Courage at the border-line: Balder, Hemingway, and Lawrence's The Captain's Doll.
D. H. Lawrence, Fantasia of the Unconscious
"Things might not be immediately discernible in what a man writes and in this sometimes he is fortunate, but eventually they are quite clear."
Ernest Hemingway, to the Swedish Academy
"So exact is the resemblance of the manikin to the man, in other words, of the soul to the body. ..."
James Frazer, The Golden Bough
Sustained commentary on D. H. Lawrence's The Captain's Doll essentially began more than fifty years ago with F.R. Leavis's extolling and extensive essay on the novella, which he first published amid his innovative series of Scrutiny articles on Lawrence and then reprinted with revisions in his pioneering, full-length study of the writer in 1955.1 Leavis views the work as a supreme example of Lawrence's genius at demonstrating "a sure rightness of touch in conveying the shifts of poise and tone that define an extremely delicate complexity of attitude" (D. H. Lawrence: Novelist 197). Such praise for the subtle changes in character development and narrative perspective in this fiction reflects nothing less than "the range of a truly great dramatic poet" (198), and his strong endorsement of The Captain's Doll has evolved in the academic community into the consensus judgment--with which I agree--of Lawrence's considerable success in this short novel. While later critics find many reasons for praise of its achievement, they generally convey minimal support for Leavis's confident formulation of its central theme, which he defines as Hannele's "education sentimentale" during her affair with Captain Hepburn, a process concluding with a "denouemont" that amounts to her "tacit recognition of her own deepest desire or need" (202-03) to accept finally the distinctly partisan terms for marriage proposed by her lover.
In no way does Leavis's discussion ignore or underestimate the impressive wit, energy, and independence manifested by the Countess, even comparing aspects of her strength and feistiness to the intriguingly similar traits in Lawrence's talented and often uncompliant wife. (2) But he still regards Hannele's capitulation as dramatically credible in the context of her recent love-life and as admirably consistent with Lawrence's visionary doctrines in the postwar years. Much of the criticism after Leavis variously questions the persuasiveness of Hannele's acquiescence to Hepburn's demands, disagrees with the implications of Lawrence's sexual politics, or counter-asserts the ultimate primacy of Hannele's corrective influence on the Captain. (3) The latter approach has strong support in recent years, as it offers a clear if not wholly convincing way to understate the praise for a brilliant novella that presents an uncomfortable problem for many readers today: the work is unapologetically infused with a patriarchal ethic that finally achieves a strong measure of victory in its dramatized battle between the sexes. Many critics search for grounds to praise the novella by somehow denying the fact of its masculinist bias. Among the most extreme versions of invested attempts to diminish the authority of Hepburn and enhance the stature of Hannele, the late Mark Spilka wonders if the Captain killed his wife to eliminate the major complication of his passionate connection to the impatient Countess. (4)
Related to this growth in revisionist discussions of the work is the increasing tendency to emphasize its comedic aspects, an approach that often highlights a comment made by Lawrence, in a letter written by him as he nears completion of the novella, that The Captain's Doll is "a very funny long story" (Letters IV 109). (5) Despite interesting attempts to buttress this letter with analyses of allegedly humorous moments in the work, Lawrence's comment must be examined from the perspective of the fiction's more pronounced texture of pained reflection on doctrinal and personal issues of high importance to him. Lawrence's famous admonition to trust the tale and not the novelist must take precedence over his circumstantial musings about intentionality and effect. He uses the wording "very funny" in the same letter in which he announces his struggle to find a satisfactory conclusion for The Captain's Doll; as I later note in this essay, an interlude of an awkward and comic argument between characters may provide an agreeable option to facilitate the ending of this fiction, but in no way should it be regarded as stipulative of the primary tone in the work.
As Leavis's essay suggests in its meticulous reading of the intonations of dialogue and the resonance of symbols and themes, Lawrence's novella in many ways recapitulates relevant issues of pain, suffering, and dominance reflected in his volatile marriage to Frieda; similarly, as Mark Kinkead-Weekes so carefully outlines in his biographical research, The Captain's Doll also embodies Lawrence's ideological shifts from the 1915-18 period to the "leadership" phase of his career after the war. The excessive search for comedic elements also deflects attention from the heavy weight of postwar malaise that Lawrence documents in the novella with a persistence and poignancy not yet acknowledged in the abundant criticism on the work. While it is true that Hannele establishes an ur-feminist counter-voice that is formidable enough to spar effectively with the masculinist doctrines channeled through Hepburn, Leavis's fundamental insistence a half-century ago about the persuasive art of Hannele's "education" may be politically incorrect today, but it remains an accurate reading of this impressive and not so funny fiction.
It is not a case, however, of a confident Captain overwhelming his woman with the word-made-flesh. In my reformulation of Leavis's approach, Hepburn must manifest the courage to recover his manly pride so he can convince himself and Hannele of the winning authority of his message of male-primacy on love and marriage. No critic has sufficiently focused on this crucial process of the reconstruction of Hepburn's ego and energy. (6) It is a transformation best understood first in the light of the emotional changes and idiosyncrasies of the major characters, and then in the context of Lawrence's adaptation of a well-known Scandinavian mythology to frame key aspects of the symbolism and action in the novella. In Studies in Classic American Literature, a work that he is still intermittently revising as he writes The Captain's Doll, Lawrence provides, in effect, a concise explanation for his deft integration of theme and technique in the novella: "True myth concerns itself centrally with the onward adventure of the integral soul" (65). Thus it is the careful anatomy of Hepburn's "integral soul" that must precede the evocation of the myth, as Lawrence initiates the depiction of the Captain's "onward adventure" with a tour de force of Aristotelian technique to start the novella.
The opening scene of The Captain's Doll is over ten pages long, and Lawrence choreographs its intersecting movements of exits and entrances by imposing a strict unity of time, place, and action. This lengthy vignette, enacted as a form of witty parlor drama, functions not only to establish the relevant circumstances of Hepburn and Hannele's relationship, but also to suggest the dominant emotions of depression and anger that inform the characterizations, respectively, of the two lovers who are the central actors in the work. Lawrence constructs these initial pages with scrupulous attention to precise detail and delicate nuance, as even a casual gesture, passing remark, or decorous object in the room conveys valuable signals about the current status of their affair. The novella abruptly begins in medias res, as a defiant and preoccupied Hannele does not even bother to lift her head from her adjustments on the completed doll, only "curtly" (75) acknowledging the presence of her friend, Mitchka; Hannele's focus is directed at gleefully dressing the little manikin that she has created as an ingenious form of revenge for Hepburn's pattern of inattention to her awkward status as his mistress and for his persistent lack of formulated plans for their future. Indeed, her delight in such professional handicraft extends to her momentary use of the doll to ridicule, in Mitchka's presence, the proud Captain with whom she is so intensely involved: by ceremoniously holding the doll "head downwards" with its "arms wildly turned out" (75), she reveals Hepburn's body in a conspicuously undignified posture that mockingly reveals his private anatomy to the reader and to her gossipy friend. As this scene later confirms, Mitchka emanates--in a marvelously oxymoronic phrase--"a roguish coyness" (75), amounting to an odd blend of erotic assertiveness combined with a nagging fear about her vulnerable position as a close friend of an outspoken German woman who is the paramour of a Scottish captain in the occupying British army. As for Mitchka's lover, the awkwardly ignored Martin--an attractive and defeated officer manifesting a firm military demeanor--it is noteworthy that "one could see the war in his face" (77). Thus appears the first explicit reference in the novella to the lingering, destructive effect of the Great War on the men who survived. In this sense, Lawrence's short novel serves as a reminder that "the lost generation" remains as applicable to the winning and losing soldiers stationed in the Rhineland in 1921 as it more famously applies to the expatriots and artists on the Left Bank of Paris so memorably recalled by Hemingway. This novella conveys a wider scope of socio-cultural authority than is generally acknowledged, as it dramatizes the lingering damage to the personal life and the inevitable fracturing of the emotional stability occasioned by the First World War. (7)
Mitchka may have an aristocratic title but she has become neurotic in her excessive anxiety over the unpredictable or the unfamiliar: she feels discomforted by what she alleges is Hepburn's strange and indefinable difference from other men, a quality in his temperament that agitates her to the point of unwarranted fear. The aura of mystery in the Captain is even embodied architecturally by the isolate location of his attic apartment and adjoining roof, which "seemed high, remote, in the sky" (78). This quality of his self-imposed distancing and aloofness and its accompanying traces of chronic indecisiveness and perplexity represent for Hannele a major aspect of his sexual allure, an attractive inscrutability that she contemplates several times in the work. In his essay "Love Was Once A Little Boy," written in 1925 and briefly cited by Leavis in his discussion of The Captain's Doll, Lawrence asserts a view of human character that might suggest why Hannele's passion for him is based on her accurate perception of his unorthodox demeanor: "If we were men, if we were women, our individualities would be lonely and a bit mysterious" (342). The Countess will be variously enraged and charmed by Hepburn's often inexplicable motivation, peculiar moodiness, and disturbing incapacity for action, but she will never lose her essential infatuation with him.
