Sons and Lovers By D. H. Lawrence

Introduction to Sons and Lovers


Sons and Lovers By D. H.Lawrence

Herbert Lawrence was born at Eastwood, Nottinghamshir, on September 11, 1885. He was the fourth child of John Arthur Lawrence, a coal miner and Lydia Beardsall.

Lawrence’s mother exerted a great influence on him. She encouraged his intellectual and artistic pursuits and helped him to go into the High School in Nottingham where he stayed until he was sixteen. On leaving school Lawrence obtained a job as a clerk. After only a few months, he succumbed to an attack of pneumonia. On recovering, he did not join his previous job but became a school teacher. A few years later he entered the University College of Nottingham to undertake full time study for the teaching profession. While studying at University College, Lawrence began his career as a writer. Sometime in 1907 he began to his first novel The White Peacock. It is set in his home background and draws especially on his knowledge of the countryside around the Haggs. He also began writing poetry, Lawrence’s first publication was in 1909 when the English Review printed some of his poems. Then in 1911 his first novel, The White Peacock appeared. Because of the obvious gifts of observation and sensitivity, The White Peacock has been described as” a young man’s book- almost indeed, a virginal book”. Meanwhile, he was appointed as a teacher at a boy’s school in Craydon, while serving there, he was involved in an affair with Helen Crooke, who had herself been caught up in an affair with a married man who committed suicide.

This Story provided Lawrence with the material for his second novel, The Trespasser (1912). The publication of Sons and Lovers (1913) placed among the leading novelists of the day. Largely because of the possibilities that he saw in this book, Henry James (another great writer) selected Lawrence’s as one of the four most promising novelists.

 The setting of the novel is in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area of England, The town of Eastwood, called Bestwood in the novel, is Lawrence’s birth place. It is a mining village about one mile from the small stream.

Sons and Lovers is one of the great novels in the range of the psychological masterpieces of English literature. The groundwork of psych0100′ particularly that of sex gives a sturdy plinth. The subjects for the autopsy of the novelist are love, hate, festering rage, feminine charm, and the savage impulses of the primitive forces of life and pain. Lawrence has illustrated them in the novel through the psychological nuances of his characters. His triumph lies in the expounding of their emotions as well as unpredictable behavior and the dramatic metamorphosis’ of their movement.

About the greatness of this novel, Edward Garnett’s evaluation is noteworthy: It is “an epic of family life in a colliery district, a piece of social history on a large canvas, painted with a patient thoroughness and bold veracity which both Balzac and Flaubert might have envied & central theme, an unhappy working class marriage, a struggle to rear her children while sustained by her strong puritanical spirit, develops later into a study of her maternal aversion to surrendering her son to another woman’s arms. The theme is dissected in its innermost spiritual fibers with

An unflinching and loving exactitude, while the family drama is seen against an impressive background of the harsh, driving realities of life in a colliery district. This novel is really the only one of any breadth of vision in contemporary English fiction that lifts working class life out of middle class hands and restores it to its native atmosphere of hard veracity. The mining people, their mental outlook, ways of life and habits, are contrasted with some country farming types in a neighborhood village, where the smoky horizon of industrialism merges to the passionate eyes of a girl and boy in love, in the magic of quiet woods and pastures. The whole treatment is unerringly true and spiritually profound, marred a little by a feeling of photographic accuracy in the narrative and by a lack of restraint in some of the later love scenes.”

In the year 1913, Lawrence married Frieda, a mother of three children. About this time, he began to ‘The Rainbow’ and ‘Women in Love’. Unfortunately, ‘The Rainbow’ was declared obscene and suppressed soon after it had been published in 1915. After that he had faced difficulty in getting his other works published in Britain. ‘Women in Love’ completed in 1916, was not published until 1929 and then it appeared privately in New York. During that period, Lawrence devoted a tremendous spurt of creative energy to writing book of poems like Amores (1916) and Look! We Have Come Through (1918). In 1919, Lawrence fell seriously ill with influenza. On recovering, he and Frieda left their native country forever.

Till 1922 he spent most of his time in Italy and Sicily and wrote great poems like Snake, Fish, etc. He continued his novel writing with ‘Aaron’s Rod’ and ‘The Lost Girl’. In 1922, a volume of his short stories named England, My England was published in New York.

Then Lawrence left Sicily for America and reached San Francisco in September 1922. Published “within a year or two after he left Italy were: Memories of the Foreign Legion; Birds, Beasts and Flowers, a collection of poems; and Studies in Classic American Literature, a small collection of informal essays, remarkable for their insights.

For the time being, Lawrence became deeply interested in the American Indians. In 1923, he moved to Mexico where he wrote a series of poems and a novel, The Plumed Servant (1926) in which he imagined the creation of a modern political movement based on revival of the worship of the ancient Aztec gods.

Lawrence nearly died from malaria in 1925. On recovering, he left Mexico and went to Italy where he lived at the Villa Mirenda, near Florence. There he wrote Lady Chatterly’s. Lover (1928). This is the most frankly sexual of all his novels. While living near Florence, Lawrence visited Etruscan towns and began to write Sketches of Etruscan Places which was published after his death. He also took up again his earlier interest in painting. In July, 1929, the police closed down an exhibition of his paintings in London. This provoked one of Lawrence’s more amusingly satirical poems, Innocent Evening.

