Maurice's Struggle for Control

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In D.H. Lawrence's The Blind Man, Maurice Pervin had been blinded in Flanders. He comes back to his farm where he and his wife, Isabel, spend the next year in solitude. Initially, Maurice attempts to regain control of his life, by acting as his blindness is not really a disabliaty and by exercising power over his wife; however, when he feels abandoned by her and her friend Bertie, he attempts to regain control of her, by controlling Bertie. When we first hear of Maurice's blindness, we see that "He was totally blind" (139). This demonstrates Maurice's dependence on his wife. Since he is completely blinded, he must depend on her for anything he can no longer do. Also, "she and he had been almost entirely alone with each together since he was wounded." Maurice was totally alone, he had no on else. The same could be said about Isabel, but, she had the ability to go out and find someone else, or to send for Bertie. Maurice had no other friends and was not able to go out as he pleased to meet people. However, despite his obvious dependence, he is in denial regarding this. He feels that even though he was "sightless he could still discuss everything with Wernham" (139). This illustrates Maurice's desire to be adequate. He is saying to himself; "I may be blind but I'm still just as good as anyone else." This also comes up later when he is speaking with Bertie. However, physical inadequacy was also something that Maurice had to deal with. We find that "he could also do a good deal of work about the place- menial work it is true but it gave him satisfaction. He milked the cows, carried in the pails, turned the separator attended to the pigs and horses" (139). Maurice wants to show that he is just as strong and capable of manual labor as he was before. Then, the narrator tells us that Maurice "did not even regret the loss of his sight." This demonstrates the extent of Maurice's denial. He wasn't just trying to live with blindness, he was trying to live as though it never happened. However, we know that Maurice did not truly believe he was capable. This is brought out later when he becomes "infuriated with his own weakness" (146). Another way that Maurice attempts to regain control of his life is by controlling his wife, Isabel. After she receives a letter from her friend, Bertie Reid, Maurice tells her to "ask him to come down" (141). Here we see Bertie exercise his control over Isabel. She had already come to accept that if she did not see Bertie anymore it would be better for Maurice. However, unsolicited, Maurice makes an offer to his wife to invite him down. Whether or not Bertie comes down is completely up to Maurice. Another instance where we see this is in the barn. Maurice is out tending to the animals, and Isabel comes out to fetch him. When she opens up the barns door "there was no sign of light anywhere. Opening the upper half, she looked in: into a simple well of darkness" (143). The barn represents comfort to Maurice. He is in his element, a world without light. The barn equalizes others with him, and even puts him on a higher level than them; for he is comfortable and they are scared. This is one way Maurice exerts control over his wife, and later over Bertie. He lures them out of their comfort zone into a place where he is king. Before Bertie arrives, Maurice goes upstairs to get ready. When he arrives, Maurice hears his wife and Bertie talking downstairs, but suddenly "they moved away" (145) and he could no longer hear them. Maurice then becomes scared and nervous. He feels a childish sense of desolation (145) envelop him. Here Maurice is reduced to an abandoned child. He was dependent upon Isabel, but now she has gone away with Bertie, even though it was just a couple of feet. She and Bertie abandon him, and exclude him. Without Isabel, he is lost. Maurice, again, starts to lose control. Since Bertie is the thing that took Isabel away from him, to control Isabel he must control Bertie. While the three people are talking, the subject of blindness comes up. Bertie asks Maurice about any upsides to being blind. Maurice tells him its not so bad because "'you cease to bother about a great many things.' Again Maurice stretched his figure, stretched the strong muscles of his back, and leaned backwards, with uplifted face" (148). Then, he leans back into a more regal position, and shows off his strength. He has an uplifted face, an air of superiority as if to scream out to Bertie that he is the better man even with his blindness. This is point that Maurice begins to dominate Bertie. The final leg of Maurice's domination comes when the two men interact in the barn. Just as his wife becomes nervous and uncomfortable in the barn, so does Bertie. Bertie begins to act "cautiously" (150), his speech becomes choppy so he is rarely able to get out a full sentence, and after that he "shrank away" (150) from Maurice. Then after Maurice touches him "the lawyer [Bertie] stood almost annihilated" (151). Here, Maurice has gained complete control. He has killed Bertie, annihilated him. Of course this is not meant literally for Bertie is still alive. However, Maurice has reduced from the man he used to be, he is no longer a smart barrister, but a shell of man "unconscious, imprisoned" (151).

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