Sons and Lovers is a 1913 novel by the English writer D. H. Lawrence. It traces emotional conflicts through the protagonist, Paul Morel, and his suffocating relationships with a demanding mother and two very different lovers, which exert complex influences on the development of his manhood. The novel was originally published by Gerald Duckworth and Company Ltd., London, and Mitchell Kennerley Publishers, New York. While the novel initially received a lukewarm critical reception, along with allegations of obscenity, it is today regarded as a masterpiece by many critics and is often regarded as Lawrence's finest achievement. It tells us more about Lawrence's life and his phases, as his first was when he lost his mother in 1910 to whom he was particularly attached. And it was from then that he met Frieda Richthofen, and around this time that he began conceiving his two other great novels, The Rainbow and Women In Love, which had more sexual emphasis and maturity.
The refined daughter of a \"good old burgher family,\" Gertrude Coppard meets a rough-hewn miner, Walter Morel, at a Christmas dance and falls into a whirlwind romance characterised by physical passion but soon after her marriage to Walter, she realises the difficulties of living off his meagre salary in a rented house. The couple fight and drift apart and Walter retreats to the pub after work each day. Gradually, Mrs. Morel's affections shift to her sons beginning with the oldest, William.
The first part of the novel focuses on Mrs. Morel and her unhappy marriage to a drinking miner. She has many arguments with her husband, some of which have painful results: on separate occasions, she is locked out of the house and hit in the head with a drawer. Estranged from her husband, Mrs. Morel takes comfort in her four children, especially her sons. Her oldest son, William, is her favorite, and she is very upset when he takes a job in London and moves away from the family. When William sickens and dies a few years later, she is crushed, not even noticing the rest of her children until she almost loses Paul, her second son, as well. From that point on, Paul becomes the focus of her life, and the two seem to live for each other.
Edwardian beliefs are represented by Gertrude Morel, who views any of the women who pursue her sons as immoral. However, the character of Clara Dawes, who is of the upper class, challenges the notion that upper-class women don't feel sexual desires. She is quite open and liberal with her sexuality. Her freedom in the novel was deemed obscene, granting Lawrence the reputation of being a crude and pornographic author.
Sons and Lovers explores Oedipal relationships, but rather than the son having a sexual desire for the mother, we see Gertrude Morel projecting her attachments to her sons, William and Paul, while also jealously wishing to rid them of their female partners.
The only way Gertrude can climb out of her depression is to pour all of her attention into nursing Paul back to health after he falls ill. They become incredibly close and at certain points act like lovers. Paul even wishes he could make money from his job at a surgical appliance manufacturer in Nottingham to buy a cottage for his mother and him to live in.
The bondage felt between Gertrude and her sons, William and Paul, is seen the most. Gertrude holds back both men from exploring freely, and becomes suffocatingly controlling and jealous when either one is interested in a woman.
The characters in Sons and Lovers each have something or someone they love or have a passion for. The place we see this most often is Gertrude's wildly passionate love for her sons, William and Paul, as well as Paul's very passionate love for his mother. Paul is also passionate about painting, just as Gertrude is passionate about religion.
Meanwhile another infant was coming, fruit of this little peace and tendernessbetween the separating parents. Paul was seventeen months old when the new babywas born. He was then a plump, pale child, quiet, with heavy blue eyes, andstill the peculiar slight knitting of the brows. The last child was also a boy,fair and bonny. Mrs. Morel was sorry when she knew she was with child, both foreconomic reasons and because she did not love her husband; but not for the sakeof the infant.
When he was nineteen he suddenly left the Co-op. office and got a situation inNottingham. In his new place he had thirty shillings a week instead ofeighteen. This was indeed a rise. His mother and his father were brimmed upwith pride. Everybody praised William. It seemed he was going to get onrapidly. Mrs. Morel hoped, with his aid, to help her younger sons. Annie wasnow studying to be a teacher. Paul, also very clever, was getting on well,having lessons in French and German from his godfather, the clergyman who wasstill a friend to Mrs. Morel. Arthur, a spoilt and very good-looking boy, wasat the Board-school, but there was talk of his trying to get a scholarship forthe High School in Nottingham.