Even during the last months of his life Lawrence continued to write poems in which he expressed some of his most beautiful and moving thoughts on the subject of death. He died on March 2, 1930 in France. His body was cremated and in 1935 his ashes were transported to the ranch in New Mexico



Paul Morel:

Paul Morel, the protagonist of Sons and Lovers, is based on the youthful D. H. Lawrence. Paul is a young man in the painful process of growing up. He’s also gradually discovering that he’s a gifted artist. Most important to the story, Paul is torn between his passion for two young women, the mystical Miriam and the sensual Clara, and his unyielding devotion to a possessive mother.

You may see Paul merely as a fellow under the thumb of a dominating mother. Some readers feel that his feeling for her is more passionate and that his difficulties with Miriam and Clara stem from this unresolved passion. Only her death frees him at the end. Another view of Paul is that he derives great strength from his mother and is inspired rather than crippled by his relationship to her. The failure of his relationship with Miriam, according to this view, is caused more by her horror of physical intimacy, than by Gertrude Morel’s superior place in Paul’s affections. How you interpret Paul’s relationship with his mother will have much to do with your view of her character.

Another of Paul’s conflicts centers on his apparent hatred for his father. You can see Paul’s abhorrence of Walter Morel’s vulgarity and alcoholism, but you can also see his imitation of Walter’s carefree spirit and lust for life. Isn’t some of Paul’s own brutality to Miriam derived from his father’s behavior? In some people’s eyes, masculine virility is only another version of brutality.

Many readers see Paul’s inner conflicts as a reflection of his parents’ very different personalities and class backgrounds. He combines his father’s working-class simplicity, spontaneity, and sensuality with his mother’s middle-class steadfastness, intellectualism, and social ambition. Paul can be viewed as the volatile offspring of both the lower and the middle classes. He can also be seen as a lovable, charismatic character. He’s often kind and jovial, especially to his mother and the shop girls at Jordan’s. Paul shares a healthy companionship with other men. It helps him appreciate the everyday joys of life and escape his brooding tendencies.

There’s also a dark, brutal side to Paul. He can be very cruel, particularly to his girlfriends. He can’t bear Miriam Leivers’ super spirituality when it interferes with his, sexual desires. After she finally gives up her virginity to him, he leaves her. Given the importance of virginity to an unmarried woman in the early twentieth century, Paul’s treatment of Miriam seems shockingly inconsiderate. Once the proud Clara falls in love with Paul, he leaves her as well, telling her to go home to her husband. If Paul is such a sensitive, caring young man, why does he do such cruel things?

 Paul is a fascinating mixture of extremes: vitality and despondency, spirituality and sensuality, love and hate, sensitivity and cruelty. Do you think any of these contradictions are resolved as the story ends?

Walter Morel:

Gertrude’s husband, a coal miner. Walter Morel is Paul’s rough, sensual, hard-drinking father. In many ways, he is his wife’s opposite. Walter is from a lower-class mining family. ‘He speaks the local dialect in contrast to his wife’s refined English. He loves to drink and dance, practices that Gertrude, a strict Congregationalist, considers sinful.

There are two ways to look at Walter Morel’s failure to be a good husband, father, and family breadwinner. You can see him as a man broken by an uncaring, brutal industrial system and an overly demanding wife. You can also see Walter as his own worst enemy, inviting self- destruction through drink and irresponsibility.

You learn a good deal about Walter’s good and bad qualities in Sons and Lovers While Lawrence seems to concentrate on the character’s violence and irresponsibility, he also gives you a picture of Walter’s warm, lively, loving ways. The key scenes of family happiness revolve around the time when Walter stays out of the pubs and works around the house, hugging his children and telling them tall stories of life down in the mines.

William Morel: Their first son, who is Mrs. Morel’s until he falls ill and dies.

Annie Morel: Paul’s older sister- their mother lies dying toward the end of the novel, she and Paul decide to her an overdose of morphia pills.

Arthur Morel: Paul’s younger brother, not central to the plot.

Miriam Leivers:

Miriam Leivers, Paul’s teenage friend and sweetheart, was modeled after Lawrence own young love, Jessie Chambers. As Jessie was with Lawrence, Miriam is Paul’s devoted helpmate in his artistic and spiritual quests. Although beautiful, she takes no pleasure in her physical attributes. Her whole life is geared toward heaven and a mystical sense of nature.

Paul and Miriam’s first bond is their mutual love of nature. Sons and Lovers tells of their many idyllic country walks. However, whereas Miriam wants to absorb nature, Paul just wants to live in harmony with it. Later, Paul will come to feel, as his mother does, that Miriam wants to absorb his life as well.

Miriam is a loner. By her own choice, she has few friends. Paul thinks that perhaps they should marry for appearance’s sake, she’s mortally offended Though Miriam is physically and socially timid, she refuse to live her life in accordance with superficial standards of etiquette.

Most of Paul’s family and friend’s feel put off by Miriam. She’s too intellectual and otherworldly even to know how to hold an ordinary conversation. She lacks the normal joys of living. Her life is an extreme of agony or ecstasy. This lack of normalcy and plain fun is one of the things Paul hates about her.

