Summary & Analysis; Chapter 1: The Early Married Life of the Morels · Chapter Test your knowledge of Sons and Lovers with our quizzes and study questions. Sons and Lovers study guide contains a biography of D.H. Lawrence, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes. A summary of Chapter The Test on Miriam in D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers of them may have been caused by the lack of sexuality in their relationship.
Gather in groups and draw a portrait of Paul's brain, marking off sections according to the thoughts and people that preoccupy him during the novel. How much space would you give to Miriam? How much to his mother? How much to his father? Present the portrait to the class and explain your labeling choices. In explaining his theory of the oedipal complex, Freud claimed that between two and five years old, during the phallic stage of their development, boys fantasize about being their mother's lover.
The boy's sexual interests, however, are soon met with the threat of castration from the father, and the eventual successful resolution involves identification with the father and assuming an active and aggressive social role in a patriarchal society. Discuss how the relationship between Paul and his mother does not illustrate or echo the Oedipus complex.
Write a summary of what might happen in a sixteenth chapter. What happens to Paul once he reaches the "faintly humming, glowing town"? Take turns reading your summaries to the class. Point of View Point of view refers to the perspective from which the narrative is told. Sons and Lovers is told mostly from a third-person omniscient point of view, as the narrator has access to the thoughts of the characters and moves back and forth in time while telling the story.
The first half of the novel focuses on Gertrude Morel and the second part focuses on Paul. However, although Lawrence strives to create a narrator that is impartial and presents material in an objective manner, the narrator occasionally makes editorial comments on the action, as he does in the first part of the novel after Mrs.
Morel has been thinking that her life will be one of continued drudgery. The narrator intrudes, saying, "Sometimes life takes hold of one, carries the body along, accomplishes one's history, and yet is not real, but leaves oneself as it were slurred over.
When he shows, he simply describes the characters' action and lets them speak for themselves. When he tells, he summarizes scenes and sometimes comments on them.
The narrator's presence is most evident in the latter instance. England Lawrence's novel begins in and ends inroughly following the outline of Lawrence's own life. During that time, British miners battled their capitalist bosses for better pay and safer working conditions. However, large swings in demand for coal contributed to industry instability, and it was common for miners' unions to be rewarded a raise one year and presented with a cut in salary the next. As the rate of industrialization increased, so did the gap between rich and poor.
Nowhere was this gap more apparent than in the difference between how the miners lived and how the owners of the mines lived. Lawrence's father, on whom Walter Morel is based, began working in the mines when he was ten years old. A typical week for him consisted of six twelve-hour days, with only two paid holidays a year. One way out of the danger and poverty of the mining life was through education. The Education Act ofwhich attempted to provide elementary education for all children, gave hope to the parents of many working-class children.
The act allowed local school boards to levy and collect taxes. Elementary schooling, however, was not entirely free until the s, when "board" schools could stop charging fees.
Before that, parents were expected to pay between one and four pence per week per child. William, Paul, Clara, and Miriam all went to school, which significantly increased their chances of finding better work. InSigmund Freud delivers a speech before the London Society of Psychical Research detailing for the first time his theories on the unconscious as a repository of thoughts repressed by the conscious mind.
Over the next few decades, psychoanalysis grows in popularity, with thousands of psychiatrists undergoing and then practicing Freudian psychoanalysis. Though academic interest in Freud remains strong, very few practicing Freudian psychoanalysts remain. World War I is fought between andresulting in tens of millions of casualties. Interrorists kill more than 3, people by flying jet airplanes into the twin towers of Manhattan's World Trade Centerand President George W.
Bush of the United States declares war on terrorism. Inthe world's first mass-produced tractor, the Fordson, is introduced, and farmers quickly produce crop surpluses. Governments of the United States and Britain regularly offer subsidies to their farmers to not grow crops.
At this time, there was also a difference between public and private schools. Public schools were more expensive than private schools, as private schools often received their funding from an endowment or from a corporation, which ran them or hired a board of governors to do so. Social class was, and remains, intricately entwined with education. Schools not only provided students with the basic skills to obtain jobs, but they also offered students the chance to form friendships and alliances with other students and their families.
Gaining admission to the better schools, however, depended on the student's family's resources and connections. As a result of the Education Act, industrialization, and urbanization, more positions in skilled and semiskilled labor became available during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The number of clerks, for example, quadrupled between andwith the British government, particularly the Post Officeemploying the bulk of them.
