Plumed Serpent, The
Lady Chatterley's Lover, coups d'état
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)
a novel by D. H. Lawrence, published in 1926. Lawrence's Mexican novel was begun in spring 1923 and finished in February 1925. Lawrence wrote it whilst travelling through Mexico and the USA. Today it is perhaps his most controversial work and certainly his most openly ideological. After its publication there is evidence that he regretted many of the opinions in it, and his next and last book, Lady Chatterley's Lover, reverses many of its ideas. The novel concerns Kate Leslie, an Irishwoman mourning the death of her republican husband. Like many of Lawrence's characters in this period she is emotionally and socially adrift and travels to Mexico in a footloose but directionless searching. There she meets Ramón Carrasco and Cipriano Viedma who are attempting to revive the religious cults of the ancient Aztecs. Attracted by Cipriano, a native Indian, Kate is gradually drawn into Ramón's effort to revitalize Mexican culture against the influence of American modernization. She joins the group, which begins to catch the imagination of the nation. At the close Kate and Cipriano are married with full ritual and she accepts, a little restively, the passive role which ‘The Men of Quetzalcoatl’ believe proper to women. The political context of the novel is the turbulent series of violent revolutions and coups d'état in Mexico around the turn of the century; in it Lawrence makes clear his hostility to both socialism and American capitalism. The cult of Quetzalcoatl is an attempt to found a ritualistic politics based on ideals of mass communion with ancient wisdom. But the disturbing violence and irrationalism of some of the ceremonials, the book's emphasis on race, and its heavily authoritarian message about sexual relations, trouble some readers. There are powerful moments, such as the opening scene at a bullfight in Mexico City, and the descriptions of the environment are, as ever in Lawrence, extraordinarily graphic. But the attempt to fabricate a ritualized, incantatory language is stylistically more awkward.