There are two warring sides to Miriam- her love of Paul Morel and her resistance to her sexual feelings toward him. Her mother taught her that sex is one of the burdens of marriage, and though she doesn’t want to believe it, she can’t help but listen to the woman who’s shaped her life. When Miriam finally gives in to Paul, she does it in a spirit of self-sacrifice that disappoints both of them. Miriam’s inability to enjoy sex makes her an incomplete person in the Lawrentian world, where Sex as well as spirituality is necessary to an individual’s fulfillment.

Miriam is a very complex character. At times you feel that Lawrence himself is trying to understand exactly what she’s like, the narrator, like Paul, fluctuates between pitying and condemning her, but because there are so many opposing elements to Miriam, you have an opportunity to figure out who she really is and what she wants, through your own investigation and interpretation.

Clara Dawes:

Clara Dawes is the sensuous older woman who comes to replace Miriam as the love interest in Paul’s life. It is with Clara that Paul learns the importance of sex as humanity’s deepest link with nature and the cosmos.

Clara is depicted as a new twentieth-century woman. She’s a feminist before it was fashionable. Determined to be independent, she leaves husband, earns her own living, and has an extramarital affair with Paul. Clara can be viewed as representative of the many post-Victorian women who rebelled against’ the traditional image of woman as the “weaker sex.” Clara is extraordinarily intelligent, with a good critical mind. But you get little demonstration of this aspect of her personality, since the story concentrates on her physical attractiveness to Paul.

Clara, unlike Miriam, is bursting with a lusty, animal passion. She is Paul’s match for fearlessness, sensuality, and intelligence. At the same time, she lacks Miriam’s spirituality and sensitivity. Without these qualities, can she stimulate Paul’s work as an artist?

At first Clara acts condescending to Paul. He’s convinced she hates all men. She’s certainly bitter about male/female relationships, her husband -Baxter brutalized her and was unfaithful. ‘Does this mean that she hates men, or that she’s had an unsatisfying married life?

Later, when Paul delivers a message to Clara her mother’s home, you see quite another side of this proud, independent woman. She’s humiliated and exhausted by her sweatshop labor, as she and her mother spend grueling hours making-lace. Even though they have the freedom towork at home rather than on an assembly line at one of  Nottingham’s many factories, these. Women are still exploited, underpaid victims of the industrial system.

Paul helps Clara get back her old overseer’s job at Jordan’s, and they become good friends through his generosity. Their subsequent love affair gives them both a new, expansive sense of life. With Clara, Paul finds the sensual fulfillment he can’t have with either Miriam or his mother. Paul awakens Clara’s sexuality, something she missed with her husband.

Some readers feel that Clara is the least successful of the major characters in Sons and Lovers. They believe she comes across merely as a vehicle for Paul’s passion and as a very shallow caricature of the “new woman.” How do you think Lawrence succeeds in drawing Clara Dawes? How does he fail?

Baxter Dawes: Clara’s husband. He fights with Paul, but they later become friends while he is ill. Mrs. Radford: Clara’s mother.

Thomas Jordan: The owner of the factory where Paul works. Paul dislikes him from their first interview because he is rude and makes Paul look foolish. He later fires Baxter Dawes because he knocks him down a flight of stairs.

Louisa Lily Denys Western: A girl William sees inLondon, and to whom he becomes engaged. The rest of the family is less than impressed with her when he brings her home, and William shortly becomes sick of her as well.

Mr. and Mrs. Leivers, Agatha, Edgar, Geoffrey, Maurice: The family who live at Willey Farm.

Fanny: A hunchback who works on the finishing-off room at the factory, who likes to have Paul come visit her to sing or talk. She organizes the other girls to get Paul a Birthday present.

John Field: A man with whom Gertrude is friendly when she is nineteen. He gives her a Bible, which she keeps for the rest of her life. From John she learns that “being a man isn’t everything.”

Jerry Purdy: Walter Morel’s bosom friend. Walter goes for a walk to Nottingham with Jerry, during which he takes the nap on the ground that eventually causes an illness.

Mr. Heaton: The Congregational clergyman who visits with Mrs. Morel every day after Paul is born. He isPaul’s godfather and teaches him French, German, and mathematics.

Beatrice Wyld: A friend of the Morel family who ridicules Miriam and flirts with


Here are some major themes of Sons and Lovers. They will be discussed in depth in “The Story” section of this guide. Sons, Mothers, and the Oedipus Complex You can look at Sons and Lovers as a story of the unnatural devotion of Paul Morel to his possessive mother. Many readers see the novel as a fictional study of the “Oedipus complex,” described by Lawrence’s contemporary, ‘ the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud took the old Greek myth of Oedipus, in which the hero unknowingly kills his father and marries his own mother, as a reflection of man’s subconscious sexual desires. Freud rebelled against the Victorian idea that children are asexual. He believed that a child’s earliest sexual attraction (at about three to five years of age) is to the parent of the opposite sex. Freud concluded his theory with the warning that if a boy did not eventually suppress this attraction and begin to identified with his father, he would never be able to transfer his early love for his mother

Paul Morel seems very much like a man suffering from an Oedipus complex. At times Paul’s relationship with Gertrude is disturbingly passionate. He hates his father and dreams of living exclusively with his mother. Paul has grave problems finding a satisfying relationship with any woman other than his mother. The novel traces his unsuccessful attempts to reconcile spiritual love, sexual passion, and filial devotion.Mrs. Moral encourages her son’sdependence and is envious of Miriam, her rival for his affection.