Vocational schools gradually replaced apprenticeships, and quasi-professional fields such as photography, bookkeeping, and librarianship emerged, providing additional choices for those with the desire or wherewithal to make better lives for themselves. There were more opportunities for men; however, women, especially unmarried women, found work as typists, secretaries, and telephone operators. While Lawrence was lambasting industrialization and the loss of humanity's bond with the land, rural people were pouring into cities throughout the nineteenth century, seeking a better life.
The agricultural depression of the s further depleted the number of farmers, and by the turn of the century more than 80 percent of Britain's population lived in cities. The "faintly humming, glowing town" toward which Paul walks at the end of the novel is full of telephones and buses, trams, automobiles, and subway trains.
Critical Overview In general, reviewers praise Sons and Lovers, though when doing so, they just as often point out its shortcomings. A writer for the The Saturday Review, for example, gives the novel this backhanded compliment: In these works, Gregory argues, Lawrence's "febrile and tortured genius flows richly and turbulently.
Every passing stir upon his sensitiveness is passionately or beautifully recorded. In his essay "Sons and Lovers: This approach, like many of Freud's theories themselves, was later widely attacked as being reductive. More recent criticism of the novel has drawn on the theories of Jacques Lacanamong others.
Earl Ingersoll, for example, in his essay, "Gender and Language in Sons and Lovers," argues that a Lacanian approach to the novel is more productive than the Freudian psychoanalytic approach critics such as Kuttner have taken. Exploring the relationship between language and the characters' interactions, Ingersoll charts Paul's maturation as a movement from "the text of the unconscious associated with the mother to the empowerment of metaphor associated with the Name-of-the-Father.
Criticism Chris Semansky Semansky is an instructor of English literature and composition. In this essay, Semansky considers Lawrence's novel as a Bildungsroman.
Sons and Lovers is an example of a Bildungsroman, an autobiographical novel about the early years of a character's life, and that character's emotional and spiritual development. The term derives from German novels of education, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, which details the experiences of an innocent young man who discovers his purpose and passion in life through a series of adventures and misadventures.
Lawrence offers up a rendering of his own first twenty-five years of life in more or less chronological order, showing how Paul Morel must negotiate the pull of family and culture to cultivate his individuality.
By writing a novel that is predominantly based on people and times from his own life, Lawrence implicitly invites readers to treat the work as non-fiction.
This has often led to confusion, however, as some of the events in Sons and Lovers have no factual basis in Lawrence's life but rather are symbolic dramatizations of his key emotional struggles.
The character in the book that has occasioned the most controversy is Miriam Leivers, whom Lawrence based on Jessie Chambers, a friend from his youth. Chambers encouraged Lawrence to rewrite the novel after he had sent her a draft. She was disappointed in the revision as well, because she felt it did not accurately portray their relationship.
Chambers attempted to tell the "real" story of her relationship with Lawrence in her own memoir, D. The relationship between Paul and Miriam that Lawrence describes fulfills the conventional criteria of the Bildungsroman, which often includes a detailing of the protagonist's love affairs. Critic Brian Finney is even more specific in his description of the genre's criteria in his examination of the novel D.
Sons and Lovers when he writes, "Normally, there are at least two love affairs, one demeaning, and one exalting. Although she gives herself to Paul sexually, she does so reluctantly, sacrificially, and without passion.
Finney describes other criteria of the Bildungsroman: The child protagonist is usually sensitive and is constrained by parents the father in particular and the provincial society in which he or she grows up. Made aware of wider intellectual and social horizons by schooling, the child breaks with the constraints of parents and home environment and moves to the city where his or her personal education begins—both in terms of discovering a true vocation and through first experiencing sexual passion.
Paul certainly fulfills the criterion of being sensitive. Lawrence describes him as "a pale, quiet child" who "was so conscious of what other people felt. Morel that Paul resembles and loves and who forms the psychological barrier that Paul repeatedly comes up against in his drive to know himself.
Morel, though, is also a facilitator in Paul's development, as she attempts to shield him from her husband's vulgar habits and rescues him from a life in the mines. Morel also attempts to mitigate the effects that the society in which they live have on her children. Bestwood, a thinly-veiled version of Eastwood, where Lawrence was born, is the setting of the novel, and in the opening chapter Lawrence recounts the history of the Midlands countryside, Mrs.
