Places: The Rainbow

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1915

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedCossethay

Cossethay. Rainbow, TheTiny Midlands village in which the Brangwens are living when the novel opens. The village is the center of a circle about two miles in diameter that provides all the important settings for the entire novel. The Marsh farmhouse, in which the Brangwens lived prior to the novel’s opening, is next to what was probably the path of the old Nottingham Canal on the embankment at Cossall Marsh, a real place that has been significantly altered by the development of coal mines, roads, and water passages.

West of Cossethay is Ilkeston, a town that Ursula sees as a place with a small, mean, wet street and grimy and horrible buildings. The journey that she takes to get to the school in which she works as an apprentice teacher is based on Lawrence’s tram rides to the Gladstone School where he taught.


Beldover. Town north of Cossethay to which the Brangwens move; closely based on Lawrence’s birthplace, Eastwood. Ursula sees Beldover as a stupid, artificial, and “exaggerated town.” However, the omniscient narrator describes it more objectively as a sprawling colliery village, a “pleasant walk-round for the colliers.” Ursula’s grandfather Will Brangwen measures his financial success by his ability to buy a large house in a new redbrick Beldover neighborhood. Ursula, however, would prefer to live in nearby Willey Green, which she thinks is “lovely and romantic.”

After Ursula and her husband have a sojourn in London, and Ursula attends Nottingham College for a year, the final scene occurs near Beldover. There, she is “reborn” from a flux of primordial chaos on the northern perimeter of the circle within which the novel takes place.

*English Midlands

*English Midlands. Central region of England that became increasingly industrialized during the nineteenth century. The novel benefits from Lawrence’s skills as a poet to evoke the ethos of the natural world that he cherished as a youth growing up in the Midlands and carried in memory throughout his life. The novel’s most intense passages describing the romantic relationship between Ursula and Anton Skrebensky are largely instigated by, and clearly invigorated by, what functions as a vibrant, organic landscape, whose features seem to echo and reinforce the passions of the protagonists.

The novel has numerous instances in which features of pleasant landscapes and details about weather reflect the psychological moods of the characters. On the first page, for example, the Brangwen family are introduced as being content in a place where they feel the “rush of the rising sap in the spring.” Because of real and self-imposed restrictions on literary works at the time Lawrence wrote, he used metaphors linking sensual imagery in the natural world to human action. Hence, Ursula’s emotional condition is often expressed in terms of her response to the environment.

Coal mines

Coal mines. Lawrence uses the Midlands coal mines as symbols of industrial devastation and the region’s coal towns as proof of the mines’ insidious influence. The Brangwens become aware of change after gathering in a harvest, when the west wind brings a “faint, sulphurous smell of pit-refuse burning.”

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rainbow.” New York: Chelsea House, 1988. A collection of sophisticated critical essays, ranging from 1966 to 1984, covering Lawrence’s Romanticism and the theological and psychological dimensions of The Rainbow. Also includes an introduction, chronology, bibliography, and index.Clarke, Colin, comp. D. H. Lawrence: “The Rainbow” and “Women in Love,” a Casebook. London: Macmillan, 1969. Extracts from a number of critical essays, among them those by Roger Sale, S. L. Goldberg, and Julia Moynahan. A short bibliography and index.Kinkead-Weekes, Mark, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “The Rainbow”: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971. A collection of essays in four parts, one of which is on the interpretation of the three generations. Essays by Marvin Mudrick, Keith Sagar, and Laurence Lerner, among others. The concluding essay by Kinkead-Weekes discusses the making of the novel. Includes a chronology.Sagar, Keith. D. H. Lawrence: Life into Art. New York: Viking, 1985. Concentrates on the process of Lawrence’s writing as a creative artist. In a chapter on The Rainbow, entitled “New Heavens and Earth,” Sagar focuses on the novel’s genesis, as well as its critical reception and banning. Index.Smith, Frank Glover. D. H. Lawrence: “The Rainbow.” London: Edward Arnold, 1971. A short introduction to The Rainbow.
Categories: Places