Along with the Oedipus complex, you’ll want to consider the positive aspects of Paul’s relationship with his mother. She encourages his art, education, and social advancement. In many Mrs. Morel embodies the Victorian concept of the ideal mother. She lives for her sons and will do anything to see them make their way in the world. Paul’s life on his own is just beginning at the novel’s end. Do you think Mrs. Morel’s influence on her son will prove to be for better or for worse?

Man/Woman Love:

Sons and Lovers is an investigation of love between men and women. Paul has a spiritual love with Miriam and a sexual one with Clara. Both relationships leave him unfulfilled because Paul needs a love that combines both spiritual and sexual elements in one woman. Lawrence clarified and developed his ideas on the importance of man/woman love in his later novels. Still, in this novel you get a strong feeling that survival in modern, industrial society depends on strong heterosexual relationships. Such a relationship is only possible when both man and woman are spiritually and physically vital. Paul Morel’s unfulfilled quest for this sort of relationship is a major theme of Sons and Lovers. Sex is a bone of contention between Paul and his two loves, Miriam and Clara. Both women want a personal, emotional relationship, whereas Paul views sex as rather impersonal. The woman isn’t exactly an object, but a catalyst for man’s mystical communion with nature. Clara and Miriam both feel that Paul doesn’t make love to them as individuals, but as symbols of womanhood. They feel used, while Paul fears they’re trying to possess and smother him. Lawrence felt that modern, industrial life caused such sexual warfare between men and women. Sex, which the author viewed as a healthy expression of man’s link to God and nature, had been perverted by Victorian morality and the dehumanization of mechanized, industrial life.

Lawrence’s sense of sex as good was alien to the Victorian belief that it was evil and beastly. Sex was not supposed to be a topic of conversation between a man anda good woman. The character of Miriam is a depiction repressed sexuality common in the Victorian woman. Many other writers were encouraged by Lawrence’s bold descriptions of the sexual act and continued his revolutionary work in their own novels.

The Maturation of an Artist:

Sons and Lovers tells the story of an individual growing up to become a talented painter and a deeply sensitive troubled young man. The novel traces Paul’s discovery of his need and ability to paint. Art for Paul is inspired by nature and women. The beauty of the countryside stimulates his creativity, as do the gentle, devoted encouragement of Miriam, the sensuality of Clara, and the protective, sensible nurturing of Mrs. Morel. As the novel progresses, Paul becomes more and more confident in his paintings. He starts to believe he will make a great artist someday. What’s most interesting about Paul as an artist is the way he sees things. He imbues raindrops, birds, and with a supernatural vitality. They appear to ‘l him like miraculous affirmations of brilliant, individualistic lives struggling against eternal darkness and chaos. The artist’s mission in life, according to Lawrence, is to help others see beyond the commonplace and into life’s mystery and wonder. At Jordan’s factory, Paul draws the local shop girls in such a way as to make each of them appear unique. He makes the girls see their own inner beauty and specialness.

Class Conflict:

You can see Sons and Lovers as a novel that epitomizes the conflict between the unskilled, ill- educated working class and the rigidly moral, emotionally and sexually inhibited middle class. Walter Morel, a symbol of the working class, has the positive qualities of instinct, warmth, and spontaneity. His wife, Gertrude, a symbol of the middle class, embodies their work ethic and their intellectual and social aspirations. Gertrude and Walter ‘ ought to complement one another with their very different positive points, but in fact they, like the lower and middleclasses, can’t get along, In Sons and Lovers, the lower class’s hatred of snobbery and phony propriety and the middle class’s concern with money and social advancement cause Gertrude and Walter to come to blows. Lawrence in his life and later novels sought a way of bringing these two social realms into harmony. Sons and Lovers can also be viewed as a working-class novel, a novel that focuses on the everyday lives, trials, and tribulations of unskilled, poor laborers. Through Lawrence’s words, you get a picture of what it was like to be a miner or a factory worker around the turn of the century.

Industrial life vs. Nature:

We have a sense in Sons and Lovers that modern industrial life perverts people. They’re cut off from nature and their own instinctive sexuality. Industrialism and its rigid moral code enslaves nature and discounts the sensual and aesthetic needs of humans. As you read the novel, pay close attention to the narrator’s description of Jordan’s factory and the way that Clara and Paul, on a brief escape from work, view the cityscape as a scar on the countryside. Factory life with its enforced confinement and long working hours isolates man from the natural world that is his true connection to the life force. Flowers, water, and other natural images are identified with sensuality and beauty, while the mines bury the fields in dust and darkness.