Morel's childhood, and the time when she met and married Walter Morel. This narrative strategy of describing the factors that contributed to Paul's conception allows Lawrence to foreground the influence of Paul's environment and family life on the development of his character.
Paul was born in "The Bottoms," a six-block area of housing for miners. Life in "The Bottoms" is largely one of ongoing despair. After a day in the mines, the men drink and cavort, while their wives tend to domestic chores such as cooking and cleaning. Morel is unlike the other wives in that she comes from a higher social station and had expectations for a better life.
Morel primarily as a destructive figure in Paul and William's lives, writing: Her Protestant ethos of self-denial, sexual repression, impersonal work, disciplined aspiration, guilt, and yearning for conversion-escape, not only defeats her already industrially victimized coal-miner husband but also contributes to the defeat of several of their sons.
Paul's "defeat," however, is only possible because Paul knows the difference between success and failure. Without his mother's sour but demanding presence and her daily disillusionment with the world, Paul might not have developed his love for painting or his desire to transcend his provincial roots. Paul's tortured relationship with his mother actually allows him to develop his own ideas about the meaning of individuation and fulfillment.
By having to balance his need to please her with his need to have a healthy sexual and emotional relationship with a woman, Paul arrives at an understanding about himself and what he can and cannot control. This self-understanding, a crucial phase of character development in a Bildungsroman, entails the knowledge that there is less in life that Paul can control than his mother has taught him.
Morel believes that through hard work, will power, and self-denial one could move up the social ladder and find contentment.
What she does not grasp is the extent to which the self suffers from such desires. Paul discovers through his relationship with Clara that the temperament he has inherited from his mother is destroying him. He comes to realize that attempts to deny passion or to manage the contents of his consciousness are doomed to fail. Critic Helen Baron claims that Lawrence embeds his own understanding about human consciousness not only in Paul's character but also in the very style of the writing.
In her essay, "Disseminated Consciousness in Sons and Lovers," Baron writes that Lawrence tests readers' assumptions that the will can control what the body feels and the mind thinks, claiming Lawrence represents consciousness as something that cannot be contained.
Paul's passion to paint stands in for Lawrence's own passion to write, and, by describing Paul's growth as an artist, Lawrence participates in the literary tradition of the Kunstlerroman, which is a novel that describes the early years and growth of an artist. The nature of these two subgenres almost demands that they follow the literary tradition of realism, which Lawrence does as well. Realistic novels portray character, setting, and action in a recognizable and plausible way.
They are located in a specific time or historical era and in a specific cultural milieu. Authors of realistic novels often rely on the use of dialect and concrete details of everyday life to compose their stories, and they make clear the motivations of characters' actions, emotions, and thoughts.
Often, such novels depict the working class. Although written just a decade into the twentieth century when literary modernism was emerging, Sons and Lovers belongs to the tradition of nineteenth-century realism in its attention to detail and locale, and its attempt to accurately depict a way of life.
Because it has straddled the border between fiction and fact, Sons and Lovers has become a lightning rod for a number of Lawrence critics seeking insight into the writer's growth as an artist. As a Bildungsroman, the novel offers clues as to how Lawrence viewed his emotional and aesthetic maturation. Like Lawrence, Paul has to overcome the death of his mother and enter a world he has to remake in order to survive.
Fighting the impulses to destroy himself, Paul sets his mouth tight and marches off to town to start anew. The year after this novel was published, Lawrence married Frieda von Richthofen Weekley, the upper-class ex-wife of a university professor; Lawrence had been involved with her since Like Paul's mother and Lawrence's own mother, Lawrence chose a mate outside of his own class.
Sons and Lovers
The two would remain together until Lawrence's death. Lawrence's first and most conventional novel, Sons and Lovers, is already the work of an accomplished writer. Grounded in the novelist's autobiography, it is in the fullest sense a sentimental education. Unlike his other works, this novel has a fully integrated plot, relatively little sermonizing, and characters with firm flesh over their analogized bones.
If they stand for something, as Lawrence's characters always do, we are not told what. On the other hand, many of the qualities we have learned to associate with this writer are already present: Add to this the writer's occasionally embarrassing use of naive hyperbole.
