s ironic combination of Pussum’s “babyish pronunciation” with smallness, delicacy and childish immediacy, produces “something curiously indecent, obscene,” “sickening beyond words” (WL 382). Katherine Rogers’ explanation of Lawrence’s particular opposition to the babyish female is as follows:

Thus Lawrence sadistically dragged the lady down from her Victorian pedestal, not only as a wife, but as a mother. For he sensed women's pride in motherhood and found it deeply troubling to his male ego. He was envious — first of the woman, because she has the primary role in reproduction; secondly of the baby, because it is more important to the woman than the man is. (Rogers 242)

22There is little or no proof, however, of this conjecture in the novel. Besides, Lawrence’s own self-critical explanation of this in his article sounds more plausible: “So we younger men, having been a bit frightened of our noble mothers, tended to revert to the child-wife. We weren’t very inventive. Only the child-wife must be a boyish little thing – that was the new touch we added. Because young men are definitely frightened of the real female” (GHP 162).

23Pussun is reduced to a type as such by Lawrence when he allows male characters to use phrases such as “about her type” or “those women” (WL 183). The baby-faced woman is briefly mentioned by Loerke, as “a corrupt, disintegrated creature” (Hough 104), when he outlines his ideal of woman: “I don’t like them any bigger, any older. Then they are beautiful, at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen – after that they are no use to me” (WL 433). It is here, perhaps, that Gudrun unconsciously succumbs to this pattern, turning out in the novel’s finale “divorced, debarred, a soul shut out” (WL 403) and, as mentioned above, reverting to the childlike pattern.

24Hermione presents an approximation of the condemned female type. Hough calls her “one of Lawrence’s most individual characters,” which Lawrence never repeated in subsequent works; “but,” he adds, she does manifest “the same spiritual elements differently proportioned and combined, [which] occur sufficiently often in later writings to be recognizable as one of the basic types which Lawrence used as keys to the understanding of his social world” (Hough 109). Gregory F. Tague’s assessment echoes Hough’s: “Hermione […] represents more than one person: she is a type, similar to but in some other respects more debased than Skrebensky” (Tague 203). There is hardly any positive trait in Hermione beyond her striking appearance. The reader’s first detailed acquaintance with Hermione comes in the form of an exposure of her dubiousness and hypocrisy. She is “impressive,” “yet macabre, something repulsive” (WL 15). Further on, Lawrence peppers his description of Hermione with the verb “know,” carefully bringing home to the reader her cocksureness: “she knew herself to be well-dressed;” “she knew herself to be the social equal […] of anyone […] in Willey Green;” “she knew she was accepted in the world of culture and of intellect” (WL 11); “she believed in her own higher knowledge” (WL 17). All this knowledge is supposed to make her “invulnerable,” “unassailable” (WL 16). In picking up the threads of “learned” or philosophical debates, Hermione airs her views, causing Birkin’s indignation.

25Unlike Hermione, who represents class, status, power and control, Ursula’s dynamic movement has an obvious advantage over the “demoniacal” Hermione, the “cocksure” Gudrun and the immature Pussum. Ursula is that Lawrencian type who possesses inner dauntlessness with both a touch of demureness and hensure consciousness. Not that she is always acting as a model. Oates, for example, explains: “Ursula is sometimes a mesmerizing archetypal female, at other times shrill and possessive and dismayingly obtuse” (Oates 144). It is risky to generalize about Ursula or to present her as possessing a set of predictable qualities. Rather, this female character unveils Lawrence’s attempts at fictionalizing what he would later call a “hensure” type with an underlying inner dauntlessness.

26Lawrence summarizes this idiosyncratic concept of hensureness in the essay “Cocksure Women and Hensure Men” by way of a metaphor – “sure as a hen is sure, that is, without knowing anything about it” (CWHM 125). It is not a mental condition, Lawrence tells us, but a physical one: “In her own dim surety, the hen is really much surer than the cock, in a different way” (CWHM,126). As an idealistic antinomy to cocksureness, Birkin outlines what it means to have dauntlessness inside, but demureness outwards: “Proud and subservient […] a dance of opposites” (WL 153). Lawrence’s attraction to a hen-like kind of female consciousness finds expression in his sympathetic treatment of Ursula: “She was more physical, more womanly” (WL 83), “a strange unconscious bud of powerful womanhood” (WL 92).