Opposing Forces: Light and Dark:

Sons and Lovers deals constantly in oppositions, such as light and dark. Lawrence believed that oppositions in the grand scheme of things form a completeness, rather than a vicious, irreconcilable struggle. Light stands’ for rational life and day-to-day reality. It is most strikingly associated with Mrs. Morel. Darkness symbolizes the wonder and mystery of existence, as well as the human subconscious and brute instinct. This quality is exemplified in Walter Morel, who every day descends deep into the earth. To Lawrence, light and dark, like life and death, opened naturally into each other. When you come -to William’s death in Chapter 6, you’ll notice that the coffin isbrought from the dark into the family’s lighted Lawrence, always ill and close to dying himself, felt that death was a natural extension of life and should be treated as such. To deny death, he believed, was truly to deny life.


Lawrence uses a combination of realistic description Style and poetic images to create the world of sons and Lovers. Realism is a style of writing that attempts to describe in a true-to-life manner concrete, everyday events. Poetic narrative, on the other hand, serves to lift life out of its normality, making it seem supernatural or symbolic of universal themes outside ordinary daily experience. Poetic narrative achieves this feat by using word comparisons, metaphors and similes, many adjectives, or elaborate and rhythmical language, rather than everyday speech.

The realism in Sons and Lovers is strongest in the first half of the novel, where the narrator describes the Morel family’s day-to-day existence. Mr. Morel hammers away at work, and the children help him along with his tasks. Mrs. Morel goes out marketing and comes home with a load of domestic treasures. The narrator also uses realistic detail to great effect when he presents the miners dividing their weekly pay in the Morel home. The men’s gestures are carefully described in almost photographic detail. The realism of Sons and Lovers gives you an accurate picture of working-class life at the turn of the century. You come to know, almost as if you were there, the pains and joys of their hard lives.

Lawrence’s poetry comes to the forefront in his descriptions of nature, where, for example, vivid sunsets and blazing rosebushes stand out against darkening skies. The poetic portions of Sons and Lovers seem to make the common lives of its characters miraculous and heroic.

Many times Lawrence uses a pattern that starts in realism, expands into lyrical poetic narrative, and then puts you back on your feet with a return to realism. You’ll notice this particularly in the scenes between Paul and women- his mother, Miriam, and Clara. He’ll start them off on a normal walk or conversation and then heighten thelanguage to give you a sense of their souls’ communication. The poetic style serves the purpose of evoking an emotional response in the reader rather than advancing the plot’s action. As you read Sons and Lovers, try to discover where the different styles are used and what each of them offers. How do they enhance each other and create what’s unique about the novel as a whole?

Lawrence also uses dialect to accurately convey his working-class characters’ conversations. The Midlands dialect is quite different from Standard English and you may have some difficulty understanding its slang terms, as well as its contractions of words. Dialect often drops beginning consonants of words and employs the old- fashioned “thee” and “thou” for “you.” To Lawrence, this sort of language was more warm and intense than StandardEnglish. Walter Morel speaks in dialect, emphasizing his social background and his sensuality. Gertrude Morel, on the other hand, speaks the Standard English of the educated middle class. You’ll notice that Paul speaks both “languages,” as well as French, which he teaches Miriam. Paul uses dialect for sensuous love with the sexually uninhibited Clara and for flirtation with Beatrice. He reserves proper English for Miriam and his prim mother.

Point of View:

Sons and Lovers is told from the point of view of an omniscient, or all-knowing, narrator. Most of the time, the narrator tells you more about the characters than they themselves know. This helps you accept and understand actions that might otherwise seem arbitrary or unmotivated. Since this book is highly autobiographical, many readers identify the narrator with Lawrence, who seems to be looking back and trying to come to terms with his own youthful problems and feelings through the character of Paul Morel. The narrator’s subjectivity about Paul shows through. At times he sympathizes with Paul, and at other times he condemns him. You may find the other characters judged in a similar way. Some readers find the narrator’s changing opinion indicative of Lawrence’s own confusionover his various past relationships. Others feel that the narrator is simply reflecting how people naturally change their perspective depending on the circumstances.

At times, the narrator seems to step aside and allow the characters to speak for themselves in passages of dialogue, you may feel closer to them when the narrator doesn’t guide your view of their motivations. But don’t forget that the narrator is choosing the speech and actions to be revealed, in order to influence your reactions. Sometimes, instead of stepping aside, the narrator seems almost to take over a character, even if the result is at odds with that character’s personality. For instance, when Gertrude Morel is locked out of her house in Chapter 1, she seems mystically transported by her experience with the daylilies. But isn’t she really “out of character”? Some would say that the narrator (or author?) has stepped into her shoes in such a totally subjective way that he reveals his own artistic and spiritual nature rather than Gertrude’s. Others might feel this is the only way to depict a character’s hidden inner feelings.