Most striking is Lawrence's use of the double or interlace plot so reminiscent of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, though here the pattern is far less mechanical than it is elsewhere. The novel's basic plot line concerns the powerful oedipal attachment developed by Paul Morel's clever, sensitive, frustrated mother, a coal miner's wife tied to a coarse, strong-willed, and occasionally brutal man. A major strand relates to the story of that marriage and her attempts to achieve fulfillment through, first one, and then a second son.
Significantly, the novel begins with a full treatment of the pre-Paul experience, her courtship and early disillusionment, the nurturing of her first two children in the dingy miner's house and the devolution of Morel into what is too readily perceived to be a drunken brute. Lawrence is too subtle to indulge in crude typing here. Both the disappointed wife and her husband emerge as complex figures at once internally consistent and capable of surprising shifts in mood and behavior.
Her story dominates, however, delineating among other things her efforts to raise her children above the life imposed by the miners' existence.
The mother's life is poised against the well-articulated maturation or Bildung, of her physically fragile and sensitive second son, Paul. It is this boy who, after the death of his brother William, captures his mother's imagination and becomes the focus for her affections and ambitions. The novel recounts how the boy gradually extricates himself from his engagement with her. To accomplish this Lawrence resorts to a complex shifting perspective, brief scenes, and frequent bald statements of attitude.
This enables him to give appropriate time and the right valence to each of the many protagonists and, more importantly, to phase out the mother as the center of Paul's creative and amorous life. Anything but reticent, Lawrence combines the flat statement of emotion and attitude with a vividly impressionistic system of reactive prose vignettes.
Thus we have the astonishing moments of affinity through nature which characterize some of the more vivid scenes: Though generally grounded in physical circumstances, the action of this "psychological" fiction is detailed with extraordinary clarity and mood-making precision.
It is developed precisely through personal encounters that tend to be highly formulaic, conveyed through the reciprocal awareness of two dueling or communing characters: Instantly her broken boots and her frayed old frock hurt her. Only Tolstoy has been willing and able to do this on so broad a scale, though Tolstoy is capable of more objectivity than Lawrence.
If at times we may feel that less would be more as it is in Joyce's Portrait of the Artistwe may still find Lawrence's slow accretion of poignant detail and his rhythmic reiteration of personality and physical traits effective. Furthermore, the short scenes enable the writer not only to shift mood and pace, but also to move from emotional intensity to analysis. What makes this tale of a man and three women convincing and engrossing is undoubtedly Lawrence's ability to convince us that shadings of attitude, the minimal signals to which characters respond, are indeed important.
Lawrence make us sensitive to the impact of casual remarks, glances, gestures, their capacity to signal turning points in a relationship. Ultimately it is the anti-oedipal thread wound by Mrs. Morel's two younger rivals that saves Paul, that and his mother's pathetic death. In Miriam, he finds a generous but unsatisfactory surrogate, a young woman willing to sacrifice herself on the altar of his sensibility.
This is the rival his mother forcefully rejects. By contrast, the older and more self-reliant Clara Dawes, for whom Paul must battle the brutal Dawes, defines Paul's sexual and emotional freedom without challenging his mother's role.
Together, these women set him on the road to the "faintly humming glowing town" of his maturity. Paul's relationships are all tense and experimental, and though he is clearly the focus of much of the action, neither he nor any of the women is unambiguously admirable or even completely adequate to the moment. It is to this excruciating balance of tensions set against the everyday world of a working-class family that Sons and Lovers owes its success, to this and to its meticulously honest and painfully engaging chronicle of Paul's identity crisis.
David Hayman, "Sons and Lovers: Lawrence, ," in Reference Guide to English Literature, 2d ed. James Press,pp. Beards In the following essay, Beards examines Sons and Lovers within the context of the Bildungsroman, finding this approach best suited to understand the novel's literary aspects and theme of alienation.
There are two traditional approaches to Sons and Lovers, one of which treats the novel as a psychological study, emphasizing particularly Paul's Oedipal complex; the second of which focuses on the autobiographical, exploring the many passages where Lawrence seems to be retelling his own experience fictionally the scenes of family life, the mining background, Paul and Miriam's relationship. While the first approach risks reducing the novel to a case history, the second has the danger of undermining Sons and Lovers' effectiveness as fictional vision, turning it instead into a confessional autobiography, and vitiating Lawrence's achievement with plot, symbol, dramatic scene, and invented character.
