Mercury by D.H. Lawrence
In Mercury by D.H. Lawrence we have the theme of paralysis, desire, selfishness, individualism and fear. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Lawrence may be exploring the theme of paralysis. None of the crowd on top of Merkur do anything of interest. It is as though they are paralysed and just lie or sit down. Any of the attractions available to them are not visited by the majority of people. This may be significant as Lawrence may be exploring the ‘crowd mentality’ that exists among people. With an individual doing as others are doing and showing no sign of individualism. If anything the crowds have no desire to do anything at all but sit and wait around for the funicular. Something which many readers might find to be a waste of time. It is pointless to go to the top of Merkur and do nothing at all. It defeats the purpose of the journey. Though many people may just be ticking Merkur off their bucket list. Saying to others that they have been there but at the same time not admitting to being lazy and doing nothing.
The lack of desire to explore their environment is also remarkable. It is as though the crowd are unable to think for themselves. Which again defeats the purpose of visiting Merkur. It might also be important that Lawrence when mentioning the crowds makes no mention of there being any children. Children are naturally curious and they may have very well explored Merkur. The three individuals that are mentioned in the story may also be important. Firstly the man whose feet are on fire. In many ways this mirrors Mercury who has wings on his feet. Secondly the two funicular operators are found dead and their clothing is described to the reader. They are also on the south side of Merkur unlike everyone else. It is as though they appreciate Merkur and do not wish to associate themselves with the crowd mentality. There is also a sense that there is safety in numbers as none of the crowd are injured despite the lightning and thunder.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which is important. Lawrence uses the weather to disperse the crowd yet none of the crowd act individually. All are sacred or in fear of their lives. Knowing that they are reliant on the empty funicular to get down from the mountain. This too may be significant as Lawrence affords the crowd, when he breaks them up, to act as individuals but they do not do so. It is as though they lack the necessary insight to act on their own initiative. Each member of the crowd is following the other person down the mountain. Though the path that they take may not necessarily be the best path. Which may have some symbolical significant as Lawrence could be using the path down the mountain to suggest a crowd will follow a crowd regardless of how safe or unsafe it may be.
The end of the story is also interesting as none of the crowd really give any regard to the two dead funicular operators. It is true that they look upon them but they do not cover their bodies or try to figure out how they can get the bodies off the mountain. Everybody in the crowd is out for themselves. Which is somewhat ironic considering that everybody is in a crowd. One would expect a crowd to act with the same mentality, and they do, but not when it comes to helping the two funicular operators. Instead the crowd begins to make its way down the mountain thinking only of their own safety and no one else’s. If anything the crowd are acting selfishly and putting themselves first even though the danger that occurred is no longer present. At no stage in the story does anybody help another person. Nobody makes an individual effort. No one helps the man put the fire on his feet out either. If anything the story is an example of how selfish a crowd can be in the face of danger. How an individual will not be independent of others and help another person. In reality people will follow a crowd before they begin to follow an individual. Believing that by doing so there is safety in numbers. Something which may not necessarily be the case in the story.