From Relativity to Paraphrenia in D.H. Lawrence's “The Man Who Loved Islands”: Speculations on Einstein, Freud, Gossamer Webs, and Seagulls

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2020


The development of D.H. Lawrence's "The Man Who Loved Islands"through Cathcart's consecutive ownership of three islands engages the consequences of Cathcart's intense isolation from humanity. In the process of charting the steps in this character's collapse of body, mind, and spirit, Lawrence employs metaphors that explicitly connect to Einstein's notions of relativity and spacetime. In addition to this fictionalized adaptation of contemporary research in astrophysics, Lawrence cumulatively relates the palpable decline of Cathcart's equilibrium, the pattern of his anxiety, and the context of his depression to precise pathologies outlined in Freud's work the previous decade about obsessional neurosis, melancholia, and ultimately, paraphrenia. Lawrence's awareness of the work of an innovative psychiatrist and writer, Trigant Burrow, provides additional insight into Lawrence's personal preoccupations and doctrinal emphasis in the tale.




Indiana University Press

Publication Information

Journal of Modern Literature