On Sorrow and Ethics
But he was being deceived, for Hetty Sorrel loved Arthur Donnithorne, the latter a member of a different social class—the future lord of the land--and unavailable to Hetty and of she to him. Nevertheless, she was young and beautiful, and he was handsome and with a social position to which Hetty aspired. They tryst in his forest and his forest cottage; and Adam discovers them in that forest locked in a loving kiss and embrace on that beautiful day as he returns from his work. He felt betrayed by Arthur for whom he had felt great affection and who he believed had always been a dear friend, but whom he now accused of playing with Hetty’s affections for his own selfish and privileged purposes. Adam was crushed by the loss of Hetty whom he wanted so to marry and for whom he could care; and he was embittered of the world in which such events could take place. But the day is so beautiful, and Adam’s discovery of Hetty and Arthur in the forest in an embrace and kiss seemed so incongruous to the splendor of the day.
Ah, but our wiser narrator—who from the distance of nine years tells the tale—says that any single individual cannot expect Nature to accord with his whim or mood. “There are so many of us, and our lots are so different, what wonder that Nature’s mood is often in harsh contrast with the great crisis of our lives? We are children of a large family, and must learn, as such children do, not to expect that our hurts will be made much of—to be content with little nurture and caressing, and help each other the more.”
Steeped as I have been in the thinking of the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, this passage struck me deeply. Winnicott speaks of the necessity for a protective environment created by the good enough mother--the feminine is his term but he makes certain that what he means is parent—who will facilitate the child’s development as the experience of integration, personalization and realization—the capacity to live truly and to enjoy the objects available to the individual in the world. Our narrator has insisted we are for each other that family—home is where we start from, says Winnicott—we are for each other that home and that good enough parent. There are so many of us that Nature could not possibly express sympathy with any one of us when we might immediately demand it or even need that sympathy. And what our narrator suggests here is that we must be in the world for each other, and that we must compensate with our attentions the obliviousness that Nature extends to us. We must be for each the good enough parent and create that holding environment where we can most honestly live. What a lovely ethic our narrator espouses!