D.H. Lawrence: Son and Lover
Bildungsroman, a form of fiction which allows the novelist to recreate through the maturing of his protagonist some of his own remembered intensity of experience (Nivin, Alastair; pg. 34)
D.H. Lawrence re-created his own life experience through the writing of Sons and Lovers, an intensely realistic novel set in a small English mining town, much akin to the town in which he was raised. The son of a miner, Lawrence grew up with a father much like the character of Mr. Morel in Sons and Lovers. Morel (as the father is called) is an ill tempered, uneducated, and rather crude man. A man with little ability to express his feelings to his wife and family, who love him dearly despite the fact that he was seldom cordial to any of them.
Lydia (Lawrences mother) was high-minded and pious. She had been a schoolteacher and had written poetry. She hated dirt and drink and poverty. (Segar, Keith; pg.11)
Lydia met her husband Arthur at a family function and they married only a year later. It was an attraction of opposites which could not last. Arthur was irresponsible and poor. (pg.11) While the two loved each other dearly, their differences caused many of the problems that arose later on in Lawrences life. In the novel the Mother and Father also met at a dance, where Mr. Morels ability to dance was natural and joyous, he possessed a certain subtle exultation like glamour in his movement. These features attracted Mrs. Morel immediately, just as Mr. Morel was attracted to her because she was perfectly intact, deeply religious, and full of beautiful candor. (Lawrence, D.H.; pg. 44)
The Morels, once married moved to an end house on hell row in the Bottoms, just on the outskirts of the mine.
The bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners dwellings, two rows of three, like the dots on a blank-six domino, and twelve houses in a block. This double row of dwellings sat at the foot of the rather sharp slope from Bestwood, and looked out, from the valley towards Selby. (pg.36)
The Bottoms as described by Lawrence in the novel Sons and Lovers, was, Im sure much alike his home town, which consisted mainly of ugly mid- Victorian shops (Segar, Keith; pg.9) and the poor dwellings of the towns miners. The Towns name was Edgewood, and it was not perhaps as rundown or dilapidated as the town he created for the novel, yet it was by no means advanced as a city like London was. The town did have a tram that ran from Nottingham to Ripley (pg.9) that ran down Victoria Street, where Lawrence was born. Even the tram was not enough to make the town a cultural center that would attract outsiders.
The issues created due to the constant tension between his parents, and the lack of outlets for his mental as well as emotional energy, led him down a road of perpetual life-long distress, much like that of Paul Morel (the second to youngest son in the novel.) The fathers ill-temper disgusted the children of Lawrences family, including his mother, just like the Morels were disgusted by their fathers drunkenly behavior; thus causing both families to turn away from their father. In the words of Lawrences sister Ada:
As we grow older we shut him more and more out of our lives, and instinctively turned to mother, and he, realizing this, became more and more distasteful on his habits. He was never really intolerable, and if, instead of wanting the impossible of him, we had tried to interest ourselves in the things for which he really cared, we should have been spared many unhappy and sordid scenes.
Both Lawrence and Paul suffered the similar consequences of turning from their father, allowing themselves to be completely absorbed and obsessed with their mother. Never quite able to make an absolute decision about anything, mainly due to the fact that for so many years they depended on their mothers for a confirmation.
This reality split Paul Morel in two, one part of himself belonging to his mother, the other half to the women in his life. The latter of course never were given the chance to live down Pauls ideals about his mother, who appears to be almost saintly in his eyes. It is not completely clear to me the extent of Lawrences attachment to his mother. From the various sources that I encountered it was obvious that Lawrence felt that he had some sort of strong tie to his mother that would cause him to write a character like Paul, who it seems is a vaguely obscured and a little exaggerated version of himself.
Mrs. Morels responses to people, her ideas, her categories of judgement, even her metaphors creep into Pauls speech, and they permeate the narrative description of his thoughts. Thus he argues her views on political questions, lacking opinions of his own. (Sanders, Scott; pg.28)
The other woman in Pauls life is Miriam, who is an extremely ideal woman, presented as a mother surrogate but Paul rejects her because she is not exactly like his mother. Paul continually deals with the reality that his mother will always disapprove of any relationship with any other woman, causing Paul to throw away all chances of happiness outside of home. Both women theoretically prevent him from attaining wholeness of being, and he eliminates them to ensure his future growth. (Stoll, John E.; pg. 63)
The final outcome of the elimination of all the women from Pauls life is liberating, insofar as it allows him to cast off his mothers shadow that was holding him back for so long. It also allowed Paul to embrace manhood, which until that time he had been protected by his mother skirts, this was a frightening fact to accept, as newly abandoned man, feeling much like an orphaned child of three. And in his desperation Paul capitulated and gave into Miriams affection by asking her to marry him; but Miriam declined his proposal. Paul does not fight her decision knowing that he would not be apt to cope with her and please her, and with that he takes her home. Paul then comes to realization that he will always be alone an alien; much like Lawrence always felt that he was forever alienated from society. (Sanders, Scott; pg.30)
1.D.H. Lawrence/ The Writer and His Work, Niven, Alastair
Charles Scribners Sons, New York
2.D.H. Lawrence/ The World of the Five Major Novels, Sanders, Scott
The Viking Press Inc., New York.
3.The Novels of D.H./ Lawrence A Search for Integration, Stoll, John E.
University of Missouri Press, Columbia
4.The Life of D.H. Lawrence, Sagar, Keith
Patheon Books, New York
5.Sons and Lovers, Lawrence, D.H.
Penguin English Library 1981
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