an extreme, perhaps, of impurity that is pure

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longxianchen

Senior Member
chinese
Hi,
Here are some words from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover( para.100) by Lawrence(the University of Adelaide,
here):
Michaelis came: in summer, in a pale-coloured suit and white suede gloves, with mauve orchids for Connie, very lovely, and Act I was a great success. Even Connie was thrilled . . . thrilled to what bit of marrow she had left. And Michaelis, thrilled by his power to thrill, was really wonderful . . . and quite beautiful, in Connie’s eyes. She saw in him that ancient motionlessness of a race that can’t be disillusioned any more, an extreme, perhaps, of impurity that is pure.
How should we make sense of the words in red please? I think it self-contradictory

Thank you in advance
 
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I read Lady Chatterley a long time ago, but I think Michaelis is from a poor, working class background and tries hard to be integrated into the upper class. He represents 'impurity' because he isn't pure upper class. Pure can also mean 'absolute' or 'complete' or even 'sincere', and so one way of understanding impurity that is pure is that Michaelis represents absolute impurity. Other people might understand this differently.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Now, I feel "that" in "extreme, perhaps, of impurity that is pure" refers to "extreme" rather than "impurity". But grammatical books said that for a "something/somebody of noun+ a relative clause" sentence structure, the relative clause only modifies the noun, rather than something/somebody
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    I read Lady Chatterley a long time ago, but I think Michaelis is from a poor, working class background and tries hard to be integrated into the upper class. He represents 'impurity' because he isn't pure upper class. Pure can also mean 'absolute' or 'complete' or even 'sincere', and so one way of understanding impurity that is pure is that Michaelis represents absolute impurity. Other people might understand this differently.
    Thank you, natkretep. Now I feel my answer in post 3 was wrong, because I thought the "extreme of impurity" was equal to "purity", which is absolutely wrong. I'm sorry for that.

    Now I have a new way to understand "impurity that is pure". That is, Michaelis is single-minded in pursueing his succeess, which can be defined as "pure", even though it's still impure.


    Is that right?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I think we're thinking along the same lines. 'Pure impurity' (meaning single-minded or absolute impurity) is a kind of playful juxtaposition.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Sorry. I owe you a thinks. And maybe we should listen to more different opinions to make sense of it better.:)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    This "purity" is contrasted to Michalis' "prostitution" to the bitch goddess.

    He's also compared in the next sentence to an African mask, which is maybe revealing - it's "impure" because of its primitive and uncivilised nature, but considered by people like DHL to be aesthetically "pure". I think that must have been a very progressive and modern attitude at the time.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    After reading the whole passage, I feel the logic is:

    In the quotation, Connie found Michaelis motionless. That implies he had been quietly(=motionlessly) pursuing money and reputation unscrupulously(=impurely). That's why Lawrence said an extreme, perhaps, of impurity. And all his attention was put into his pursuit(=pure), so this explains why Lawrence said that is pure.

    Then in the next sentence On the far side of his supreme prostitution to the bitch-goddess he seemed pure, pure as an African ivory mask that dreams impurity into purity, in its ivory curves and planes (I know you've read this sentence), Lawrence also meant single-minded/all-attention-paid-to-making-money by pure.

    Finally, the motionless look normally makes people think of purity/cleanness. In other words, motionless look works as a mask, which can cover the ugly, and even change the dirty into the pure/clean.

     
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