The Rainbow by DH Lawrence Summary

The rainbow is a controversial novel by DH Lawrence that was banned in England. The novel revolves around the story of three generations of Brangwen family that reside at marsh farms.


The word Brangwen means bright friend. The story is in chronological form-from primitive and self-sufficiency into the interdependence of a community. In the beginning, the men of Brangwen reserved the continuity of family while the women looked outward to the world beyond Marsh farm.

However, after industrialization, the Brangwen came into contact with the commercial world making Brangwens strangers in their own place. They started taking interest more in trade than farming. Alfred Brangwen who is like Adam of the play has 6 children.

The two daughters marry away. One of their sons runs away to sea while the other Alfred (father of Will) moves to the city and works as lace designer. Fred becomes a drunkard. After the death of the parents, Tom the youngest child inherits the Marsh farm and the story begins with him that moves to the third generation.

1st Generation: Tom and Lydia

Tom is a typical Brangwen who represents the continuity and stability of the Brangwen family. However, he also represents the social turmoil going on during that time due to industrialization. “He wanted to go away” to explore the foreign parts.

This represents a new phase in the progress of the family. When Lydia, widow of a polish doctor and mother of two years old Anna comes to live Marsh Farm, Tom falls in love with him. Soon he goes with a bunch of Daffodils to propose him.

Before proposing he stands in a dark place that is broken by the shelf of light from Lydia’s kitchen window. We find a number of the motifs of light and dark like this through the novel. Lydia accepts the proposal and both marry.

Their marriage is the most successful relationships in the novel. The relation is based on Lydia’s material needs and Toms spiritual needs.

However, their love is not successful. Tom gets attracted to Anna. Initially, Anna resists him but soon she also gets attracted to Tom. Both spend time with each other. Tom tries to give parental care to Anna.

2nd Generation: Anna and Will

Soon Anna grows up and falls in love with Tom’s nephew Will who settles at Marsh farms. It must be noted that as Tom was attracted towards Lydia because of her foreignness similarly Anna too falls in love with Will because of his foreignness.

In the beginning, Tom does not approve of their relationship as he takes Will as a threat to his closeness with Anna. However, after the marriage, Tom helps them to settle. Initially, the marriage proves to be very successful.

The couple spends romantic time with each other. But the love passion soon fades away leaving behind fights and abuses as well as hatred comments.

The main reason for the failure of their marriage is that it was based on physical desire rather than spiritual and emotional. Ana gets pregnant but does not tell her husband due to a communication gap

She gives birth to Ursula. Like Tom, Will also finds relief in his daughter and spends most of his time with her though he has many other children also.

3rd Generation: Ursula

She is the third child in the story of the novel. During her adolescence, she comes to know about her family background by her grandmother. She is sent to school and gets a proper education.

She falls in a relationship with Anton Skrebensly, a military officer (son of Baron Skrebensky) as he represents the outside world. Thus the quest for the foreignness retains throughout all the generations in the novel. (World of passions and lawlessness).

Their love is based on sexual needs and thus both separate when Anton tries to interfere in the life of Ursula. Anton goes back to the army. Ursula, in order to take a break from the college, joins a school. There she is harassed by the teachers as well as by students. Her time in the school proves to be worst for her.

Ursula at school starts a lesbian relation with one of her schoolmistress Winifred who later on marriage Ursula’s uncle. Anton returns back after 6 years and both the lovers are united.

They spend their time like husband-wife. Anton starts forcing Ursula to marry and accompany him to India. Ursula rejects the proposal and Anton gets deeply hurt. Later on, he married another girl and both of them go to India.

Soon Ursula gets pregnant and writes to Anton to return back and marry her but she does not get any response. She comes to know that Anton has married and is grief-stricken. One day while she is away from home, it starts raining and she gets wet.

On the way, she sees horses that advance towards her. (The horses represent masculinity and are not real but hallucination). She tries to escape them and falls down that leads to miscarriage. Getting up she sees the rainbow that fills in her new hope, happiness and an urge to begin a new life.