D.H. Lawrence began writing his fifth novel, Women in Love, in 1913 but it was not completed until Lawrence was living in Cornwall three years later. It was first published in 1920 after several delays and editorial changes, some of which were due to the controversy surrounding the sexual subject matter of his earlier novels. Lawrence was deeply interested in the nature of desire, and in the repressive, controlling aspects of human psychology and social institutions. He was both influenced by and critical of Freudian psychoanalysis, and his novels investigate Freudian concepts of the unconscious, repression, transference, and the psychosexual development of the human. Women in Love also draws much thematic inspiration from the philosophy of Freidrich Nietzsche, and its critical perspective of modern European morality, the valorization of work over art, and the suppression of passionate and creative individual souls in the interest of collective productivity.
Lawrence tells us in his preface to the novel that Women In Love was written in the midst of World War I, though it "does not concern the war itself." It is a sequel to Lawrence's 1915 novel, The Rainbow, which narrates the lives of several generations of the Brangwen family, who live in Middle England. Women In Love is the story of sisters Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, their lovers, Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich, and the erotic attraction between the two men. There is an implicit affiliation between the character Rupert Birkin and Lawrence himself, in their mutual estimation for art and their intense disdain for modern values and institutions.
Though his initially censored work now seems tame, Lawrence opened up the door to representations of sensuality for countless writers after him. During his career, he was deeply resentful of the censorship brought against his work, which he believed amounted to denying pure artistic aspirations. In his foreword to Women in Love, he claims that the creative soul should be valued, and that he owes no apologies to the critics and authorities that have accused him of writing pornography or degraded eroticism.