42 pages 1 hour read

D. H. Lawrence

The Rainbow

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1915

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Society, Family, and the Self

Each generation of the Brangwens grapples with forming their identities, especially in relationship to their friends, families, and positions in society. The men especially define themselves in relationship to their wives and their female children. When Tom refuses to give Will and Anna permission to marry, Anna angrily declares that Tom is not her father, and her outburst provokes a kind of existential crisis for Tom: “His heart was bleak. He was not her father. That beloved image she had broken. Who was he then?” (119). If Tom’s bond with Anna ruptures, he loses his sense of self and how he envisions his place in the family. After losing this paternal bond, he no longer feels comfortable in his spousal bond with Lydia or his fraternal bond with Alfred. Tom’s self is rooted in his role as (step)father, and without it, he is lost.

Anton also experiences a similar existential crisis when he wonders:

What did personal intimacy matter? One had to fill one’s place in the whole, the great scheme of man’s elaborate civilization, that was all. The Whole mattered—but the unit, the person, had no importance, except as he represented the Whole (304).

Anton does not conceive of himself as an individual with bonds to other individuals.