Hepburn is unusually late in his return to the apartment, and Hannele is angry about his tardiness as well as the increasingly tense and unresolved nature of their affair. In a superb, two-minute interlude that demonstrates Lawrence's skill in dramatizing the intricacies of emotion by capturing her silent gestures and random movements, Hannele now reveals the intensity of her connection to the Captain even as she provides evidence of her accumulated discontent:
She went to the table and looked at his letter-clip with letters in it and at the sealing wax and his stamp-box, touching things and moving them a little, just for the sake of contact, not really noticing what she touched. Then she took a pencil, and in stiff Gothic characters began to write her name--Johanna zu Rassentlow--time after time her own name--and then once, bitterly, curiously, with a curious sharpening of her nose: Alexander Hepburn. (78)
Note the surfacing of her unselfconscious possessiveness, tinged with cutting vindictiveness--all reflected in her purposeful displacement of the objects she touches. There also exists that reality about her love-life that she cannot deny: Hannele's passionate feelings for Hepburn are emphasized in her compulsive need for physical contact with the items that belong to him. Even the words she writes reveal her inability to get beyond the ego-defenses of her own anger. Again in "Love Was Once A Little Boy," Lawrence writes admonishingly of humanity's all too common habit of relying on "the dreary individuality of ego" (341), and Hannele documents this inclination as she inscribes her own name "time after time," and then (only "once" and "bitterly") the name of the Captain. No romantic digressions for her, no desire amid her displeasure to wistfully combine her first name with Hepburn's last name in playful contemplation of unlikely legal union someday with her lover. In that same essay by Lawrence--a work that strangely reads as a direct gloss on The Captain's Doll four years earlier--Lawrence pertinently describes ego as a "doll-like entity," a "manikin" made into its "ridiculous likeness" to the real individual (345). The interconnections between this totemic doll and the defensive mechanism of ego--as it works in Hannele and Hepburn--will function as a major theme in the novella. A version of the omnipresent incubus doll, whether as a manikin, newspaper picture, or painting, will accompany the lovers from the Rhineland, to Munich, and to the Tyrol.
While she continues to peruse Hepburn's room, Hannele passes his large telescope and "stood for some minutes with her fingers on the barrel" (78)--an oddly extended interlude ("some minutes" seems grotesquely long!) that in such prolonged intimacy of contact appears admiringly phallic and angrily aggressive at the same time. She shows no inclination to look beyond the limits of self by peering through the telescope to the Lawrencian version of the transcendent unknown; with the sounds of Hepburn's entrance, she relies on her self-protective habits as she quickly "picked up her puppet when she heard him on the stairs" (78). As a thoroughly "modern woman" who embodies some of the mannerisms Lawrence criticizes in the essay, she used the doll to vent her anger by making him, for the moment, "cut off like a doll from any mystery" ("Love Was Once" 346). When Hepburn energetically greets her, Hannele glances at him but purposely does not respond. To the degree that such awkward silence from her does not faze the courteous Captain, it seems likely that he has encountered such strategic pouting from her on other occasions. Yet even given her passive-aggressive temperament so memorably charted in this foundational opening scene, Hannele's dependency on the doll for petty vengeance on Hepburn must be considered in light of the extenuating circumstances of her predicament: she is the committed and monogamous lover of a prominent and married member of a victorious military force that understandably has established certain guidelines for the personal conduct of the citizens of a defeated country. Displaced in her own land, disconnected from the perquisites of her aristocratic lineage, and marginalized in her semi-clandestine affair, Hannele also must be considered a distinct casualty of the war. When Hepburn explains that his lateness was caused by the troubling notification of his wife's discovery of the Captain's ongoing affair with an unnamed woman, he too calmly explains to Hannele that notions of decorum require his attempt to mollify his wife's displeasure by joining her at the hotel for a month. He appears relatively undisturbed by the pretense and hypocrisy that support these convenient plans for expedient restitution with his wife. For legitimate and for self-serving reasons, Hannele is outspoken about the outlandishness of his strategy and the offensive aloofness of his demeanor. Hepburn comes across as a dim and troubled figure here despite his statement of tentative plans. He remains less bothered by the peculiarity of his marital relationship than by his own chronic and disturbing inability to articulate any confident decision about his future with Mrs. Hepburn or with Hannele; he mumbles a disconcerting series of "I don't know" (82) phrases when Hannele pushes him to develop a sensible blueprint for his life in the months and years ahead.
Amid his lethargy and unhappiness, the Captain still retains a full measure of sexual interest in Hannele, and he wants to make love to her that night--a desire not unrelated, of course, to his need to mollify her displeasure over his general passivity. In the following exasperated utterance, he combines erotic desire with the signature of a downcast nihilism that he memorably asserts with a god-like indifference to all that surrounds him: "Nothing in time or space matters to me" (84). It is a line that will resonate throughout The Captain's Doll and will take on mythic significance as the fiction develops. Hepburn's hybrid identity of both a wounded man on earth and an oddly vulnerable deity will function as a key thematic element and as an important guide to the condition of his soul. In John Vickery's impressive study of the literary impact of The Golden Bough, he writes that Lawrence's "mythopeic vision [is] grounded" in substantial measure in the figurative patterns of Frazer's monumental volume, and that this pattern often reveals itself by way of "a dual level on which the characters are operant: as human beings with roots in Lawrence's own experience and as mythical figures" who are used by him to "define the incarnation of qualities and actions otherwise inexplicable to mankind" (294). Lawrence has not yet revealed in this novella the myth that he will employ to explain the complexities and urgencies of the Captain's emotions and actions. Thus this extraordinary opening scene concludes with a dichotomous Hepburn initiating sex with an annoyed but still responsive Hannele, the woman who receives the advances of a man who seems only partly human: "He kissed her with half-discernible, dim kisses, and touched her throat [....] it was all like a mystery to her, as if one of the men from Mars were loving her" (84).
The Captain's aggravating qualities of indecision and aloofness are immediately evident when Hannele accosts him on the roof as he examines the moon and stars through the telescope. Her lack of interest in the transcendent is revealed again when she refuses his offer to briefly glance through the impressive lens. His mood in this meeting with her seems resigned, fatigued, and conspicuously unhappy. Hepburn fully realizes that his pleasure in the relationship with Hannele is now complicated by his wife's interference and threats, by the persistence of Hannele's anger, by the increasing awareness of the authorities concerning his extra-marital affair, and by the heavy burden of his own palpably deepening, postwar depression. His only escape is through the telescope as he surveys the quiet majesty of the firmament, and in his need for this available recourse he anticipates the crux of a highly confessional passage from an essay Lawrence will write in a few years, "The Real Thing." These are the relevant lines from this evocative article, originally published just after Lawrence's death, in Scribner's Magazine in June 1930:
What makes life good to me is the sense that even if I am sick and ill, I am alive to the depth of my soul, and in touch, somewhere in touch with the vivid life of the cosmos. Somehow my life draws strength from the depths of the universe. [...] It is when men lose their contact with this eternal life-flame, and become merely personal, things in themselves, instead of things kindled in the flame, that the fight between men and women begins. (310)
Note how the essay also encompasses the "objectification" motif ("things in themselves") Hannele has introduced by her controversial creation of the doll.