Sons and Lovers has fifteen episodic chapters, divided into Parts One and Two. Part one deals with the Morel familyhome life, emphasizing social and historical influences. Paul, the protagonist, is not yet the main focus of the novel. The core of Part One is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Morel’s failed marriage and the promise of son William’s success in life. Part one ends with the death of William and Mrs. Morel’s new Part Two begins the story of sons and Lovers in terms of Paul’s perceptions. Part Two, or the story of Paul’s life, can only begin once the favored son William dies and Paul takes his place in his mother’s heart. This section of the novel concentrates more on the conflicting inner feelings of its characters than on the straightforward, action- and detail-oriented realism of Part one. It also focuses on the battle between Miriam and Mrs. Morel for Paul’s soul. sons and Lovers moves chronologically from before Paul’s birth through his life as a Young man and ends withhis mourning the death of his mother, Flashbacks are often used, particularly in Part One, where Lawrence deals with the Morel parents’ premarital backgrounds and Paul’s early childhood memories,

Part Two involves a series of repeated attempts of male/female unions, exemplified by Paul’s relationship first with Miriam, then with Clara. Many readers feel that these relationships take forever to resolve and that when they do, the result is quite unsatisfactory. Other readers believe that the monotonous repetition of the failed Miriam/Paul relationship theme is deliberate. Feel that Sons and Lovers is structured like ocean waves. There’s a rhythmic return pattern to various themes, such as the decay of Mr. and Mrs. Morel’s love after it has reached its climax. This serves to show that •there are no clear-cut resolutions in life. People make the same mistakes again and again. Part Two can be considered a journey from the known, realistic world of Part One into the realm of the unknown, where there are no definitive solutions. Part Two explores the subconscious and mysterious forces that motivate people. Lawrence saw this sort of exploration more far more important than providing his audience with resolutions.


Oedipus complex:

Perhaps Sigmund Freud’s most celebrated theory of sexuality, the Oedipus complex takes its name from the title character of the Greek play Oedipus Rex. In the story, Oedipus is prophesied to murder his father and have sex with his mother (and he does, though unwittingly). Freud argued that these repressed desires are present in most young boys. (The female version is called the Electra complex.)

D.H. Lawrence was aware of Freud’s theory, and Sons and Lovers famously uses the Oedipus complex as its base for exploring Paul’s relationship with his mother. Paul is hopelessly devoted to his mother, and that love often borders on romantic desire. Lawrence many scenes between the two that go beyond the bounds of conventional mother-son love. Completing the Oedipal equation, Paul murderously hates his father and often fantasizes about his death.

Paul assuages his guilty, incestuous feelings by his guilty them elsewhere, and the greatest receivers are Paul assuages and Clara (note that transference is another Freudian term). However, Paul love either woman nearly as much as he does his mother, though he does not always realize that this is an impediment to his romantic life. The older, independent Clara, especially, is a failed maternal substitute for Paul. In this setup, Baxter Dawes can be seen as an imposing father figure; his savage beating of Paul, then, can be viewed as Paul’s unconsciously desired punishment for his guilt. Paul’s eagerness to befriend Dawes once he is ill(which makes him something like the murdered father) further reveals his guilt over the situation.

But Lawrence adds a twist to the Oedipus complex: Mrs. Morel is saddled with it as well. She desires both William and Paul in near-romantic ways, and she despises all their girlfriends. She, too, engages in transference, projecting her dissatisfaction with her marriage onto her smothering love for her sons. At the end of the novel, Paul takes a major step in releasing himself from his Oedipus complex. He intentionally overdoses his dying mother with morphia, an act that reduces her suffering but also subverts his oedipal fate, since he does not kill his father, but his mother.


Lawrence discusses bondage, or servitude, in two major ways: social and romantic. Socially, Mrs. Morel feels bound by her status as a woman and by industrialism. She complains of feeling “buried alive,”‘ a logical lament for someone married to a miner, and even the children feel they are in a “tight place of anxiety.” Though she joins a women’s group, she must remain a housewife for life, and thus is jealous of Miriam, who is able to utilize her intellect in more opportunities. Ironically, Paul feels free in his job at the factory, enjoying the work and the company of the working-class women, though one gets the sense that he would still rather be painting.

Romantic bondage is given far more emphasis in the novel. Paul (and William, to a somewhat lesser extent) feelsbound to his mother, and cannot imagine ever abandoning her or even marrying anyone else. He is preoccupied with the notion of lovers “belonging” to each other, and his true desire, revealed at the end, is for a woman to claim him forcefully as her own. He feels the sacrificial Miriam fails in this regard and that Clara always belonged to Baxter Dawes. It is clear that no woman could ever match the intensity and steadfastness of his mother’s claim. Complementing the theme of bondage is the novel’s treatment of jealousy: Mrs. Morel is constantly jealous of her sons’ lovers, and she masks this jealousy very thinly, Morel, too, is jealous over his wife’s closer relationships with his sons and over their successes. Paul frequently rouses jealousy in Miriam with his flirtations with Agatha Leiver and Beatrice, and Dawes is violently jealous of Paul’s romance with Clara.

Contradictions and oppositions:

Lawrence demonstrates how contradictions emerge so easily in human nature, especially with love and hate. Paul vacillates between hatred and love for all the women in his life, including his mother at times. Often he loves and hates at the same time, especially with Miriam. Mrs. Morel, too, has some reserve of love for her husband even when she hates him, although this love dissipates over time.

Lawrence also uses the opposition of the body and mind to expose the contradictory nature of desire; frequently, characters pair up with someone who is quite unlike them. Mrs. Morel initially likes the hearty, vigorous Morel because he is so far removed from her dainty, refined, intellectual nature. Paul’s attraction to Miriam, his spiritual soul mate, is less intense than his desire for the sensual, physical Clara.

The decay of the- body also influences the spiritual relationships. When Mrs. Morel dies, Morel grows more sensitive, though he still refuses to look at her body. Dawes’s illness, too, removes his threat to Paul, who befriends his ailing rival.

