Critical analysis Why the Novel Matters by DH Lawrence

Why the Novel Matters by DH Lawrence

The essay Why the Novel Matters is D.H. Lawrence 's statement about his belief in the novel as a means of  instructing or guiding man and women to live life to the fullest. It was published posthumously in 1936 in an essay collection titled Phoenix.

Lawrence begins the essay by ridiculing the superstitious belief that the body and the soul or mind is two separate entities. He believed that 'whatever is me alive is me'. This is something which can understood by the novelist because 'the novel is one bright book of life. Books are not life. They are only tremulations on the ether. But the novel as a tremulation can make the whole man alive tremble.' He proclaimed therefore that being a novelist, ' I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog'. They are able go affect only one part our being. Lawrence said, that he denied that he was only a soul, or a body, or a mind, or intelligence, or a brain or a nervous system, or a bunch of glands or a bits of himself. The whole is greater than the part, hence he is ' man alive' greater than his soul, or spirit or body or mind or consciousness or anything else that is a part of him. He cites the example  of Italian  Saint Francis of Assisi who tortured his body in the belief that the soul was of utmost importance. However, when he was dying he apologized to his body for perpetrating such violence on it because he understood the oneness of body and soul only then. In this sense, the Bible is about god but of man alive with its stories of Adam and Eve and so on. According to Lawrence the entire Bible, Homer, Shakespeare, are example of the supreme old novel for they affect the whole man alive not a part of man as does the scientist. 'They set the whole tree trembling with a new access of life; they do not stimulate growth in one direction.'

Lawrence wrote emphatically that he did not want to grow in only one direction. The word of the Lord according to him is an utterance of man and therefore fades away. However, nature on the other hand regenerates itself. The withered grass grows greener after rains and flower fades to return as the bud. Therefore, since grass renews its youth it is alive, it is not a mere word which was only a tremulation in ether and which ceased to exist. He said that 'once and for all' absolutes would have to be done away with because nothing is absolute: good or right.

In the Novel, the characters can do nothing but live because if they live according to pattern good, bad or volatile without change, the novel falls dead. 'We likewise, in life have got to live, or we are nothing.' felt Lawrence. Men and women in today's world walk about dead, a carcass in street or house, like a piano with half its notes mute.

Lawrence ends his essay 'Why the Novel Matters' with the assertion that life is full of rights and wrongs, good and bad but they are never absolutely so forever. Perception of such instincts keeps changing. Right and wrong is viewed as an instinct of the body, mind and spirit, indeed of the whole consciousness of man. 'And only in the novel are all things given full play.... when we realize that life itself and not inert safety, is the reason for being,' The only thing of importance that emerges is 'the wholeness of a man, the wholeness of a woman, man alive, and alive woman.' 

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