Moreover, these two approaches often join forces, so that autobiography is used to support the claims of psychological analysis, psychological generalizations cited to strengthen the autobiographical critique—especially where there are gaps in what we know of Lawrence's life. An example of the latter treatment is the attempt to clarify the at best hazy identity of the original for Clara Dawes Louie Burrows? Frieda, later Lawrence's wife? Both of these approaches, the autobiographical and the psychological, lead to interesting questions and cruxes in the novel, offering the student opportunity to consider two kinds of critical literature.
On the one hand he gets to study a literary rendering—and a superb one—of the Oedipus complex; on the other, he can absorb the facts of Lawrence's life as they are recorded in his letters, in autobiographical sketches and in memoirs about his "Sons and Lovers" period. It is my contention in this essay that seeing Sons and Lovers against the pattern of the traditional Bildungsroman illuminates many of the literary aspects of the novel about which neither the psychological nor the autobiographical approach cares and that this view does justice to one of Lawrence's best artistic achievements.
In addition, because the Bildungsroman emerges in the nineteenth century and continues into our own, its focus on the conflict between an alienated individual and the cultural forces family, neighborhood, class, religious and ethical milieu against which this individual seeks to establish himself relates directly to the lives of our students. Moreover, the kind of conflict I have outlined comprises the real plot of Sons and Lovers, expressed jointly in Paul's struggle to free his soul from his mother and to become an artist where economic necessity all but rules out such a possibility.
Paul's movement toward self-realization is expressed symbolically in his rejection of adjustment to the everyday an adjustment made by his brother Arthur and sister, Annie in favor of the starry night in which he finds hope at the novel's end; in his attraction to cities first Nottingham, then London, and ultimately perhaps even Paris instead of "The Bottom" or, later, the houses on Scargill Street; and in his refusal to make life for himself in terms of provincial possibilities. But before an examination of the specific details of Sons and Lovers, it would be wise to review some of the general characteristics of the Bildungsroman.
The Bildungsroman "novel of self-development" or "apprenticeship novel" are the best English equivalents features a protagonist, an apprentice to life, whose goal is to master it so that he can achieve an ideal or ambition, fulfillment of which will heighten his sense of self.
A look at related types of fiction may serve to clarify the Bildungsroman itself. Close to the confession and the autobiography, the Bildungsroman is often a first or second novel which fictionalizes its author's growing up. It is also similar to the picaresque novel, though in the Bildungsroman the journey through life has been internalized; adventures are important principally for their effect on the protagonist's psychological development and sense of self.
The Bildungsroman protagonist is usually more passive, reflective, intellectual and artistic than his picaresque counterpart, probably because the author, himself introverted and creative, has fashioned his character out of himself. Still another type of related fiction is the initiation story or novel, though here the focus is a single moment of vision where the protagonist accepts either the code of his elders or the hard facts of life itself, or both e.
Compared to the initiation novel, the Bildungsroman compounds the choices which the central character is called upon to make, forcing him to define separately but in a continuous process his values in regard to four crucial concerns: All of these decisions must be made without the aid of formal education, for whenever schooling is depicted in novels of self-development it is shown to be sterile and hopelessly anachronistic, if not downright farcical e.
One sometimes suspects that the impetus for a fictional sub-genre which shows protagonists designing and shaping their own lives is the need to respond to a culture where the educative institutions schools, churches, family and class traditions are in chaos. While the college teacher understandably will feel a bit defensive pointing out the Bildungsroman's typical assessment of formal education—Sons and Lovers doesn't even bother to mention Paul's schooling—it should be noted this decision results from wider forces than mere pedagogical incompetence.
It is no accident that the Bildungsroman emerges strongest in the nineteenth century, for it is during this epoch that the traditional class society and its heavily class-weighted institutions and values, in effect since the Renaissance, undergo pressure and serious erosion. It is in this century too that for the first time a young man who was not born a gentleman could choose to ignore the social status and even the particular work of his father without necessarily facing near-suicidal odds see, for example, Robinson Crusoe's regrets and guilt over ignoring his father's advice.
While large numbers of the more intelligent and energetic members of the lower and middle classes sought to rise above their inherited stations in life, the educational system continued to reflect an outmoded society where class determined the content and quality of one's education.
