内的他者としての牧神 : D・H・ロレンスの「最後の笑い」
Pan as an Internal Other in D. H. Lawrence’s‘ The Last Laugh’
‘ The Last Laugh’ (1924), a short story by D. H. Lawrence, is apparently an occult fable which depicts the characters’ encounter with the existence of an absolute ‘other’ in a snowy street one night in Hampstead. The supernatural and omnipotent‘ someone’ shows its presence only by making its most extraordinary laugh resound in the dark. From the fact that the laughing voice resembles the neighing of a goat and the anti-Christianity of its demolishing a church like a wild wind, it is tacitly implied that the mysterious being is the God Pan in Greek mythology.
In the Romantic period, Pan was a god who represented prolific fertility. However, in the twentieth-century literary world, his physical liveliness and unreasonable quality bore a demonic image that was opposed to Christianity and thus was used to invoke people’s terror. Therefore, the tales which involve a Pan-motif emphasized its external ‘otherness’ in relation to Western rationality and deepened the confrontation between the interior and exterior of the human mind. However, Lawrence, in an original use of this motif, depicts the release of Pan into the modernized world by drawing a parallel with the positive self-liberation which one of the characters experiences. The female character devotedly displays an intuitive wonder at and acceptance of the unknown being instead of excessively fearing or mocking it as the other characters do. As a consequence, she feels a liberation from her old self which was fettered by her mind; simultaneously, she acquires the physical power and natural living energy which she never had a chance to feel inside her in the modernized society and becomes a Pan-like woman herself. This paper sheds light on the fact that the character realizes that the enigmatic being, which represents those powers, is not an external object to be feared, and the importance of being inwardly aware of its presence. While Pan represents the antithesis of modernity, I would argue that he is depicted as a return of an ‘internal other’ which naturally existed within humans, which was suppressed and framed as an‘ other’ from the modernized perspective. The paper further reveals the differences between Lawrence’s way of dealing with the notion of Pan and that of his contemporaries, E. M. Forster in particular, due to his strong emphasis on its internality.
Moreover, the duality of human and animal in Pan cannot be left unmentioned. While bringing out the animalistic aggressiveness in the female character, Pan punishes the characters who do not appreciate his existence by turning them superficially into animals. Borrowing Jacques Derrida’s theory, this paper discusses the way in which the text deconstructs the dualisms of self / other and human / animal, and criticizes the imagined superiority of the human mind over physicality, and of human beings to animals.