The opening story in a dark nihilistic trilogy.

SHORT STORY REVIEW D H LAWRENCE THE MAN WHO LOVED ISLANDS THE FIRST ISLAND 1928

The opening of a trilogy about a wealthy man in pursuit of isolation and his own perfect private island where he can be lord of all he surveys. As you may expect, it is an idea doomed to failure.

His first island is glorious by day, but fills him with fear and loneliness at night. He imagines the druids, priests of ancient sacrificial cults and bloodthirsty pirates haunting his micro-universe as they had moved over the land in the distant past.

He takes on a butler, and farm hands, more for company than necessity. The island is not actually deserted. A few seafarers and other islanders live and work there, living in cottages on the four square mile island. Its location isn’t specified but it seems to be a splinter off the Channel Islands, as he has Jersey cows. .

The Islander, (un-named) likes to be a benevolent master of his realm, rich and always inviting guests from the mainland to dine with him, showing his mastery by having his servants tend to the needs of the guests too. 

Though everyone is courteous and polite and superficially friendly, there is an underlying current of bitterness and malice. The servants hate their Master, serving him from economic necessity. He would rather be alone but cannot cope with total isolation.

His staffing, and maintenance of the island, swamp drainage, the farm work, etc, drains his wealth quickly and he imposes economic restraints on his staff, while maintaining his own luxuries, and fine expensive wines.

A series of disasters befall the superficially utopian island the Islander sets up around himself. A coow dies in a cliff fall. A servant has an accident and breaks a leg. A servant girl’s parents fall out with the butler and refuse to allow her to work with him.

Other tensions in the servant team divide the staff, who begin to leave on e by one. The Islander finds the island cannot be maintained at such a rate of loss. He finds that some of the staff has been swindling his fortune since his two yearlong project commenced. After two and a half years of struggling on alone, he sells the island off to a holiday company at a much lower price than he paid for it himself.

A sad fable of an inevitably failed experiment, with the problems of a big society imported to the microcosmic World the Islander tried to create for himself. The class and money frictions, struggles against a cruel tooth and claw nature and sheer bad luck, ruin his dream.

The text to The First Island

http://www.literature.org/authors/lawrence-david-herbert/the-woman-who-rode-away-and-other-stories/part-09/chapter-01.html

Arthur Chappell

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