Hardy's Jude the Obscure illustrates perfectly the disparity between its stonecutter hero's ambitions and the educational opportunities available to one of his class. In Sons and Lovers Paul Morel's education is casual rather than institutional; he is tutored in French and German by the local minister, Mr. Heaton; coached in composition by his brother William; encouraged in his art by his mother; and self-taught when it comes to literature, Miriam serving in both of the last two instances to inspire Paul to his best.
The same independence which characterizes Paul's education helps to prevent his capitulation to the economic and social outlook of his elders and peers, though his mother's distaste for her husband and the way of life he stands for certainly stiffens her son's resistance. Like many of his nineteenth-century predecessors, Paul shows considerable pluck, resilience and idealism in pushing his way toward an artist's future, though the usual stress laid by critics on his Oedipal conflict undermines our sense of Paul's consistency and force of character.
Persistent belief in his future as an artist accounts for Paul's refusal to accept provincial goals and expectations.
Surprisingly, economics plays a much larger role in Sons and Lovers than is often recognized, partly because it bears little if any relationship to Paul's psychological emergence, nor much more to Lawrence's own personal experience though his letters reveal considerable concern over his finances, Lawrence never allowed making a living to interfere with his writing.
Simply expressed, the economic question in Sons and Lovers sets earning against creating. Four times in the novel the reader gets detailed accounts of the coal miner's finances: Obviously, Lawrence is recalling these details from his own experience and such scenes help to establish the realistic depiction of turn-of-the-century life among Midlands miners for which Sons and Lovers is justly famous.
But beyond this relationship to realism, these scenes fit the money or wage motif of the novel on the whole, a motif which sounds a relentless and unavoidable bass note against which Paul's lyric fantasies of artistic fruition must compete. Each time Paul receives a raise at Jordan's or moves up in the hierarchy there, we are told about it. Likewise, William's mercurial rise to something like gentleman's status in London law office circles stands both as exemplum and warning to Paul; William's record is more than merely that of an older sibling, for he was Mrs.
Morel's first son—and "lover"—though he has escaped only to die prematurely.
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Later in the novel, when Paul seems to believe he can have art and money too, imagining himself a popular and therefore well-to-do artist, the alliance between art and income seems a romantically founded and improbable one. In a scene which follows a passage where Mrs. Morel angrily denounces her husband for leaving her too little money for the week "a measly twenty-five shillings!
Regardless, however, of his probable future, Paul here faces a problem which confronts all protagonists in self-development novels—how to make a living. If we fail to consider the vocational and economic issue in Paul Morel's development, we thin out and over-simplify his struggle toward self-realization.
Knowledge of the typical Bildungsroman protagonist alerts us to this aspect of Lawrence's novel. A second characteristic of all Bildungsromane is that their protagonists must always decide on a suitable mate or at least define the ideal who waits in the near-distant future; the central figures in self-development novels are thus, among other things, apprentice lovers.
This aspect of Sons and Lovers has received close attention from critics of all persuasions; if the plot of mother-son love itself is not enough, Lawrence's treatment of Gertrude, Miriam, and Clara, and their respective relationships to Paul have aroused heated debate, charge and counter-charge. The way in which the novel appears to blame Gertrude for dominating and almost destroying Paul and to indict Miriam for her near-frigidity and squeamishness has given rise to a great deal of angry discussion almost from the day the novel appeared.
In our own time by far the most provocative attack on this aspect of Sons and Lovers has been Kate Millett's in Sexual Politics. Writing from a Marxist-feminist perspective, Millett accuses Paul and by implication, Lawrence of using the three women in his life, then discarding them when they no longer serve his self-centered interests. Millett describes Paul as the "perfection of self-sustaining ego" and states, "the women in the book exist in Paul's orbit and cater to his needs: Clara to awaken him sexually, Miriam to worship his talent in the role of disciple and Mrs.
Morel to provide always that enormous and expansive support…. Students today are especially sensitive to the treatment of female characters in fiction, particularly where, as in Sons and Lovers, there is sufficient development to assess a life pattern or unachieved potential in these lives.
Undeniably, Gertrude's life is laid before us; we know enough of her history to see the sources of her aspirations, first for herself, then for herself and her husband, finally for her successive sons.
