The Fox

by D.H. Lawrence

Two women live alone on a small farm, in near-poverty just after the war. They are raising chickens but not making much success of it. A fox is constantly stealing the chickens. After some time a young man shows up on the farm, expecting to find his grandfather who used to live there. He is constantly described in terms that link him to the fox- sly, conniving, smoothy flattering to fit his needs. He invegiles his way into staying at the farm, even though it is considered highly improper. Finds ways of making himself useful, but his end goal is obviously to get one of the women, March, to marry him. He fixates on her from the very beginning. Even though he is much younger than her (also considered very improper).

There were some parts of this story that intrigued me, and other parts that seemed a bit off. I found that I really like how Lawrence writes characters. The way the three people interact, their little gestures and bits of conversation, feel quite vivid and significant. Descriptions of the landscape and the fox are strong, too. But I found it odd how constantly the women were portrayed as being less, being weak- they were referred to as \’girls\’, they were always identified by their last names, it was pointedly noted that March would loose her independence if she married the young man, that she wasn\’t a complete person yet, and so on. The man saw her as a mere object of desire and stopped at nothing to obtain her- he felt he needed to own her. The end of the story really felt heavy-handed with its constant reiterations -from both characters- on how miserable they were going to be in their new relationship. Not a happy ending. And the fox is dead at this point.

I was puzzled at a few points in the story that seemed inconsistent- I thought at first that the man wanted to gain the farm, by getting the woman\’s hand- but later he plans to return immediately to Canada. I failed to note when that intention changed. I also thought he had run away from the service, but he readily talks of having steady work back in Canada, and when he does return there on his own, there is no mention of difficultly in re-joining his camp- he\’s just suddenly described sitting there, \”cleaning his kit\”. Wouldn\’t there have at least been some reprimand? Oh well, I suppose it\’s not important. Although the foreward by Doris Lessing was interesting and insightful, I wish I hadn\’t read it first. It gave away a major event that happens at the end of the story, so there was no surprise waiting for me there. It was pretty heavily foreshadowed though, I might have guessed what was coming anyway.

Funny thing, I had completely forgotten where I first heard of this novella. It was noted in my TBR list without a source. After writing I found two other blogs that mentioned this book- and I had commented my interest in the story on Bibliographing, over seven years ago! That\’s how long this title was on my TBR. I\’m glad I finally read it. I might look for a few more D.H. Lawrence, now… any recommendations?

Borrowed this one from the public library.

Rating: 3/5      89 pages, 1921

more opinions:
Bibliographing
The Reading Life

6 Responses

  1. When I discovered the oldest books in my TRP were around that old, I made a decision to start reading more of them from the bottom of the pile. Every few books, I go to the very end of my list and pick something from the books there. It works out surprisingly well, I often like them as much as I like the newer books (which makes sense, since I did pick them for a reason).

  2. I tried to read Lady Chatterley's Lover and didn't like it one little bit, and then the next thing was that I learned Mr. Mybug in Cold Comfort Farm (the one Stephen Fry plays in the movie!) was based on DH Lawrence. So those two experiences combined put me off him for life, and I have no recommendations for you.

  3. My hardcover book compilation of a few DHLawrence stories is the book I've owned the longest and never read. I've attempted and just can't fall into enough to finish! But now I can't seem to part with the book. I bought it in college over 20 years ago.

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