Nature and flowers:

Sons and lovers has a great deal of description of the natural environment. Often, the weather and environment reflect the character’s emotions through the literary technique of pathetic fallacy. The description is frequently eroticized, both to indicate sexual energy and to slip pass the censors in Lawrence’s repressive time.

Lawrence’s charactersalso experience moments of transcendence while alone in nature, much as the Romantics did. More frequently, characters bond deeply while in nature. Lawrence uses flowers throughout the novel to symbolize agents of division, as when Paul is repulsed by Miriam’s fawning daffodil.


Industrialism 1: The mining company has set up in the valley for the’ miners and their families. The well-to-do families and the poor families each live in the valley designated for them: Best wood for the well-to-do, and slums of “Hell Row” for the poor.

Industrialism 2: Mrs. Morel despises the dreary and monotonous life she leads as a poor miner’s wife. She wishes that she could leave this little provincial town for the poor something bigger and better. Mrs. Morel cannot wait for her children to grow up so that she can escape the slums of this town when they are older.

Industrialism 3: Mrs. Morel, confident that William achieve a better profession than mining, is adamant that he will not become a miner like his father. She knows that William is capable of more than her husband ever was, and wants William to pursue all that he can achieve.

Industrialism 4: Now that Paul is of age to work, the valley he has loved and cherished so much as a child has become a place of work. He can no longer view the valley in the same way he once did: the valley loses its appeal of freedom, independence, and innocence

Industrialism 5: Paul finds a job at a company that makes surgical appliances. He is becoming part of the great industrial movement of England. Paul can now finally earn money for his family, for his mother especially. He feels proud that he can work and earn a salary like an adult. Industrialism 6: Paul enjoys himself at work. He finds companionship in the factory girls and his boss. However, he begins to witness a significant gender difference in men’s and women’s work. He sees that the men represent the work ethic and the women do not.

Industrialism 7: The trains that transport Paul to work every day, along& with many other people living in the countryside, symbolize the industrialized and non- established parts of England. The factory where Paul works is just one of the many places in industrialized Nottingham that represents culture and sophistication.

Industrialism 8: Paul likes the feeling of men working, especially of men sitting on trucks. He feels that the physical work of men is thrilling and impressive, and makes him feel more invigorated and alive to see men at work.

Industrialism 9: Arthur, the youngest Morel child, gets a job at Minton Pit, doing electrical work. He, as with Paul, enters the work force, doing a profession that requires skill and technical knowledge. That Arthur joins the industrial work force suggests the intensity of work in the industrial field.

Mother-Son Relationship

Mother-Son Relationship 1: Her children, but more specifically William, are the only bright spot in Mrs. Morel’s frustrated, disgusted life. She despises the life she has with her husband and lavishes all of her love and attention to her son.

Mother-Son Relationship 2: A worried Mrs. Morel notices that William does not seem to be himself and tries to give him advice. She is concerned that he may turn out to be like his father, drinking and socializing too much. Mrs. Morel does not like the attention William receives from all the girls who call on him.

Mother-Son Relationship 3. Although Mrs. Morel is that William will so well in London, she is greatly Mrs. Morel to such a degree that he is all she about when he is not with her, but she consoles herself thinking that he is in London for her alone.

Mother-Son Relationship 4. When William leaves home for London again, Mrs. Morel is depressed and sad again. She misses her son so much that it hurts to see him leave. Both she and William know that the love they have for one another is strong to last their separation.

Mother-Son Relationship 5. When Mr. Morel becomes sick, Mrs. Morel does not feel as badly as she should; she wants to feel bad that he is in pain, but herlove and affection for her husband is replaced by her love for William.

Mother-Son Relationship 6: Paul imagines that he and his mother will live together when he is old enough to earn money by himself and when his father has died. Paul loves his mother so much that he wants to be with her and spend all of his time with her. To live with his mother by himself is his greatest desire.

Mother-Son Relationship 7: Mrs. Morel is greatly saddened by William’s engagement to Gipsy. She feels threatened and scared that William’s future wife will take her place as the woman he loves most in his heart; she turns to Paul, her second son, for comfort and support.

Mother-Son Relationship 8: Mrs. Morel cannot take William’s death well. She shuts out the rest of her family from her life because she is in too much pain and hurt. Not only has she lost William, she has lost a part of herself. She has loved William so much, so passionately, that she has lost part of her soul when he dies.

Mother-Son Relationship 9: Paul’s nearly fatal illness makes Mrs. Morel realize how much he means to her and how much she loves him. After Paul recovers, she focuses all of her attention and love on Paul. He is all she has now, now that William has died.

Mother-Son Relationship 10: Although Paul does not realize the seriousness of his relationship with Miriam, his mother certainly does, and she is jealous. As with William and his fiancée, Mrs. Morel feels threatenedby the presence of a girl whom son is very serious about. Paul, however, does notice his mother is hurt that he spends much of his time with Miriam.

Mother-Son Relationship 11: Mrs. Morel instinctively that Paul will become famous and known. More she feels that her destiny and her dreams will out through Paul. She knows that Paul is capable E accomplishing all of her goals and her dreams.