Her sense of entrapment in a dead-end marriage to Morel, her envy of Mrs. Leiver's life, her vicarious participation in life through her children—these and other details allow us to know her predicament. And when, in her final illness, Paul administers a fatal dose of morphine, her victimization—by unavoidable pregnancies which bind her tighter to her despised mate and which sap her strength and by a culture which discourages women from working in the world—is made final by her son.
Likewise, Clara and Miriam, opposite as they are in character, seem purposeless and incomplete unless they can join in a vitalizing relationship with a male. Clara—listless, cynical and cold several scenes show her kneeling before a fire, presumably trying to imbibe its warmth —drifts until she consummates her relationship to Paul, who, when he realizes their relationship is merely physical, brings Clara and her estranged husband Baxter back together again.
Miriam's faith that Paul will ultimately return to her, that his spiritual and idealistic side will triumph over his need for sex, seems pathetic finally, in view of her sacrificial sexual surrender to him, her compulsive chapel going when Paul is involved with Clara, and his final dismissal of her: One of the distinguishing traits of the apprenticeship novel is the strong central figure for whose experience and development the lesser figures exist, and from whose process of self-realization the novel receives one of its principal unifying elements.
Futhermore, the novel of self-development generally is written from a narrowly omniscient point of view, the author standing beside his character, as it were, and most often interpreting experience through his character's mind, senses and emotions. Thus the Bildungsroman's customary point of view adds to a sense of the protagonists egoism and lends emphasis to his seeming exploitation of the novel's other figures.
What Do I Read Next? Lawrence's novel The Rainbow follows three generations of a Nottingham family, detailing their love affairs, marriages, and family relationships. This is the first of Lawrence's novels to describe sexual situations in an open manner, and its publication stirred controversy. Lawrence was also a poet. His first collection, Love Poems and Otherscontains some of his best-known poems. Lawrence's idiosyncratic study of American literatureStudies in Classic American Literaturehas itself become a classic.
Sophocles's Oedipus Rex tells the story of the banished king of Greek mythology who killed his father and married his mother. A number of critics refer to the Oedipus myth when discussing Sons and Lovers. Daniel Weiss's Oedipus at Nottingham explores the oedipal themes in Lawrence's fiction. Because mating plays such a significant part in maturation—and thus in apprenticeship fiction—protagonists, whether male or female, will inevitably use and exploit at least several members of the opposite sex.
Thackerary's Pendennis, for example, eponymous hero of the novel sometimes called the first Bildungsroman in English —is involved several times with Fotheringay, an Irish actress; with Fanny Bolton, a "poor but honest" girl from the lower classes; and with Blanche Amory, a continental adventuress in the manner of George Sand and her heroines before succumbing in marriage to his mother's ward, companion and protege, Laura, whom he has all but ignored through most of the novel.
Similarly, in Lawrence's The Rainbow, Ursula Brangwen, a typical Bildungsroman heroine, rejects two men who want to marry her, Anthony Schofield and Anton Skrebensky, because, as she thinks to herself after rejecting Anthony, "ultimately and finally, she must go on and on, seeking the goal that she knew she did draw nearer to. Ursula Brangwen's goal in The Rainbow, "to be oneself … a oneness with the infinite," realized in botany lab as she peers down a microscope after her professor had denied any mystical dimension in life, brings us to both of the remaining concerns of the Bildungsroman protagonist: Admittedly, some apprenticeship novels Pendennis, Pere Goriotin their intensive treatment of social reality, largely ignore supernatural and intangible realities.
Yet from Carlyle's Sartor Resartus — on, the religious crisis and the more general search for the transcendent meanings of life have typified novels of self-development. For Paul Morel as for Ursula, religious sense and identity are deeply intertwined; this interrelationship has become, of course, a hallmark of Lawrence's mature fictions, where a knowledge of oneness is brought about by an interfusion of the individual and the natural world via sex or a "lapsing out" of consciousness.
It is quite easy to misread symbolic scenes in Sons and Lovers—and I think Millett and others are guilty of this—through failing to take into account Lawrence's idea of one's relationship to the infinite. It is possible for instance to interpret Paul's vision of Clara bathing—he sees her as "not much more than a clot of foam being blown and rolled over the sand … just a concentrated speck blown along, a tiny white foam-bubble, almost nothing among the morn-ing"—as his belittling of her, preparatory to his terminating their relationship.
