D.H. Lawrence's 'Snake'.
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Aside from the reality of a mysterious, occasionally poisonous predator is the archetypal image of the serpent, latent with mythological, biblical, and historical symbols. Among the most common phobias is ophiaphobia, or fear of snakes, despite the unlikeliness of one to encounter a snake in the urban world (Rapoport 195). Lawrence, though does encounter "Snake", and while fear is, without a doubt, entangled in the web of reaction to and regard of the serpent, it is not the only dominant emotion. Intimidation is immediately established from the dawn of the poem, where Lawrence's narrator is "in pajamas for the heat", in the company of a visiting serpent (2). In such casual attire as pajamas, one is left feeling vulnerable and exposed, susceptible to social attack. Lawrence's character is, of course, vulnerable to the snake's venomous predation, but he is also susceptible to society's and human nature's convictions of the slithering snake, which effectively influences the narrator's judgement. Naturally, this intimidation is absurd. It continues throughout the poem while the narrator "like a second-comer" waits, but the snake, throughout the incident, proves to be harmless (15). ...read more.
Tyrannous, the symbolic snake is powerful. Lawrence's snake is powerful, as well. Emerging from the "burning bowels of this earth", the poet's snake is particularly suggestive of the biblical serpent (30). Retreating to a home in "that horrid black hole", the snake is descending below the universe (52). The imaginative reader conjures a hellish-type image, in which Lawrence's snake is "uncrowned in the underworld" (69). Exposed as such, the snake's projection shifts. From the despised, devious, and deadly archetype that the narrator presupposed, to the "king in exile", the snake is idealized (69). It is not simply a catalyst for evil, but an ulterior hero. The narrator, longing to talk to the snake, is overwhelmed not only with "perversity" but also guilt (32). Respect, or even worship, of the snake is reminiscent of Eve's homage to Eden's serpent; reverence of the snake goes beyond the psychological boundary of the first of the Ten Commandments, which declares "You shall have no other gods before me" (qtd. in Morgenson 5). "Like a god", the snake's power is invoked and the threat is real (Lawrence 45). Lawrence's narrator, in such a state of guilt, succumbs to the snake's symbolic inheritances. ...read more.
Symbolically and physically, he is trapped. In his pajamas, standing and waiting, the narrator "felt so honored" (34). However, he must question the danger of cowardice, perversity, humility, and of course dignity. Even in the "deep, strange-scented shade", out of any man's view, the narrator is exposed to humanity's eye. Even alone, he is watched: by himself and the unconscious forces that condition him. Suitably, "Snake" has been described as being about "the failure of man to take an appropriate place in the physical universe" (Hosbaum 133). The narrator does not belong in the underworld of the snake, yet he is frustrated with the symbolic restrictions of civilization. "Pettiness" the narrator expiates, for his prejudices, his psychological limitations, and his inability to escape the voices of symbolism (74). He regrets: "And I wished he would come back, my snake" (67). The snake, "because it casts its skin, is an [Egyptian] symbol of renewal...", and indeed the snake will come back (McGuire 268). It may not be the same golden snake; it may not be a snake at all, but the symbolic boundary that ensnared Lawrence's narrator will continue to ensnare humanity. Like the serpent symbol, the sense of frustration is rejuvenating and relative, not only "on the day of Sicilian July", but always (21). ...read more.
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