Two girls, Banford and March, about thirty years old, bought a little farm together. In those days (about one hundred years ago when the story was written) such girls were considered old maid, with no prospect of ever marrying. Their lack of physical strength was described in detail by the author, who mingled pity with disdain. And there’s a fox coming around daily, trying to catch a hen or two out of the chicken coop they kept, but when facing the fox, gun in hand, March was so weak minded that she couldn’t shoot. Actually I disagree with the author here since girls are not so weak minded as he assumed.
One day, there’s a knock on the door, and Henry appeared. He was about twenty years old, ten years younger than the women. He’s a soldier and stationed several miles away. This was the place he grew up when he was young and this house was his grandfather’s house. The two women at first didn’t want him to stay, but then they relented. So he stayed.
He liked March and wanted to marry her so that he could stay permanently. He could quit the army and establish himself here. March liked him too, but was too weak minded to make up her mind. When she’s with Henry, she agreed with him; when Banford told her not to marry Henry, she agreed with Banford. It’s a back and forth process. Eventually March won. She ordered Henry to leave since the farm is not big enough to support so many people. Henry agreed to leave, but wanted to get engaged with March before he went away. March agreed at first, but after he left, she relented and sent a letter to him saying that the two of them were not compatible and they should not get married.
Henry got the letter and was enraged… He came back to the farm with a vengeance and the ending is quite surprising. However when you think about it, it is not that surprising.
This is “The Fox” by D. H. Lawrence, which was on sale in audible in an audiobook with three novellas. It is a very sad story. I used to like him, especially his “Sons And Lovers”, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, but not anymore. I guess my taste has changed somehow. I am still interested in romantic stories, but not the kind of romantic stories I used to like. For example, I listened to “A Room With A View” again last week, but I didn’t feel like it at all. How strange. I actually read the story twice before and really liked it.
Probably I have stopped enjoy stories with women as passive and weak sidekicks, who only listen to didactic instructions and wait for things to happen to them. I don’t enjoy such kind of stories anymore. I mean I even prefer stories like “My Life As A Man” or “The Human Stain”, in which women are either villains or lunatics or both. I mean at least women are doing something in an active way, albeit being interpreted as a destructive force to men’s life by the much lauded Philip Roth.