In fact, Millett evaluates the scene as follows: Both assessments are wrong, for they ignore the implicit paradox in Lawrence's definition of self, where real being requires this feeling of tininess, of being infinitessimal.
Millett, in her eagerness to indict Paul's self-centeredness, ignores this essential of the world-view Lawrence establishes in Sons and Lovers. An opposite view to Millett's, one which venerates Lawrence's mystical vision where Millett only scorns it, has been recently expressed by Joyce Carol Oates.
Acknowledging the irritating challenge of Lawrence's love ethic, Oates declares Lawrence to be, not as Millett would have it, a sexual reactionary, but "too radical for us even today.
Only at the peak of physical or sexual exhilaration does Paul experience the infinite; such moments occur when he is swinging in the Leiver's barn, riding his bicycle recklessly home after a strained evening at the farm, making love with Clara on a steep clay river bank or with Miriam in a pine grove.
As Paul expresses it after the latter experience, "the highest of all was to melt out into the darkness and sway there, identified with the great Being.
D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers: Summary & Analysis
In counterbalance to those scenes where Paul lapses out of consciousness, often outdoors and frequently at night, Sons and Lovers furnishes occasional comments on its protagonist's changing relationship to traditional religious life and practice; Paul's fall from orthodoxy coincides with the growth of his mystic awareness and his ability to summon it, while, on the literal level, it evidences his growth away from the Morel family's habitual and easy chapel going.
At twenty-one, we are told, "he was beginning to question the orthodox creed;" the following spring "he was setting now full sail towards Agnosticism, but such a religious Agnosticism that Miriam did not suffer badly. Later in the novel Paul clarifies the nature of his religious belief in an argument with Miriam: But it only does it because it feels itself carried to where it's going, not because it thinks it's being eternal.
What Sons and Lovers depicts in the way of identity for the protagonist, then, is two-fold; there is the Paul who is second son to the Morel family, a Bestwood provincial aiming for the artist's life, the one whose personal history and day-by-day development the novel charts, and there is the Paul who is increasingly opened up to manifestations of a living natural universe, a speck of which he is and in whose dark precincts his mother exists "intermingled.
Thus Lawrence is able to contribute to the Bildungsroman and to English fiction generally a deeper interpenetration of the human and the vital natural world than had been previously envisioned—or than has been created fictionally since. Paul's two-level identity is further clarified by his symbolic association with several biblical and mythological figures. When he is an infant, his mother imagines him a Joseph, though later in the same scene she suddenly declares "I will call him Paul.
Paul's similarity to his apostle namesake comes out most clearly in his relationship to Miriam; to her he is a stern moralist and rule-giver, whose irritability presages radical growth, though the principles of Paul's ultimate ethic come close to inverting his biblical predecessor's. Pauls' connections to Joseph are perhaps more obvious; like Joseph, he is a younger and favored son who leaves his father and homeland, and, after a period of bondage, is proclaimed a genius among a foreign people.
The biblical story of Joseph, is, in fact, a prototype of the novel of self-development. When Walter Morel is injured in the pits, Paul is forced to give up his painting and his fantasies of where his art might take him—"His ambition … when his father died [was to] have a cottage with his mother, paint and go out as he liked … And he thought that perhaps he might also make a painter, the real thing.
He felt the need to belittle her constantly in comparison to his mother. He knew she did not completely approve of her. Because of these conflicts Paul made Miriam suffer. Because he made her suffer he despised her. The main problems that Gertrude has with Miriam is her worth and her family status. When the eldest son William went out with Lilly Gertrude was not horribly adamant against her. Then, why should she be against Miriam? Lilly was not as intelligent as Gertrude, Lilly had no chance of breaking, or coming anywhere close to breaking that bond.
Also, William was already out in the business world. After William died, Paul was all she had left, Arthur being more like his father.
Miriam is on the other hand, intelligent, spiritual, and willing to learn. There did seem to be a moment when Paul realized there were two female forces in life. The one of warmth and the one of inspiration. His mother of course being the one of inspiration. Miriam, being as religious as she is, shudders at the thought of consummating the relationship. Miriam introduces Paul to Clara. Miriam loves Paul so much she sacrifices herself to him.
Even though Paul loves Miriam, upon comparing her with his mother, he hates her.