In the ensuing conversation between them about how Hepburn will handle the interference from his wife, he admits--to the consternation of Hannele--that he will rejoin Mrs. Hepburn the next day. The Captain also matter-of-factly grants to Hannele that he now must make love to his wife, describing the duty as a form of connubial obligation that he doesn't mind "if it's only for a short time" (93)--referring, I must presume, to the frequency of the love making rather than the duration of the act. As an understandably stupefied Hannele contemplates both Hepburn's plans for this prostitution of his passion and the idiosyncratic passivity of his reactions, she thinks once more of the odd doubleness of her man, that he is "not to be regarded from a human point of view" (94); it is a notion that seems even more persuasive when he further asserts in his characteristic tone of mournful resignation that "I don't count" and "one matters so very little" (94). His perspective here resonates with the symptoms of clinical depression, and his nihilistic view of the integrity of the self is profoundly antagonistic to Lawrence's normative insistence throughout his career on the sanctity of each human being's life; it is a sanctity Lawrence proudly describes in Fantasia of the Unconscious, completed just a few weeks before he writes The Captain's Doll, as "the I am I," a being "set utterly apart and distinguished from all that is the rest of the Universe" (80). Hannele finally responds to Hepburn's pathetic self-abnegation with the thought about his paradoxical self that she earlier contemplated: "Was this a man?" (94).
While Hannele remains aware of the Captain's depressed state, an aspect of his allure for her is the inimitable way his sadness seems to enhance that appeal of his inscrutable self: "The curious way he had of turning his head to listen--to listen to what--as if he heard something in the stars. The strange look, like destiny, in his wide-open, almost staring dark eyes. The beautiful line of his brow that seemed always to have a certain cloud on it" (106). In addition to this passage's characteristic imagery of procreative darkness so common in Lawrence's work, the sense of destiny, of communication with the stars, and of the clouded brow suggests a wounded man who also carries the imagery of a troubled god. (8) One of the central motifs in Vickery's research on the impact of The Golden Bough on Lawrence is that his "acquaintance with Frazer sharpened his sense of man's participation in the divine," and thus the mythical and archetypal allusions that follow from "the great deities of comparative religion" are used by Lawrence "to define the mental state of a character and so to relate that state to larger cultural issues either drawn from Lawrence's reading or from the world scene as it was at the time of the novel's composition" (294-95). Before addressing the issue of which god Lawrence employs to further enhance his portrait of Captain Hepburn, it is necessary to examine the implications of his wounded soul and the compelling literary anachronism that accompanies such investigation.
It is after the accidental death of his wife that Hepburn's mood takes a significant turn downward: he descends more deeply into the depression initiated by his experience in the war and exacerbated both by the unresolved affair with Hannele and by the lack of passionate feeling for his wife. As noted earlier, recent criticism has investigated too shrewdly the possibility that Hepburn murdered his wife, a crime committed, it is argued, to eliminate the major impediment to his life with Hannele. But such an act in no way squares with the direct evidence of Hepburn's own mood after her death, which hardly appears as regret or atonement for any action he has undertaken. Part of his sadness after the accident must be attributed to guilt over the heavy burden of his marital dilemma: he had felt trapped not by a wife he despised, but by a wife he now realizes was equally trapped in their doomed marriage. The poignancy of his confessional explanation to Hannele of that litany of Mrs. Hepburn's needs, peculiarities, and insecurities--offered through theme-and-variation on three caged-bird metaphors--is that he has suffered his own form of imprisonment, locked in a marriage that requires him to cater to a neurotic wife who combines willful pride with irrepressible childishness. There is no reason to suspect foul play on his part. His reaction to her death is not the calibrated relief that sends him to Hannele, but a prolonged despair that keeps him secluded and unapproachable for weeks.
In his brief meeting with Hannele before his seclusion, he articulates a pervasive anguish about the lack of sufficient compensations in life for the heartache that is endured: "In a great measure there's nothing" (113). Lawrence then describes the Captain's self-imposed isolation and his wounded emotions as the symptoms of major emotional difficulty:
The chief thing that the captain knew, at this juncture, was that a hatchet had gone through the ligatures and veins that connected him with the people of his affection, and that he was left with the bleeding ends of all his vital human relationships. [...] The emotional flow between him and all the people he knew and cared for was broken, and for the time being he was conscious only of the cleavage. The cleavage that had occurred between him and his fellow men, the cleft that was now between him and them. [...] What had happened had been preparing for a long time. (113-114)
The graphic metaphor of flowing blood and ripped tissue to describe Hepburn's feelings reflects the psychosomatic aspects of his deterioration; that crucial phrase, "for a long time," indicates that the death of Mrs. Hepburn concludes a process of inner turmoil that he has experienced since returning from the war. The Captain now cuts himself off from all people (including Hannele), and soon he lacks the requisite energy and desire even for passing conversation: "He shrank with a feeling almost of disgust from his friends and acquaintances and their expressions of sympathy. [...] He did not want to share emotions or feelings of any sort. He wanted to be by himself, essentially, even if he was moving about other people" (114). When solipsism is so unqualified, and when basic emotions are so infiltrated with intense nihilism, Hepburn's feelings affect his organic self:
He could not get over his disgust that people insisted on his sharing their emotions. He could not bear their emotions, neither their activities. [...] But the moment they approached him to spread their feelings over him or to entangle him in their activities a helpless disgust came up in him, and until he could get away, he felt sick, even physically. (114)
The sound and sense of this symptomology must be eerily familiar to readers of modernist literature. The unmistakable accent in the passages above--conveyed by imagery, tone, and psychological urgency--resembles the war-wounded and worldweary characters in Hemingway's fiction in the mid-1920s, and especially the beleaguered Krebs in "Soldier's Home" from In Our Time, a young man who returns from the battle in Europe with damaged emotions and a need for isolation: "He did not want any consequences ever again. He wanted to live without consequences" (113). In an interesting coincidence of literary history, Lawrence will review In Our Time in 1927, six years after he writes The Captain's Doll. In his incisive, brief remarks (later published in Phoenix) on what Lawrence presciently describes as the Nick Adams prototype, he selects Krebs and "Soldier's Home" for special mention. His keen perspective on Hemingway's early collection and on Krebs's psyche could easily describe a numb and virtually sleepwalking Hepburn after the war, and especially after the sudden death of his wife:
Avoid one thing only: getting connected up. Don't get connected up. If you get held by anything, break it. Don't be held. Break it and get away. [... ]Mr. Hemingway is really good because he's perfectly straight about it. He is like Krebs, in that devastating Oklahoma sketch, he doesn't love anybody, and it nauseates him to have to pretend he does. He doesn't even want to love anybody, he doesn't want to go anywhere, he doesn't want to do anything. (336)
Unlike the younger, unmarried, and inexperienced Krebs, Hepburn is a mature man who eventually will attempt to renew himself through human contact because, at bottom, "Alexander Hepburn was not the man to live alone" (115). As he slowly begins to recover, his mind turns back to Hannele; Hepburn realizes that although he may wish to renew their affair, he will not (as with Krebs's aversion) base the relationship on love. Hemingway writes about the skepticism that informs Krebs's position on women: "He did not want to get into the intrigue and the politics. He did not want to have to do any courting. He did not want to tell any more lies" (113). As Hepburn contemplates a return to Hannele, he too wishes to avoid the complexities and platitudes of emotional entanglement: "Love; it means so many things. It meant the feeling he had for his wife. He had loved her. But he shuddered at the thought of having to go through such love again. [...] To him, Hannele did not exactly represent rosy life. Rather a hard destiny. He didn't adore her" (115).
