Aaron's Rod (1922)
by D.H. Lawrence
Have you ever felt like your life was reading one D.H. Lawrence novel after a Virginia Woolf novel? Perhaps if you majored in literature in undergraduate/college. The introduction to the Cambridge University critical edition I read identifies Aaron's Rod as the third installment in the thematic trilogy of The Rainbow (1915) and Women In Love (1920.) Both The Rainbow and Women In Love are about the Brangwen sisters Gudrun and Ursula. Aaron's Rod is about Aaron Sisson, who could be another character from either of the other two books in terms of him being a "collier" or coal miner, from the same area as the Brangwens (and Lawrence.) Like the Brangwen sisters (and Lawrence) Aaron Sisson rebels against conventional morals, leaving his young wife and three young daughters to pursue.... not much. He plays the flute? Goes to Italy? Has an affair or two with other men's wives? Makes wry facial impressions in socially awkward situations?
You can also compare Aaron's Rod to the cynical protagonist in The Fox, also published by Lawrence in 1922 in terms of its dark cynicism and character motivation. You can't talk about these three books without mentioning the fact that all three were delayed or even suppressed for being "obscene." It is so ludicrous when you think at how sexualized our culture has become in the last century... Lawrence is tamer than a network hour drama, let alone a cable hour drama!
At the same time the emotional content of Lawrence's earlier novels is dark and disturbing, still packing an effective punch as the sexual content has lost its shock value. Sissons dark quest into the spiritual void is a haunting journey. He traverses the picturesque Italian landscapes of the second half of Aaron's Rod like a vagabond ghost. And the Rod of the title is both his flute that he plays and his manhood.