Kangaroo, nom-deguerre, Aaron's Rod, The Plumed Serpent, The Rainbow
a novel by D. H. Lawrence, published in 1923. Kangaroo was written at great speed during Lawrence's three-month stay in Australia in 1922. The book is set in and around Sydney but its central characters, Richard Somers, a writer, and his wife Harriet, are English. Indeed, the main issues in the book are transposed versions of European concerns, and in ‘The Nightmare’, one of the most powerfully written chapters, Richard Somers is given Lawrence's own haunting wartime experiences. The plot concerns Somers's involvement with ‘Kangaroo’, the nom-deguerre of the charismatic leader of The Diggers, a fascist political group. Somers is drawn by Kangaroo's personal magnetism but, never fully committed and half-attracted, half-repelled by the violence which surrounds him, breaks free into the prickly individualism which was Lawrence's general political stance. None the less, Kangaroo is, with Aaron's Rod and The Plumed Serpent, one of three uncomfortable books by Lawrence which deal directly with themes of male bonding and political authoritarianism. One of the striking things about Kangaroo is the clarity of Lawrence's understanding of the social origins of fascism which he had experienced in the early 1920s in Italy. Lawrence was a gifted travel writer, and Kangaroo contains fine descriptions of a frighteningly unsolacing natural world. The novel as a whole is pervaded by a feeling of rootlessness as Somers searches for a commitment which will make sense of a drifting life. Another of the novel's themes—marriage—is subjected to similar scrutiny as the Somerses' relationship becomes strained. All these ideas reflect Lawrence's own circumstances, and Somers is another of his ironic self-portraits. An interesting feature of the book is the way Harriet's point of view is emphasized to undercut the male bonding. This device, begun in The Rainbow, also appears in Lady Chatterley's Lover.
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Tama Janowitz Biography to P(atrick) J(oseph Gregory) Kavanagh Biography