When the Captain finally summons the energy to track down Hannele in Munich, he is first entranced rather than angered by the sight of the doll displayed so conspicuously in the shop window. This third appearance of the doll in the novella, following its role in the first scene and later its appearance in the studio, is important because of the tell-tale attitude it engenders in a recently depressed, confused, and unconfident man: Hepburn is gratified to see that the doll is "losing none of its masculinity" (116). In Vickery's provocative discussion of Lawrence's awareness of the role of magic and totemic motivation outlined in Frazer's The Golden Bough, he observes that The Captain's Doll is one of the stories that "contain characters who exercise and react to spells that are both deliberately imposed and the byproduct of the impact of one personality on another" (308). Although Vickery does not elaborate on the specific relevance of this insight for the novella, his remarks suggest the extent to which the doll is central to the action. In a sense, the image of this manikin--as it moves from the Rhineland to Munich and then to the Tyrol--dictates the movement and patterning of the plot: the doll casts a spell over the Captain, thematically because of the creative handiwork of Hannele, and structurally because of the stages its presence initiates in the development of the relationship between the lovers. In Munich, Hepburn's fascination with the iconic, masculine self he projects onto the doll prompts further consideration by him on changing the texture of any future love affairs: "The temptation this time was, to be adored, one of those fresh young things would have adored him as if he were a God" (116). But he senses that such easy subservience from inexperienced women would not energize him. Thus he follows Hannele to Kaprun to convince her to yield to him the directive role in a marriage that is abstractly "beyond love" but well short of servile adoration. Just before he leaves Munich, his anger at Hannele's creation of the doll is refueled when he discovers the newspaper article that also reproduces the Worpswede still-life. The painting contains the image of the manikin, a doll whose masculine energy is satirized by its demeaning placement amid the arrangement of sun-flowers and poached eggs on toast.
The lengthy excursion by Hepburn and Hannele comprises more than one-third of the novella; it encompasses the Captain's attempt to regain sufficient confidence both to discourage Hannele from pursuing a doomed marriage with a pompous and asexual bureaucrat and to convince her to embrace the life with him that he proposes in the final pages. As they begin their eventful day-trip to the Karlinger Glacier, its huge mass in the distance is anthropomorphized as "coldly grinning in the sky" (125), an early indication, from a human perspective, of its forbidding altitude and icy majesty. The Captain's primary objective in this vigorous trek through the Tyrolese Alps is to progress through the three levels of the journey until attaining the bottom section of the massive glacier. Such an ambitious goal runs counter to his intense dislike of mountains, climbing, and the tourist-congestion he encounters along the way. Hepburn must also work against (as Hemingway would put it) his instinctual fear of high elevations and the sobering reality of his lack of proper conditioning for this arduous hike. Hepburn's recent history of emotional vulnerability and physical weakness is not helped by the vista of the looming mountains or by the sight of the exuberant and lusty young men early in the morning. For Hepburn to believe that he can convince Hannele to join him in marriage on his terms, he first must buttress his ego by completing the excursion and, in his own precise way, by conquering the glacier. In this sense there exists between them on this trip a sexual competition and continual tension that is archetypal in its configuration, for it extends beyond his desire to resolve the key issues of primacy in their relationship.
Hepburn actually brings along an image of the offending totem--reflected in the Worpswede painting--to document his belief that Hannele betrayed him with her objectifying handiwork. Lawrence engrains the problems in the affair between this man and woman within the generic context of the natural scenery they traverse. The precise topography of the mountainous area suggests the stakes of sexual power that will be decided during their multi-level climb. As they begin the ascent and encounter Level One, Lawrence's imagery is explicit on the prominence of the male and female principles that frame the excursion. The landscape vividly announces an alpine brand of gender typology, complete with sexual organs, pubic hair, and the imminence of mythological copulation initiated from the heavens:
So the two climbed slowly up the steep ledge of a road. The valley was just a mountain cleft, cleft sheer in the hard, living rock, with black trees like hair flourishing in this secret, naked place of the earth. At the bottom of the open wedge forever roared the rampant, insatiable water. The sky above was like a sharp wedge forcing its way into the earth's cleavage, and that eternal ferocious water was like the steel edge of the wedge, the terrible tip biting in into the rocks' intensity. (129)
Throughout the vicissitudes of this busy day, the two hikers traverse a landscape that itself appears to move under their feet as they climb. The mountains seem alive with a kinetic process of motion and emotion that often resembles the actions of the two human beings who negotiate the highland trails and ravine bypasses. (9) There is more to this phenomenon for Lawrence than a mere illustration of his justly praised ability to capture "the spirit of place." In Movements in European History, a wide-ranging textbook published just a few months before he begins writing The Captain's Doll, Lawrence, in effect, offers a possible reason for this livid use of topography, as he insists that "the mysterious and untellable motion within the heads of man is in some way related to motion within the earth" (9). The climbers at times appear to climb in and on their own three-dimensional, spatial world, all within a resistant domain that partakes of magic and unknown power that they can neither master nor understand. In this regard, Vickery is correct in his generalization that
Lawrence utilizes Frazer's concept of taboo as negative magic and as a dangerous physical power that needs to be insulated. For Lawrence, it is a means of emphasizing both the living quality of the natural world and also the protective nature of space in creating geographical isolation. (298)
By claiming such a magical connection between the vagaries of human emotion and the spatial geographies of the earth, and by investing his images of landscape with sexual archetypes and gender conflicts, Lawrence begins to mythologize aspects of Hepburn and Hannele's experience as they climb "the eternal side of that valley" (130). He also stays focused on the personal case of Hepburn's condition; the Captain is depicted as a man so burdened with sadness and so sensitive to the toll taken by his emotional extremity that (like the Nick Adams prototype) his physical state can deteriorate at any moment--as when "people swarming touristy in those horrible mountains, made him feel almost sick" (130). This dichotomous texture to Hepburn's experience --its ability to universalize the journey and to individualize Hepburn's own pathology--is craftily integrated by Lawrence through his use of a poignant myth that appropriates much of the relevant imagery and themes of The Captain's Doll. It is the legendary tale of Balder that permeates this novella, just as the story of this beloved god functions as the most prominent totemic principle outlined in Frazer's The Golden Bough, a favorite work of Lawrence's that is very much on his mind in 1921 as he revises Fantasia of the Unconscious and completes final versions of The Fox and The Captain's Doll. (10) Central to this myth is the theme of betrayal, death, and recovery, embroidered with the imagery of a poison plant (mistletoe) that is used in an arrow to kill the Norse god when he is shot through the chest. The myth pulls together Lawrence's preoccupations with ego, vulnerability, and renewal in The Captain's Doll, as he adapts elements of this Scandinavian story to suit the imposing landscape in the novella and the specific urgencies of the lovers. The god Balder is the son of the great Norse Odin, and as Frazer recounts the story originally told "in the younger or prose Edda" (704), Balder is betrayed by his mother, the goddess Frigg, who carelessly reveals to her son's enemies that he is not immune to the poison of mistletoe, a fact that enables the devious Loki to convince the blind and unknowing Hother to shoot Balder with the deadly arrow.
Balder's circumstance of careless betrayal by a beloved and trusted confidant recalls the gratuitous display in the studio by Hannele of the doll as well as her disingenuous confirmation of the model's name to Mrs. Hepburn. Balder was seen as a figure of strength and command until the goddess undermines him through public disclosure of his weakness; his death is commemorated even today by Norwegians who enact a series of rituals and memorial rites described in The Golden Bough as integral to the renewal and resurrection aspect of the myth and as fundamental to the concept of Balder as a vulnerable mangod whose spirit has been revived. Frazer prefaces his narration of the myth with a profusion of natural imagery and sexual iconography that sounds startlingly similar to Lawrence's own description of the kinetic and eroticized landscape in the novella. Here is the Frazer passage that, consciously or not, Lawrence has recreated in The Captain's Doll: "On one of the bays of the beautiful Sogne Fiord, which penetrates far into the depths of the Norwegian mountains, with their somber pine forests and their lofty cascades dissolving into spray before they reach the dark water of the fiord far below [...]" (704-05). Two months after Lawrence, in Fantasia of the Unconscious, announces his admiration for The Golden Bough, the power and sound of water in the deep ravines described in The Captain's Doll continue to echo the Norse mythology: "Who would have thought that the soft sky of light--and the soft foam of water could thrust and penetrate into the dark strong earth?" (129).