Mother-Son Relationship 12: When Mrs. Morel states does not seem to spend time with anybody but Paul sees that she is hurt that he is spending time a woman other than her. He feels bad that the time he spends with Miriam is making his mother suffer, and he hates Miriam for making his mother suffer so much. He attempts to convince his mother that she is the one woman he loves the most and wants to come home to, but his is too hurt to believe him.

Mother-Son Relationship 13: When Paul talks with Miriam about their relationship, he realizes that it is his whom he loves the most. He knows that he is the important person in her life. He tells Miriam that henever love her as much as she loves him because he will always love his mother the most.

Mother-Son Relationship 14: During Paul and Mrs. Morel’s trip to the cathedral, Paul notices for the first time the temporality of their lives and wishes that he could have had more time Ninetieth his mother. He berates the fact that he the second-born son that he were her first- born, so that he would have had more time with her.

Mother-Son Relationship 15: Mrs. Morel hates. Miriameven more than she already does because of the way Paul is affected by her. She hates that Miriam is changing his will, his passion, and his temperament: She can see that Paul die of the excessive, passionate temperament he fosters when he is Miriam.

Mother-Son Relationship 16: Mrs. Morel is terribly tired of her involvement in Paul and Miriam’s relationship and decides to stop intervening. She knows that Paul-is adult now and that there is nothing she can do to stop Paulfrom seeing Miriam. She feels that she can never forgive her son for sacrificing himself to love Miriam.

Mother-Son Relationship 17: Paul tries persuading his mother that Clara is a better match for him than Miriam ever was, but his mother is deaf to his words. He tells his mother that her jealousy of his relationship with Clara is the only thing that stops her from liking Clara. Paul is too wrapped up in his involvement with Clara and with his mother’s dislike of Clara to notice that his mother does not look well at all.

Mother-Son Relationship 18: Paul has begun to realize how much his mother affects his life. Her deep love for him has made her a part of himself that when he wants to break free from his mother, he is unable to get away from her. His mother is ingrained into his very soul.

Mother-Son Relationship 19: Paul declares that he WII never marry as long as he has his mother to love. He does not envision himself marrying, despite his mother’s that he want to marry when he finds the right woman.

Mother-Son Relationship 20: Clara sees that Paul is distancing himself from her because of his mother. She knows in her heart that he will never sacrifice his mother for her. Paul tells her that it seems that his mother will never die because she is stubborn and relentless in heart, mind and soul.

Mother-Son Relationship 21: Paul suffers to see his mother in so much pain. He cannot take ‘watching his mother turn into a limp, lifeless creature from a person of vitality and spirit. VSQ1en he looks into his mother’s eyes, he can see that she agrees that she wants to die to end all the pain she is in, yet her stubborn spirit and body will not allow her.

Mother-Son Relationship 22: When Paul kisses his dead mother, he feels has never experienced from her: cold and harsh, unreceptive and loveless. He does not want to let his mother go from his life. Mother-Son Relationship 23: As much as Paul wants his him, he decides that he cannot follow his mother. Even her spirit will guide him if he allows it to but he decides to break away from her. He knows he must separate himself from her to become a man of his own instinct and will.


Religion 1: Paul prays for his mother’s safety. In doing so, he prays that his father might be hurt or even killed so that he might never hurt his mother again. Yet guilt washes over him, and then he prays for his father as well. Morel ultimately can never quite get along with his family because he denies any single shred of religion, stability, compassion and love in his soul. Religion 2: Miriam, who possesses intense piety and religion, believes that her brothers and father are too vulgar, for they have no regard for church or God, whom she loves passionately. She only admires and respects those who attend church and therefore believe in the teachings of God.

Religion 3: Miriam feels so deeply about nature that she is in her own little world of reality. To her, the natural world is a wonderful paradise like the Garden of Eden, and knowledge of the harsh, hateful things in life wrecks the beauty of nature.

Religion 4: Paul is frustrated and angered at the way Miriam devotes herself so deeply and intensely to people, nature or ideas. He asks her in frustration why she feels she has to devote herself so much to whatever he says or does.

Religion 5: The rose-bush Miriam shows to Paul eerily signifies their relationship. That Miriam is intensely loving and warm toward the beautiful, white roses and that Paul feels strangely “imprisoned” by them symbolize their feelings for each other and toward sex with the other. Miriam would devote herself to Paul, who would feel smothered by her intensity.

Religion 6: Miriam prays to God that if He wills her to love Paul, she will undoubtedly follow his words and love Paul as much as she can. She will love Paul if God means for them to love each other. However, she feels ashamedthat her feelings for Paul are so open and ardent when her sister chastises her.

Religion 7: Paul declares to Miriam that she is a nun ieve1Y sense of their relationship. He has given everything he possibly could in their relationship except passion. Paul feels that he can never love her in a physical sexual way because they love each other in a spiritual way not a passionate way.

Religion 8: Miriam fiercely tells herself that she will devote herself to Paul if their wills wish them to have sex. She tells herself firmly that she will give him the passion he wants and needs, against her wishes. She will sacrifice her virginity for him.

Religion 9: When Miriam and Paul have sex, Paul notices that she looks strangely calm. After they have sex, Miriam decides that she is not ready to give herself sexually to him if he needs her.

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