Sons and Lovers : Characters

Table of Contents


Gertrude Morel: 

Gertrude Morel is a central character in D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Sons and Lovers.” She plays a pivotal role as the mother of the protagonist, Paul Morel, and is a complex and intriguing character. Here’s a detailed character sketch of Gertrude:

Physical Appearance: Gertrude is described as a beautiful woman with dark hair, fair skin, and expressive eyes. She carries herself with a certain grace and elegance that is noted by those around her.

Personality: Gertrude is a passionate and intense woman. She possesses a strong will and a deep emotional nature. She is intelligent and possesses an artistic sensibility, often finding solace and fulfillment in literature and music. Gertrude is a dreamer, and her vivid imagination allows her to escape the limitations of her everyday life.

Ambition and Dissatisfaction: Gertrude has a deep yearning for something more in life. She dreams of experiencing profound love and fulfillment, which she feels is lacking in her marriage to Walter Morel. Gertrude desires a passionate connection with a partner who can understand and appreciate her complex nature. Her dissatisfaction with her marriage and life leads her to seek emotional fulfillment through her relationships with her sons.

Relationship with Sons: Gertrude’s relationship with her sons, particularly Paul, is central to the novel. She is deeply attached to her children, especially Paul, and seeks emotional and intellectual companionship through them. Gertrude has high expectations for her sons, hoping they will achieve the success and happiness she longs for herself. However, her intense emotional dependence on Paul becomes a source of conflict as he grows older and seeks his own independence.

Struggles and Conflicts: Gertrude faces internal struggles due to her conflicting desires. She loves her husband, Walter, but feels trapped and unfulfilled in their marriage. She longs for a passionate connection, which leads her to seek emotional fulfillment elsewhere. Gertrude’s intense attachment to Paul causes tension in their relationship as he begins to form romantic relationships of his own.

Independence and Self-Discovery: As the novel progresses, Gertrude undergoes a journey of self-discovery. She realizes that her quest for emotional fulfillment through her sons is limiting their growth and happiness. Gertrude begins to confront her own desires and seeks to establish her own identity outside of her roles as a wife and mother. She strives for independence and attempts to find her own path to happiness.

Complexity and Contradictions: Gertrude is a complex character with contradictory qualities. She is simultaneously selfless and selfish, nurturing and demanding, loving and suffocating. These contradictions reflect the complexities of her desires and the internal struggles she faces. Gertrude’s character serves as a representation of the challenges and sacrifices faced by women in early 20th-century society.

In summary, Gertrude Morel is a passionate and intense woman who yearns for emotional and intellectual fulfillment. Her complex nature, deep attachment to her sons, and internal conflicts make her a compelling character in “Sons and Lovers.” Throughout the novel, she undergoes a journey of self-discovery as she confronts her desires and seeks her own path to happiness.

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 .

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