As the climb continues, they pass a group of non-poisonous relatives of mistletoe--hare-bell, mountain bell, bilberry, and cranberry--plants that soon will be replaced in the scenic foliage, when Hepburn and Hannele gain greater altitude, by deadly members of the actual mistletoe family. Near the end of Level One, the symbolism of the Balder myth becomes more prominent and ominous, as Hepburn discovers that "the high air bit him in his chest, like a viper" (130), a symptom of pulmonary distress that the chronically ill Lawrence knows well. In a significant exchange of repartee, Hannele notices Hepburn's distress and asks him, "if you don't like it, why did you come?" His simple and honest response, "I had to try" (130), surely would satisfy the developing ethic of the young and future writer of In Our Time. Hepburn pushes himself onward without any fuller explanation of why he feels compelled to make this difficult journey. At this point Lawrence demonstrates his novelistic gift of perfect dramatic timing, as Hepburn and Hannele briefly encounter a young couple descending the trail. The mythological reference is no mere coincidence, nor is the sense of their tense estrangement from each other:
And the young Tannhauser, the young Siegfried, this young Balder beautiful strode, climbing down the rocks, marching and swinging with his alpenstock. And immediately after the youth came a maiden with hair on the wind and her shirt--breasts open, striding in corduroy breeches, rumpled worsted stockings, thick boots, a knapsack and alpenstock. She passed without greeting, and our pair stopped in angry silence and watched her dropping down the mountain side. (131)
Beyond the explicit mention of Siegfried, Tannhauser, and Balder--all mythic figures who suffered various betrayals from women--the vignette portrays the image of an energetic and self-contained woman who appears confident and intentionally aloof as she passes by without a word. The young couple, walking at separate paces and distanced from each other, offers a momentary reflection of the unspoken power struggle transpiring between Hepburn and Hannele; the Countess defiantly claims "wonderful, wonderful, to be high up," and the moody Captain, who is irritated by the climb as well as by Hannele's proud zest for the physical exertion, announces his own difficult adjustment to the ascent: "I want to live near sea level. I am no mountain topper" (131). As the Level One segment ends, Hannele petulantly asks him why he doesn't like the journey: "And if you don't like it, why should you try to spoil it for me?" His response, "I hate it" (130), asserts his feelings but withholds his courageous reason for undertaking the journey.
By the time the lovers emerge from the lowland section of the climb, Lawrence has reiterated two essential facts about Hepburn: the poor condition of his physical and psychological self, and the relevance of his man-god characterization to the myth of Balder. Hannele momentarily gloats over her willing role as teasing betrayer of his manhood; however god-like he may appear to her in his inscrutable eternality, she exultantly notes how he suffers from the day's exertion: "His eyes were black and set, he seemed so motionless, as if he were eternal facing these upper facts. She thrilled with triumph. She felt he was overcome" (132). When they enter Level Two of the trail, Lawrence emphasizes the convergence of the mythological identity of Hepburn with an essential sadness in him that is both personal and infinite, as it echoes through time like the pastoral clanging of the cowbells: "The sound always awoke in him a primeval, almost hopeless melancholy. Always made him feel navre" (132). Like its often existentially related term, l'angoise, the French word navre connotes a deep and abiding forlornness that in its solipsistic intensity connects through time with the deities and humans who have experienced such deep sadness. As Hepburn moves through a primeval landscape that resonates backward to mythic history, he is reminded of the universality of the sexual struggle in which he is engaged with Hannele. He begins to feel the adrenaline of battle:
He was happy in that upper valley, that first rocking cradle of early wonder. He liked to see the great fangs and slashes of ice and snow that thrust down into the rock, as if the ice had bitten into the flesh of the earth. And from the fang-tip, the hoarse water crying its birth-cry, rushing down. (133)
But the wounded man-god must remain vigilant if he is to avoid his early death, for nearby exists the profusion of poisonous plants belonging to the precise mistletoe family that killed Balder, all commonly known as "devil herbs." Too high on the mountain for mistletoe to grow, its herbal relatives provide a danger that Lawrence's prose registers with the lyric beauty of a Keatsian ode:
Many stars of pale-lavender gentian, touched with earth-colour: and then monkshood, yellow primrose monkshood, and sudden places full of dark monkshood. That dark-blue, terrible colour of the strange rich monkshood made Hepburn look and look again. How did the ice come by that lustrous blue-purple intense darkness?--and by that royal poison? That laughing-snake gorgeousness of much monkshood. (133)
While Hepburn slowly revives and remains pleased with his progress on the second level, he takes out the Worpswede painting and explains to Hannele the source of his discontent: namely that she not only cruelly objectified him through the manikin, but that she further demeaned him by selling the object as a mere commodity on the open market. Hennele, of course, is not without significant defense for her actions, angrily explaining to him that she also felt betrayed, first by his passivity about their future plans, and then by his abrupt abandonment of her when he yielded to the manipulative designs of his wife. Gradually the Captain becomes more hyperbolic and pompous in his protestations in this second argument during the day's excursion. Amid their verbal battle for strategic advantage Lawrence always maintains the palpable existence of a nurturant and underlying bond between them. It remains for Hannele--distinctly recalling Ursula's role with Birkin--to provide some sensible perspective on Hepburn's pretensions. Here Lawrence employs the forging imagery of .re and darkness from Women in Love to remind us of Hepburn's lingering power and his rhetorical excess:
She looked in wonder on his dark, glowing, ineffectual face. It seemed to her like a dark flame burning in the daylight and in the ice-rain, very ineffectual and unnecessary.
"You must be a little mad," she said superbly, "to talk like that about the mountains. They are so much bigger than you."
"No," he said. "No! They are not." "What!" she laughed aloud. "The mountains are not bigger than you? But you are extraordinary."
"They are not bigger than me," he cried. "Any more than you are bigger than me if you stand on a ladder. They are not bigger than me. They are less than me."
"Oh! Oh!" she cried in wonder and ridicule. "The mountains are less than you!"
"Yes," he cried, "they are less."
He seemed suddenly to go silent and remote as she watched him. The speech has gone out of his face again, he seemed to be standing a long way off from her, beyond some border-line. And in the midst of her indignant amazement she watched him with wonder and a touch of fascination. To what country did he belong then?--to what dark, different atmosphere. (137-38)
Hannele is quite right to wonder about Hepburn's unearthly "difference" that exists "a long way off from her, beyond some border-line." Lawrence himself is preoccupied with a concept of the border-line as he writes The Captain's Doll and creates the mythic-human composite who is Captain Hepburn. On October 17, 1921, three weeks before he completes the novella, he writes a revealing letter to Edward Garnett about Emile Lucka's book, Grenzen de Seele, and in it Lawrence reveals his latest thoughts on the issues of male primacy and leadership implicit in Hannele's admiring but skeptical view of her lover:
I think Grenzen der Seele is really very interesting. But you know I'm the last person in the world to judge as to what other people will like. Lucka's study of Grenz-leute--the border-line people--as contrasted with the middle-people seems to me very illuminating and fertile. The Grenzleute are those who are on the verge of human understanding, and who widen the frontiers of human knowledge all the time--and the frontiers of life. (Letters IV 99) (11)
Lawrence believes firmly in his own genius, and it is obvious that he regards himself as an often betrayed and misunderstood member of the border-line elite who "widen the frontiers" of life and knowledge. But a belief in his own visionary art in no way inhibits Lawrence in his fiction from using his powers of negative-capability so that Hannele can undercut Hepburn's protestations the way Frieda would question his own assumed authority. Hannele's fascination with the Captain's odd demeanor and hyperbolic stances during the excursion merges in her mind with her awareness of his inscrutability throughout their affair. Lawrence's reiteration of similar terms, in the following passage refracted from Hannele's perspective, serves to remind the Countess that Hepburn's position in this abstract, border-line category is beyond easy understanding: "He was a puzzle to her: eternally incomprehensible in his feeling and even in his sayings. [...] He had some of the fascination of the incomprehensible. [...] And the strange passion of his, that gave out incomprehensible flashes [...]" (139). Such a mixture of qualities in the Captain comprises the essential aspect of the mytho-realistic quality of the novella, a texture that symmetrically reflects the three levels of the journey to the glacier: on one level Hepburn is a moody, lonely, and vulnerable human being; on another level a pontificating yet vulnerable symbol of a mythic god; and on the third level, a committed and headstrong lover who plans to propose to Hannele during the trip. He remains elusive of easy categorization, and it is relevant to note the words by Frazer of "border-line" demarcation as he begins to discuss the myth of Balder in The Golden Bough, describing the Norse man-god as a "deity whose life might in a sense be said to be neither in heaven nor on earth but between the two" (703). (12) The voyage to the high glacier, it might be argued, stands between the heavenly and the earthly, and such positioning by Frazer recalls the words of Hepburn when earlier he irritated Hannele with his glib comment, "nothing in time or space matters to me" (84). Is it not psychologically likely that Lawrence periodically required a confirming sense of his own confident membership amid the border-line elite in order to assert the elements of his visionary art? In fact, as he contemplates additional writing projects while he struggles with the final scenes of the novella, he confides to Mabel Dodge Stern, "Can't write yet, not till I have crossed another border" (Letters IV 111).
