Aaron’s Rod by D.H. Lawrence

This strange psychological novel addresses some of the philosophical dilemmas which followed on from the First World War. The Russian Revolution had transformed the ideological landscape. While democracy seemed to offer an alternative to revolution, unequal and struggling societies meant that the stability of democratic systems was far from guaranteed. In this context, D.H. Lawrence stressed the importance of individualism and played with elitist ideas similar to those of Nietzsche.

Lawrence was a savage critic of alternative solutions to contemporary problems. Influenced by psychoanalysis, he showed no empathy to the aspirations of anarchists or socialists. As an artist, he was on an intense and contradictory quest. His pursuit of satisfaction was eccentric and couched in religious terms. Nonetheless, the poetry of his language cannot be denied.

However, the difficulty in understanding Lawrence is compounded by the gaps between him and his characters, between his life and his creations. It is possible to pity him if you take despairing fragments of text at face value:

“Never again absolute trust. It is a blasphemy against life, is absolute trust. Has a wild creature ever absolute trust? It minds itself. Sleeping or waking it is on its guard. And so must you be, or you’ll go under.”

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