27Dauntlessness performs its due function in Ursula’s vehement defense of female freedom and denial of men’s superiority in a conversation with Birkin. Ursula is “so quick, and so lambent, like discernible fire, and so vindictive, and so rich in her dangerous flamy sensitiveness” (WL 151). She asserts her desire for personal pride, defending women’s personal independence. Her knowledge is clearly of a different kind, which makes her inwardly sure even in trivial episodes like the one when she expects Birkin to come and knock at her door. Ursula’s inner dauntlessness, which works from the unknown sources of her feminine self, makes her forget her fears while going to the woods to find a soul-mate in nature, otherwise feeling lonesome in this dark, quite frightening space. This is so different from Gudrun’s “femme power,” although fearlessness is ascribed to both women. Inner dauntlessness needs no witness except one’s own self, whereas “femme power” craves an audience, a record, a note in the consciousness of the other.

28Ursula’s dauntlessness shows in her courageous accusation of Gerald’s taming of the mare. Her dauntlessness bursts forth in her diatribe against Hermione, against what she considers as a completely fabricated kind of spirituality: “Is that spiritual, her bullying, her conceit, her sordid materialism […]?” (WL 307). This moment is epiphanic for Birkin; it allows him to see the wrongness and futility of men’s ready-made patterns for women. Lawrence states that “the women aren’t fools” (GHP 164), and as Ursula’s emotional outburst shows, she gives Birkin (to use Lawrence’s language from the article) “some nasty, cruel digs with her claws, and makes him cry for mother dear! – abruptly changing his pattern” (GHP 165). Birkin, indeed, as if dug by her “claws,” “stood watching in silence. A wonderful tenderness burned in him, at the sight of her quivering, so sensitive fingers […]” (WL 307). He admits a few moments later, that Ursula’s involuntary abuse of him was for the good. Peace, coming gradually into Birkin’s heart, means he changes his “pattern” into no pattern at all. Barbara Ann Schapiro elaborates on what we might call Birkin’s “pattern” for an ideal woman in his desire not actually to “see” but rather believe in a woman: “Belief in the other is indeed more fundamental than love; it is a prerequisite for mature love. It implies faith in the other’s reality and integrity, faith that when all the defenses do come down, the other will still be there” (Schapiro 122). Birkin is like a Lawrencian “cock” whose “crow” is answered, as Anais Nin writes: “Lawrence has also created characters who answer Birkin” (Nin 80). In order to do this, Ursula does not have to “serve,” because, as Cornelius Crowley points out, “there is liberation of the women in love” (Crowley, 39).

29Lawrence managed to create collective images of his female contemporaries at a time of rapid flux and change and human tragedy, such as the Great War. Nevertheless, as Stephen Rowley writes, “we have to wait until Lady Chatterley’s Lover for Lawrence to give us the new-born woman who can in turn offer a haven for foetal development” (Rowley 22). In his essays “Give Her a Pattern” and “Cocksure Women and Hensure Men” (1928-1929) later collected by R. Aldington in Selected Essays, Lawrence asserts the value of “hensureness which is the real bliss of every female.”

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1 I would like to mention especially the in-depth research into the novel by Charles R. Ross, Joyce Carol Oates, John Worthen; and the Etudes Lawrenciennes issue 26/27 (Peter Preston’s and Stephen Rowley’s articles); further articles by Brigitte Macadré (issue 37), Kyoko Kay Condo (issue 38); Stephania Rousssenova (issue 45), etc.

2 I am grateful to Keith Cushman for this suggestion.

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Marina Ragachewskaya, « Cocksure and Hensure Women in Women in Love »Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 49 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2019, consulté le 25 novembre 2020. URL :; DOI:

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Marina Ragachewskaya

Marina Ragachewskaya is an Associate Professor at the World Literature Department at Minsk State Linguistics University, Belarus. She has published widely on D.H. Lawrence, psychoanalysis and literature and contemporary British writers (around 100 articles in English, Russian and Belarussian). Her recent books are Desire for Love: The Secret Longings of the Human Heart in D.H. Lawrence’s Works (CSP, 2012) and Psychoanalysis in Fiction: David Herbert Lawrence – in Russian (MSLU, 2013).  Dr Ragachewskaya does research on the British novel of the 20th century and studies new forms of psychological representation. Her academic interests include fiction interpretation, psychoanalysis, modernism and postmodernism.


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