As they approach the third and final level on the Mooserboden trail--the section that will bring them to the edge of the Karlinger Glacier--an unrelenting Hepburn continues his personal battle with the demon of high elevation, and Hannele feels "a sense of ecstasy" while "it just .lled him with terror" (140). Nearing the intimidating and breathtaking mass of ice, Lawrence again stresses its "livingness" as he employs the animate phrasing of "silent living glacier" and "like a grand beast" (141) to emphasize his belief in the kinetic quality of the mountain landscape, a belief that is not unlike the primitive faith of ancient civilizations described throughout The Golden Bough. The flow of Hepburn's human emotions during the journey remains super-sensitive to the changing scenery he encounters. In Movements in European History, Lawrence provides what amounts to an anti-theory to explain this process. He asserts that the subtle motions and metamorphoses of the glacial topography, and their essential connection to Hepburn's own feelings, are not amenable to any rational analysis: "Logic cannot hold good beforehand, even in the inorganic world" (9). Lawrence's confidence throughout his life in the primacy of a "blood-knowledge" (13) in each individual explains Hannele's own perplexity about Hepburn, that "there seemed to her no logic and no reason in what he felt and said" (139). On Hepburn's similarly unarticulated desire to undertake the trek despite his considerable fear and discomfort, another passage from Movements in European History is pertinent. The following lines on the need for transcendence recall again Hepburn's telescope as the early indication of his need to get beyond the limits of self: "There is no reason why such a passion, such a craving should arise. All that the reason can do, in discovering the logical consequence of such passion and its effect, afterwards is to realize that life was so, mysteriously, creatively, and beyond cavil" (9). When pushed by an exultant Hannele who asks if he is glad he came, he convincingly replies (even given his trepidations), "very glad I came" (141). Lawrence then phrases the fact of Hepburn's triumph with the mythic terminology of an internal conflict engaged and surmounted--a conflict contrasted with the superficial thrills of the tourists and the jaded professionalism of the local mountaineers: "His eyes were dilated with excitement that was ordeal or mystic battle rather than the Bergheil ecstasy" (141). Hepburn has demonstrated a courageous willingness to face his fears during a period in his life when he is unsure of his recuperative power and indecisive about the resolution of his affair with Hannele. Lawrence formulated the essentiality of such courage in an unembroidered statement from Movements in European History that anticipates Hemingway's most obsessive theme: "Manhood is the same in all men, and the chief part of all men" (255). It is this "chief part" that Hepburn will now put to its greatest test as he confronts one additional challenge on this day of "ordeal or mystic battle."
To complete Level Three and attain the base of the glacier is not sufficient victory for the increasingly confident Captain, who now wishes to climb a section of the ice mass and stand on its treacherous face. In the adamancy of this spontaneous decision by Hepburn, he again confirms that next to the guiding imperative of instinctual desire, "logic cannot hold good beforehand" (Movements 9). Rational consideration has no role in his decision to construct a "fourth level" objective in the climb. Thus he leaves an understandably worried Hannele waiting below while he slowly ascends the glacier--and without the proper shoes and climbing equipment for this tricky maneuver over a dangerously steep and slippery surface. The only "logic" involved in this daring act recalls Lawrence's luminous, oxymoronic phrase from The Rainbow, "logic of the soul" (40). (14) Although he remains "frightened of it," the Captain has "a great desire to stand on the glacier" (143). Certainly his desire is not unrelated to the spirited war of the sexes that has been enacted by the lovers during the excursion. Who can know for sure how much his avidity for this attainment of the fourth level is related to his awareness of Hannele's terror at his attempt and to her disinclination to join him in this goal.
The other climbers on the glacier, who are capably assisted by nailed boots and alpine poles, speed past Hepburn as he cautiously moves up the surface of "the great monster" that "was sweating all over" (141) from constant violation by the hikers. Even for the more properly equipped climbers, Lawrence is unequivocal about the real danger here, and he phrases the issue in distinctly pre-Hemingway terms: "being human, they all wanted to go beyond their fear" (142). Hannele "down below was crying [to(sic)]him to come back," and "as if the ice breathed" (143) in synchrony with the intensity of Hepburn's effort, he reaches the top of the glacier section. He is then faced with the most formidable prospect for any successful ice climb--the inevitable descent, in which gravity is as much an enemy as the frozen surface itself. Hepburn smartly solves this challenge (perhaps drawing on his wartime experience?) when he discovers that "by striking in his heels sideways with sufficient sharpness he could keep his footing no matter how steep the slope" (143). The Captain's reaction to such a significant victory is memorable in terms of the premonitions of literary history: it is conveyed with precisely the imagery, rhythm, and restraint to be employed by a young writer from Illinois, who in 1921 is just a few years from his celebrated creation of Nick Adams. For here is Lawrence writing about Hepburn's achievement, affirming it through the benedictive warmth of nature, the stark simplicity of unadorned adjectives, and the emblematic reminder of a wound as the visible badge of triumph: "The sun was shining warmly for a moment, and he felt happy, though his finger ends were bleeding a little from the ice" (144). (15) The ascent completed, adrenaline pumping, the last remnants of depression lifted, Captain Hepburn feels the pleasure surmounting his fear: he "need never go again" (144). (16)
Immediately building on his feelings of confidence and conquest, Hepburn for the first time initiates a frank and aggressive discussion with Hannele about what is really on his mind. He asks if she intends to marry von Poldi, a question he could only pose after the successful events of the afternoon. But the canny woman hangs .re in order to elicit from him the more compelling question she knows is coming. Sure enough, he responds to her complaint earlier in the day that he never makes suggestions with the carefully understated comment, "I should suggest that you should marry me" (45). Hepburn then uses the developing conversation to convey to her three important admissions: first, that Hannele's creation of the doll, in light of all the anger and objectification that informed such handiwork, really does him "the greatest possible damage" (147); second, that his reiterated insistence on the lack of "love" in their relationship partly serves his need for a rhetoric of revenge against her; third, that his articulated vision of their affair as necessarily avoiding conventional assertions of love is connected, in part, to the experience of his own tragic and ill-matched marriage. Such a litany of confession by Hepburn is uttered persuasively and honestly, but he also makes it clear that he will not back down from the nonnegotiable terms for marriage that he proposes to Hannele. In one final reference by Lawrence to the Balder myth of mistletoe and arrow, Hepburn lets Hannele know that he still regards the existence of the manikin as a form of betrayal that endangers him: "The doll just sticks in me like a thorn" (151). Hepburn then slowly asserts his precise conditions for legal union in a manner that echoes the words of Birkin from the "Mino" chapter of Women in Love, as he insists that it is Hannele's "highest fate" (152) to follow his lead in the marriage. (17) Although Hannele initially will not accept this chauvinistic demand without some effective verbal jousting, it is evident that she passionately loves her man and will eventually submit to the spirit of his insistence. As she begins to yield to his proposal and program, she intriguingly stops just short of his stipulated terms, arguing that she will not say "promise to honor and obey you" (152) in the public arena of a wedding service. When a supremely self-confident Captain Hepburn--so different in demeanor from his indecisive and passive self earlier in the novella--responds that such a refusal stops short of the letter of his conditions, she yields to his pressure. Yet she saves face by insisting on a slight reformulation of his expectation: "But anyway, I won't say it before the marriage service, need I?" (153). It is a minor victory for her, as his silence gives her the final rejoinder on the subject.
