The Rainbow is a family chronicle relating the history of the ancient Brangwen family of March Farm, on the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border. Tom Brangwen marries the vicar's housekeeper, a Polish widow called Lydia who has a daughter already named Anna from her first marriage. Tom grows very fond of Anna, and as his marriage proceeds unhappily the bond between stepfather and child deepens as he, "turned to the little girl for her sympathy and her love, he appealed with all his power to the small Anna. So soon they were like lovers, father and child." Anna grows up to many Tom's nephew Will Brangwen, a worker at a lace factory, and they move in to Yew Tree Cottage, Cossethay, and have a family, of which the two oldest are Ursula and Gudrun, who reappear in Women in Love. Ursula develops into the 'child of her father s heart, and the story slowly becomes that other developing consciousness. A dramatic moment is provided by the death other grandfather, Tom, who drowns in a flood when she is eight, and Ursula is increasingly interested in her grandmother's Polish heritage. This interest intensifies when she meets Anton Skrebensky, the son of one of Lydia's old Polish friends. Baron Skrebensky, who had married an Englishwoman late in life. Ursula and Anton are soon in love, but he departs for the Boer war, leaving her to finish school. She has a short-lived but extremely close relationship with a schoolmistress, Winifred, and then matriculates, resolving to earn her living as a teacher, contrary to the desires of her parents. The hardships described at a poor school in Ilkeston are thinly- veiled autobiography on Lawrence's part, for he taught there himself. Will Brangwen is then appointed Art and Handwork instructor for the county of Nottingham, and the family move to Beldover, with Ursula embarking on a three year B.A. course, and Gudrun on a course at the Art School. Anton then reappears, and Ursula's relationship with him is renewed as they become engaged and plan to go away together to India, but, in typically Lawrentian style, Ursula breaks it off, and Anton hurriedly marries his colonel's daughter. The novel concludes with Ursula emerging from a long spell of illness and distress, complete with an implied miscarriage, to ponder a rainbow arching symbolically over the hideous industrial landscape which provides the setting for all their lives. The story deliberately has no finality in its close, because Lawrence intended to continue with Ursula and Gudrun in Women in Love.

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