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D.H. Lawrence: Critique Of Social Practices (References Snake, The North Country, And The Triumph Of The Machine)

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Poetry is often used to make critical comment about particular social attitudes and practices. Through a wide range of techniques, D.H. Lawrence uses his poetry as a tool to scrutinise certain aspects of the early 20th century (1855 -1930). Much of his poetry portrays his opinions regarding modernity and industrialisation. In particular, poems such as Snake, The North Country and The Triumph of the Machine consider the effects these issues have on society. Lawrence uses figurative language, changing structure and style in order to present his ideas within the poem Snake. The poem depicts the internal battle between human instinct and social education, which is relative to Freudian theory. Lawrence establishes a negative view of socialisation and conformity by creatively portraying his critiques of particular social expectations. The language, structure and style of Snake depict the increasing distance between humankind and nature, and through this, Lawrence criticises relevant attitudes taught by society. In The North Country, Lawrence reprimands society’s views regarding industrialisation. The use of symbolism, metaphor and repetition in The North Country illustrate Lawrence’s disapproval of a society that worships technology. The Triumph of the Machine challenges the attitude that machinery should be allowed to take the place of what is natural. The imagery used within Triumph condemns the practice of rejecting nature. The use of techniques such as extended metaphor, pathetic fallacy and symbolism helps to convey Lawrence’s criticisms of various social practices, attitudes and expectations prevalent during the 20th century.

One of the main criticisms prominent in Lawrence’s work is that of humankind’s detachment from nature. This is evident in his poem The Triumph of the Machine, in which Lawrence scrutinises the effects of industrialisation, a movement which was instigated by humankind. The poem states that the world has been controlled by technology “for one sad century”, referring to the industrial revolution. Lawrence then describes the brainwashing of humankind, symbolised by the man in the poem, who willingly rejects his most inner, natural drives. This action is portrayed through the use of natural imagery. The poem first focuses on the man’s internal connection to nature, through imagery such as “the lark nests in his heart”, and through metaphor “lambs frisk among the daisies of his brain”. The nature within him is depicted as alive and peaceful. This image is then contrasted with a portrayal of nature’s anger- “the swan will beat the waters in rage”. The man has rejected nature, and is consequently next described as a “mechanical man”. The negative transformation within the man may represent the way in which Lawrence views his society. Lawrence also challenges the attitude that machinery can replace what is natural: “Mechanical man…will be powerless, for no engine can reach into the marshes and depths of a man.” By using this imagery and language, Lawrence depicts the changes within humankind that result from the detachment from nature and the negative ramifications that result from this practice.

The rejection of one’s natural drives and instincts is a practice that was not only tolerated but also encouraged by Lawrence’s society. Within his poetry, Lawrence uses a number of techniques in order to communicate his negative view of this practice. Lawrence frequently alludes to the Freudian theory of the personality. This theory supposes that an individual’s personality is made up of the id, the superego and the ego. The id and superego oppose each other, and the ego acts as a mediator between the two. The term вЂ?id’ refers to a layer of consciousness that contains the primitive, natural drives. The term вЂ?superego’ refers to a layer that contains ideas of right and wrong instilled by society’s codes and standards. The poem Snake criticises the practice of teaching individuals to conform to social and moral standards, and stereotypical gender roles or codes of conduct. Lawrence draws a comparison between the snake and the unconscious forces of the persona through the use of religious symbolism (temptation). The man’s initial instinct to simply admire the snake may symbolise the natural drive of his id. This is suppressed by the “voices of [his] education”, his superego, which convince him to hurt the snake. Lawrence may be suggesting that as a result of this socialisation, the “root evil of modern Western civilisation” (Christopher Heywood) individuals develop and become controlled by their superego.

The aforementioned ideas are partially established by the structure and changing styles of the poem Snake, which help to establish this idea of an internal battle between natural drives and social expectations. The stanzas referring to the snake are repetitive and almost lyrical. Traditional devices such as assonance and alliteration are employed in phrases such as “And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, / and mused a moment”. The style then changes quite abruptly when describing the log being thrown: “I picked up a clumsy log / and threw it at the water-trough with a clatter”. The language is starkly opposite to that describing the snake. It is harsher, clumsier and uses consonance rather than assonance. The action itself may represent conforming to social expectations, as the man initially tried to ignore the “voices of [his] education” telling him he should hurt the snake. The different styles represent



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