They were very poor that autumn. William had just gone away to London, and hismother missed his money. He sent ten shillings once or twice, but he had manythings to pay for at first. His letters came regularly once a week. He wrote agood deal to his mother, telling her all his life, how he made friends, and wasexchanging lessons with a Frenchman, how he enjoyed London. His mother feltagain he was remaining to her just as when he was at home. She wrote to himevery week her direct, rather witty letters. All day long, as she cleaned thehouse, she thought of him. He was in London: he would do well. Almost, he waslike her knight who wore her favour in the battle.
The sixteen slow miles of railway journey passed. The mother and son walkeddown Station Street, feeling the excitement of lovers having an adventuretogether. In Carrington Street they stopped to hang over the parapet and lookat the barges on the canal below.
She stood in her white apron on the open road, watching him as he crossed thefield. He had a small, compact body that looked full of life. She felt, as shesaw him trudging over the field, that where he determined to go he would get.She thought of William. He would have leaped the fence instead of going roundthe stile. He was away in London, doing well. Paul would be working inNottingham. Now she had two sons in the world. She could think of two places,great centres of industry, and feel that she had put a man into each of them,that these men would work out what she wanted; they were derived fromher, they were of her, and their works also would be hers. All the morning longshe thought of Paul.
He would not have it that they were lovers. The intimacy between them had beenkept so abstract, such a matter of the soul, all thought and weary struggleinto consciousness, that he saw it only as a platonic friendship. He stoutlydenied there was anything else between them. Miriam was silent, or else shevery quietly agreed. He was a fool who did not know what was happening tohimself. By tacit agreement they ignored the remarks and insinuations of theiracquaintances.
That was more probably one of his own reasons for liking Mrs. Dawes, but thisdid not occur to him. They were silent. There had come into his forehead aknitting of the brows which was becoming habitual with him, particularly whenhe was with Miriam. She longed to smooth it away, and she was afraid of it. Itseemed the stamp of a man who was not her man in Paul Morel.
So he went as often, but he was usually with Edgar. Only all the family,including the father, joined in charades and games at evening. And later,Miriam drew them together, and they read Macbeth out of penny books,taking parts. It was great excitement. Miriam was glad, and Mrs. Leivers wasglad, and Mr. Leivers enjoyed it. Then they all learned songs together fromtonic sol-fa, singing in a circle round the fire. But now Paul was very rarelyalone with Miriam. She waited. When she and Edgar and he walked home togetherfrom chapel or from the literary society in Bestwood, she knew his talk, sopassionate and so unorthodox nowadays, was for her. She did envy Edgar,however, his cycling with Paul, his Friday nights, his days working in thefields. For her Friday nights and her French lessons were gone. She was nearlyalways alone, walking, pondering in the wood, reading, studying, dreaming,waiting. And he wrote to her frequently.
So the wedding took place almost immediately. Arthur came home, and wassplendid in uniform. Annie looked nice in a dove-grey dress that she could takefor Sundays. Morel called her a fool for getting married, and was cool with hisson-in-law. Mrs. Morel had white tips in her bonnet, and some white on herblouse, and was teased by both her sons for fancying herself so grand. Leonardwas jolly and cordial, and felt a fearful fool. Paul could not quite see whatAnnie wanted to get married for. He was fond of her, and she of him. Still, hehoped rather lugubriously that it would turn out all right. Arthur wasastonishingly handsome in his scarlet and yellow, and he knew it well, but wassecretly ashamed of the uniform. Annie cried her eyes up in the kitchen, onleaving her mother. Mrs. Morel cried a little, then patted her on the back andsaid:
But she was a married woman, and he believed in simple friendship. And heconsidered that he was perfectly honourable with regard to her. It was only afriendship between man and woman, such as any civilised persons might have.
He looked round. A good many of the nicest men he knew were like himself, boundin by their own virginity, which they could not break out of. They were sosensitive to their women that they would go without them for ever rather thando them a hurt, an injustice. Being the sons of mothers whose husbands hadblundered rather brutally through their feminine sanctities, they werethemselves too diffident and shy. They could easier deny themselves than incurany reproach from a woman; for a woman was like their mother, and