“Monkey Nuts” was first published in the Sovereign, in August 1922, and was included by D. H. Lawrence in England, My England and Other Stories published in October the same year. It has appeared in a number of anthologies since that time. The action takes place at the end of World War I in a rural situation somewhere in England. There are three main characters: Albert, an army corporal; Joe, a younger and more junior soldier; and Miss Stokes, a land army girl.
The story opens with the two men working in the goods yard of the village railway station. They work well together as they load goods onto railway wagons. The goods, which consist of coal, timber, or hay, are usually brought to the yard by male workers, but one day an assignment of hay is brought from a local farm by Miss Stokes. The girl is attracted to Joe, and before long he receives a telegram inviting him to meet her one Saturday evening. Joe does not respond to the invitation, but on another occasion he and Albert meet the girl on the way home from a visit to the circus. Miss Stokes makes physical overtures to Joe, and he begins to meet her outside working hours on a regular basis. The relationship between the two men then starts to deteriorate. They continue to work together, to share the same lodgings and even the same bed, but an edginess creeps into their conversation. When Joe admits to Albert that he does not want the girl, the older man stands in for him at their next date, but the girl tearfully rejects him. The following day Miss Stokes arrives at the goods yard as usual, but for the last time. Neither of the men see her again. Joe’s response is one of relief, though details of his relationship with the girl are not revealed.
The story is a study of male bonding unsuccessfully challenged by a predatory woman. The close male relationship has been forged during wartime conditions, and these same conditions have promoted, in the girl, feelings of independence and a desire to take control of her life. There is a certain amount of physical contact between the two men and between the girl and Joe, and the suggestion is that Joe prefers Albert’s embrace to that of Miss Stokes—lending to a queer reading of the story. Suspense is maintained throughout the story, and the conclusion is open-ended. Because of this lack of closure, the reader is left to wonder about the girl’s circumstances and the likely future of the two men.
Lawrence, D. H. The Tales of D. H. Lawrence. London: Martin Secker, 1934.
Sagar, Keith. A D. H. Lawrence Handbook. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1982.
Thornton, Weldon. D. H. Lawrence: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne Publishing, 1993.