But it is not quite that last word in the work. The date is November 6, 1921, when Lawrence completes The Captain's Doll by resolving a problem he stated in a letter to Earl Brewster four days earlier: "But I have just got it high up in the mountains of the Tyrol, and don't quite know how to get it down without breaking its neck" (Letters IV 109). Such a nervous concern about concluding the novella serves as another way for Lawrence to ask himself how he can resolve tensions between the lovers yet still preserve a delicate and balanced perspective on issues that embrace his life and art; in short, how does he achieve a resolution so Hepburn/ Lawrence can retain the essence of his doctrinal position while Hannele/Frieda can retain the spunk and independence so integral to her character? As noted above, Lawrence's practical, credible solution is to keep the characters sparring until the very end and to include the one pure scene of comedy in the work to enliven their debate; such a scene occurs when an angry Hannele momentarily leaves the Captain behind as she rushes to the bus, precipitating a loud and conflicted exchange of views that is scarcely heard above the din of the motor and wind. Lawrence is not .nished, however, in his goal of finding a conclusion for the work that "gets it down" without breaking the integrity of its structure. This remains a difficult artistic mandate that (as Leavis long ago suggested) must not violate either the complexity of Hannele's character or the echoes of inimitable obstreperousness in Lawrence's feisty wife. The novelist negotiates the aesthetics and biographical sensitivities of this problem with remarkable skill. Just after Hannele modi.es the Captain's insistence about her obedience in marriage, she offers in response to his silence one more capitulation; it is a gesture that finally satis.es Hepburn's anger about the doll and also provides perfect closure for the Balder myth. She obligingly tells him, "Give me that picture, please, will you? I want to burn it" (153). With this wise decision to destroy the image and substance of the doll, Hannele confirms and addresses her recognition of Hepburn's feelings of betrayal. In a sense, the doll has functioned as Hepburn's mistletoe throughout the novella, a totem with a beautiful exterior but with a deadly substance that can poison his life. (18) In destroying this manikin Hannele recalls the words of Frazer in The Golden Bough about the Balder story that must have fascinated Lawrence with their potential for fictional development: "When a person's life is conceived as embodied in a particular object, with the existence of which his own existence is bound up," then if the object is allowed to retain its totemic power, it is "perfectly natural that he should be killed by a blow from it" (812). In her gracious willingness to burn the Worpswede painting of the offending doll, she stabilizes the emotional life of her renewed lover, obliterates the nagging residue of betrayal, and pledges herself to the life with Hepburn she now formally undertakes. (19)
Balbert, Peter. D. H. Lawrence and the Phallic Imagination: Essays on Sexual Identity and Feminist Misreading. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.
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--. "From Lady Chatterley's Lover to The Deer Park: Lawrence, Mailer, and the Dialectic of Erotic Risk." Norman Mailer. Ed. Harold Bloom. Broomall: Chelsea House, 2003. 109-126. Rpt. from Studies in the Novel 22 (1990): 67-81.
--. "Pan and the Appleyness of Landscape: Dread of the Procreative Body in The Princess." Studies in the Novel 34 (2002): 282-301.
--. "Scorched Ego, the Novel, and the Beast: Patterns of Fourth Dimensionality in The Virgin and the Gipsy." Papers on Language and Literature 29 (1993): 395-416.
--. "Ten Men and a Sacred Prostitute: The Psychology of Sex in the Cambridge Edition of The Lost Girl." Twentieth Century Literature 36 (1990): 381-402.
Balbert, Peter, and Phillip Marcus, eds. D. H. Lawrence: A Centenary Consideration. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.
Doherty, Gerald. "A 'Very Funny Story': Figural Play in D. H. Lawrence's The Captain's Doll." D. H. Lawrence Review 18 (1985-86): 5-17.
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Hemingway, Ernest. "Big Two-Hearted River, Part I." The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. The Finca Vigia Edition. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1987. 163-169.
--. "Indian Camp." The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. 67-70.
--"Soldier's Home." The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. 111-116.
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Lawrence, D. H. The Fox, The Captain's Doll, The Ladybird. Ed. Dieter Mehl. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.
--. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, II, 1913-1916. Ed. George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981.
--. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, IV, 1921-24. Ed. Warren Roberts, James T. Boulton, and Elizabeth Mans.eld. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987.
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PETER BALBERT is Professor of English at Trinity University, where he served as Department Chair from 1988-2004. He has published more than twenty articles on D.H. Lawrence, and he is the author of D.H. Lawrence and the Phallic Imagination and D.H. Lawrence and the Psychology of Rhythm, and the co-editor of D.H. Lawrence: A Centenary Consideration.
(1) Leavis also published a major essay, "The Captain's Doll," in his 1976 book, Thoughts, Words, And Creativity: Art and Thought in Lawrence, 92-121.
(2) Among other critics who have noted compelling aspects of similarity between the Hepburn-Lawrence and Hannele-Freida relationships, see Spilka 248-75 and Kinkead-Weeks 686-89. In the recent study of the Lawrence courtship and marriage, Squiers and Talbot, in writing about The Captain's Doll, note "its biographical resonances are richly disguised" (244), as "Lawrence imagines ways of freeing himself from Frieda for a different kind of relationship" (245). Mehl's Introduction to the Cambridge edition of The Captain's Doll also provides precise dates and details on the fact that "the second half of the tale evidently grew out of Lawrence's experiences at Thumersbach and in Germany" (xxiv). In the most recently published biography of Lawrence, John Worthen further confirms that the Lawrences' visit to Austria "provided the setting [...] for the second part" of The Captain's Doll (232). He revealingly describes Lawrence during the period as "setting his house in order" (253), and this summary judgment of the novelist's life and art remains even more pertinent to my approach, as Worthen maintains that this fiction "brilliantly dramatizes both Hepburn's longing for a new kind of relationship and what he is up against, in himself and in Hannele" (254).
(3) Most of the excellent criticism on the novella contributes solid evidence on the energetic role played by Hannele in questioning and engaging Hepburn's real and his merely rhetorical demands, and Leavis also recognizes these crucial qualities in her characterization. But in the last two decades there exists a greater reluctance by critics to assert unequivocally the extent to which Hepburn's developing ideology reflects the largely unqualified extent of Lawrence's own masculinist emphasis in the work. Among those critics willing to state the clarity of the male-leadership component of The Captain's Doll, Rossman understands that the denouemont reflects "Lawrence's increasingly uncompromising tough mood" (296) in regard to the issue of male and female primacy. Ruderman usefully summarizes the conflict between the characters by noting that Hannele essentially yields to the "new relationship that Hepburn chooses," a union that "demands her honor and obedience and refuses her possessiveness" (89-90). Gilbert is correct in her basic argument that "female creative power is more bitterly described and it is definitively defeated" (151), but she seems less aware of the urgencies and weaknesses of Hepburn's psychological state. Mellown intelligently regards Hepburn as developing into a "dominant male" (228), as he contrasts the development of the Captain from "the somewhat epicene young German lieutenant" (227) in the "The Mortal Coil," an earlier story written before the war that is dramatically revised to create The Captain's Doll. Harris's comprehensive and valuable study in 1988 of Lawrence's short fiction initiates a change in emphasis that I define as a relative unwillingness to acknowledge the extent to which Lawrence effectively stacks the doctrinal cards in favor of Hepburn. She may be too equitable in her judgment that "credits both sides" (161) in their venial battle during the excursion, and she is not convincing in her belief that the novella is "male supremacist" only "in the most qualified of terms" (284). Similarly, while McDowell correctly notes that the end of the work dramatizes how "the subordination of the women signifies patriarchal domination," he undercuts the clarity of that statement with his unpersuasive assertion that "the need to attain a star-equilibrium, as Birkin propounds it in Women In Love is never quite obliterated in Lawrence's furtherance of patriarchal values" (156). Spilka overstates the ultimate effectiveness of Hannele's entertaining and spirited opposition when he reaches the faulty, too clever conclusion that "it is through Hannele's shrewdly critical eyes that we come to judge the Captain's fallibility" (260)--a problematic assertion given the extent of her capitulation to him in the final scene. Martin is also overpraising of Hannele's effective power when he asserts that "Hannele's criticism is largely responsible for the great change in Hepburn" (19), an argument that underplays the instinctual insight and courage that Hepburn manifests on his own. Doherty, with his reductive categorization of The Captain's Doll as an amusing satire, regards Hannele's submission at the end as merely "subversive" (15), as he believes that it reflects how the allegedly parodic implications of the text undercut any invested notion by Lawrence in the doctrine of male supremacy.
(4) On the simple level of important circumstantial evidence, there is little ground to maintain that murder is even a possibility here. Lawrence has supplied a solid rationale supporting the conclusion that it was an accident. Mrs. Hepburn lost her balance near an open window when she unwisely reached beyond the sill for "a certain little camisole" (109) she was drying. The petty and materialistic wife loves her fancy garments, and we later learn of the danger she foolishly risked by ignoring her own phobias: "She could never bear even to look out of a high window. Turned her ill instantly if she saw a space below her. She used to say she couldn't look at the moon; it made her feel as if she would fall down a dreadful height" (110). In addition, there is the interesting evidence of some "coincidence" of preoccupation as Lawrence writes The Captain's Doll. An accidental fall from the heights must have been on his mind during the composition of the work; here is the premonition of Mrs. Hepburn's fate in a letter Lawrence writes to Earl Brewster in the days before he completes the novella, describing the mother of his landlord at Fontana Vechia: "She leans on the parapet of our balcony--spaventata [frightened]--terrified of the ghost of her poor dead Beppe" (Letters IV 109).
(5) Doherty writes--insensitively and wrongly in my mind--of "the comic death of Hepburn's wife" (9), and, in his sustained counter-response to Leavis's approach, he expresses surprise that virtually anything in this novella "should be treated by critics at an exclusively serious level" (5). Rossman describes the "charm and humor" (296) in the work, Mellown notes its wealth of "comic assertiveness" (227), Harris describes the excursion as a "comic, holiday jaunt" (160) to the glacier, and Gilbert considers the doll as merely a "playful miniature effigy" (152), harmless in its intent. Each of these critics, when getting beyond the allegations of comic texture or satirical intent in the work, conveys considerable insight about Lawrence's art. But as my own approach to the novella indicates, I regard The Captain's Doll as highly serious in its essential tone and doctrinal meaning; its visionary intensity results in part from Lawrence's unflinching view of postwar devastation reflected in the soul of Captain Hepburn and in the culture depicted in the work. In this regard, Kinkead-Weekes is characteristically impressive in his detailed description of the "postwar malaise" so crucial to the novella and in his concern with the adamantly "somber undertone" that informs the conflict between Hepburn and Hannele (687).
(6) There are several notable exceptions to this pattern of insufficient focus on Hepburn's development. Martin is persuasive in commenting on Hepburn's growth from his "flaccidity" (20) at the beginning of the novella. Mellown intriguingly compares aspects of Lawrence's early version of the work, "The Mortal Coil," to The Captain's Doll, and he effectively argues that "the change between the 1913 Lieutenant and the 1921 Captain mirrors the development of Lawrence's understanding of male and female identity and the ideal relationship between them," as a "weak man" grows into the dominant male (227). Gurko, in an abbreviated analysis, also describes Hepburn's growth in confidence, independence, and selfhood. In his second book on Lawrence, Leavis correctly maintains that "it is the Captain mainly who changes for us" in the course of the novella (95). More recently, Granofsky wisely refers to Hepburn's relation to the mountain excursion as a "process of proving his fitness" (61). But this passing remark is not sufficiently developed to suggest the demanding extent and emotional urgency of this "proof" that Hepburn has put upon himself. Granofsky fails to consider the trek as the courageous commitment I describe, as he notes that "his entire performance on the excursion is childish, not to say infantile" (71).
(7) McDowell keenly comprehends the general relevance of this event for Lawrence's novella, as he notes that "the psychic and intellectual dislocation engendered by the Great War animated both the nonfiction and the fiction of Lawrence's leadership phase from about 1919 to 1925" (143). He does not examine, however, the evidence of the war's precise effect on Hepburn's body and spirit. Kinkead-Weeks avoids such omission when he insists on the relation of character types in the novella to Lawrence's careful depiction in The Captain's Doll of "nihilism in a post-war collapse of values" (687).
(8) For more extensive discussion of the meaning of Lawrencian blackness and its relation to issues of transcendence and self-definition, see Chapters One, Two, and Four in my study The Phallic Imagination, and my essay in Studies in the Novel on The Princess.
(9) Doherty remains unconvincing in his belief that Lawrence's anthropomorphized landscape amounts to little more than "elaborate stylistic self-parody" (13).
(10) Lawrence mentions The Golden Bough with admiration in Fantasia as a work that offers "hints, suggestions" for his own artistic technique and informing doctrine; it is a Lawrencian vision, he explains, that proceeds "by intuition" (62), not unlike the intuitional beliefs of ancient civilizations anatomized by Frazer.
(11) Ruderman also refers to Lawrence's letter on Lucka and to the mention of "borderline" in The Captain's Doll. But she does not consider the concept's function in a mythological organization of the novella, or in any speculation on the relation of the border-line elite to Lawrence's own self-image and quest for achievement.
(12) Mellown remains the one early commentator on the work to recognize the integrated aspects of the mythic and the human in Hepburn's characterization, referring to him as "both the earthly and the Divine Lover of his Hannele" (231).
(13) See Lawrence's famous 1915 letter to Bertrand Russell on the importance of "blood-consciousness, with its sexual connection" and its oppositional relation to "the ordinary mental consciousness" (Letters II 470) associated with mere rationality. In the same letter he also confirms the importance of his current reading of Frazer.
(14) I discuss the instinctual primacy behind the concept of the "logic of the soul" in Chapter Two of The Phallic Imagination, and in my essays on Lost Girl in Twentieth Century Literature, on Lawrence and Mailer in Bloom's collection of essays, and on The Virgin and the Gipsy in Papers on Language and Literature.
(15) Recall Nick Adams in "Big Two-Hearted River" as he temporarily attains some peace for his fragile emotions when he completes the goal of setting up the tent, and he "was happy as he crawled inside the tent [...] now things were done. It had been a hard trip" (167); or the much younger and frightened Nick of "Indian Camp," briefly revived as "the sun was coming up over the hills" (70); or the bleeding hands of Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea as he fights off the shark under the blazing yet benedictive sun. The examples are legion in Hemingway's work. For a more detailed examination of the ways in which Lawrence and Hemingway share certain assumptions and beliefs on survival, instinct, and sexual identity, see my article on A Farewell to Arms in The Hemingway Review. Granofsky's treatment of The Captain's Doll encompasses the theme of survival in the post-war years; in its correlative emphases--that he skillfully contextualizes in the novella--on elements of violence and power, and on the lovers' connoisseur-like preoccupation with food and eating metaphors throughout the work, the Hemingway echoes sound unmistakable to me.
(16) Vickery aptly describes the stages of any adaptation of the Balder myth as moving "from birth through death to lamentation and anticipation of the future" (114). This four-part pattern perfectly fits the essential movements of the action for Hepburn, as he moves from the birth of the affair before the novella begins, to the death of a wife and the ending of the affair, to a period of intense lamentation and depression, to the doctrinal vision that signals his future relationship with Hannele.
(17) In Women in Love the exact phrasing is as follows, as the more moderate Birkin, with his more equitable "star-equilibrium" concept, eliminates the inflammatory term, "highest": "He is only insisting to the poor stray that she shall acknowledge him as a sort of fate, her own fate" (149-50). Squires and Talbot, in this regard, describe Hepburn's mandate to Hannele as "a version of what Birkin finally offers Ursula in Women in Love" (245-246).
(18) Vickery's reading of The Golden Bough describes Frazer's view of Balder as "the Scandinavian dying and reviving god" (266), whose symbolic resurrection in the yearly festivals of .re in Norway bear resemblance to relevant rituals and ceremonies that celebrate the rebirth of Christ. While his study of Frazer does not discuss The Captain's Doll in any detail, nor does he relate the fiction to the Balder myth, Vickery
writes perceptively of Lawrence's consistent fascination with Frazer's accounts of myth patterns associated with "man-gods" such as Christ and Balder, for Lawrence remains interested in "men who have lost touch with their divine source of strength and power as a background for a quest of recovery" (314).
(19) Lawrence may have absorbed more of the precise narrative of The Golden Bough than he is willing or able to acknowledge. Here is Frazer: "And the name of the Balder's bale fires [...] makes it probable that in former times either a living representative or an effigy of Balder was annually burned in them" (769).
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|Title Annotation:||Ernest Hemingway|
|Publication:||Papers on Language & Literature|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2006|
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