Sons and Lovers - David Herbert Lawrence

I. Theme

The life of the Morel’s family in which all the sons are more or less tightly connected with their mother. It is description of a social failure of a human tightly knit to a family member and thus unable to develop, in full extent, his own independent life.

II. Subject

Family life, unhappy marriage, devotion to children, love, passion, subordination, desolateness

III. Plot and structure

Story is not told in chronological order, time sequences are from the beginning jumbled. At first, something is

introduced and then it is explained in more details

Conflict: Too strong interconnection between the mother and their sons, especially Paul, who due to this fact is not able to develop personally and love any other woman while his mother lives, but what is worse, he cannot find the right way for independent life after her death too.

  1. Exposition – Morels moved into a house of Hell row, Mrs Morel expects her 3rd child that is unwanted and finds out what her husband is.

He starts to drink, goes late from work, once he cast her off the house for the night. Her 3rd child, Paul is born, she is often visited by Mr. Heaton congregational clergymen, who teaches William French and problems with her husband start again. She expects 4th baby Arthur, who tied family a bit together. Arthur liked his father from the youth and he him. Walter Morel doesn’t want William to become a teacher, but he becomes. Walter also treats his children who are all scared of him. Once he treats William, so Mrs Morel defended him and became more loving towards him. At the same time she hates her husband. Children are against father, especially his angry periods, when Walter smashed his wife, William wanted to beat him but she didn’t allow him it. There is horror in the nights, Paul wants fathers death stop drinking etc.

  1. Complication – During father’s bad period’s chapter 4, Paul starts to be emphatic to his mum. Watching how she irons. He starts to love her, buys her presents, which she takes as tokens of love. At that time he begins to be too connected with her.

Also other brothers were jealous of each other about their mum. William goes to London, Paul is employed at Jordan’s. Mrs. Morel visits with Paul Willey Farm of Mr. and Mrs Leivers and she can imagine herself to be Mr Leivers wife, to breed all the cattle what his wife doesn’t want to do. Paul gets from hard work pneumonia and at that time high intimation between him and his mum arouse. He was ill 7 weeks.

  1. Crises – Paul starts dating other women – Miriam and then older Clara. His mother hates Miriam but Clara is accepted.

When Paul visits Willey Farm, he likes Miriam, he feels empathically with her especially, when she burned potatoes and Edgar shouted at her. Miriam shows him swinging. Paul’s mum doesn’t like his coming late home and Miriam thinks she loves him, dreams about him, but her older sister Agatha advised her to play colder woman. Paul stopped going to library with Miriam, mum is glad, but takes her on holiday. Paul meets Clara Dawes a friend of Miriam who is older than him and who lives separately from her husband. She is interested in Paul but he appreciates Clara at first as an artist – he told it to Miriam. He admires her strong arms, white skin. At that time he is in love with Miriam but is unable to show it. He would like to kiss her but he cannot. Miriam also wants to touch him and love him.  Mother is against their relationship – jealous of Miriam. Paul who always bakes bread for mum burns bread and Beatrice advises Miriam to go away so there were no problems when Mrs. Morel is back. When Paul controls Miriam’s diary – for French that he teaches her – he discovers that she loves him, but he is unable to show it. Miriam is humiliated. Paul asks mum why she doesn’t like Miriam, and explains that he likes Miriam, but loves her (mum) and kisses her.

Paul is dissatisfied with everything and explains Miriam he doesn’t want to marry. When he sees Clara at Willey Farm he is happy but tells to Edgar that he doesn’t like her. In reality he admires her, especially hands. Then he devouts more time to Clara what upsets Miriam and asks mum why man can’t have a young mother. Finally Paul sends Miriam letter saying her good bye (au revoire). He again gets to connections with Miriam, but thinks of Clara joins unions to be close to her. Then meets her mother and offers her place as spiral girl. They talk about Miriam, that Paul can make a test on Miriam. He talks to Miriam about marriage, she feels happy, they live for a while like man and wife but when Miriam starts to talk about marriage and children Paul gets angry and thinks of separation. Tells Miriam, that he doesn’t need another mum and that he wants new independent life. He promises to write her letter. His mom is glad of separation.

Paul is able to earn money by painting, he travels with mum on holiday on Isle of Width. His mum is ill, he tells her he stopped relationship with Miriam and immediately started with Clara. He probably needs someone instead of his mother and starts to touch Clara in work, kisses her on the way to train, then they survive passionate afternoon. When Clara wants to know why he left Miriam, he answers that he didn’t want to marry. When Miriam meets Paul she is surprised he is so quick with Clara and that everyone in family accepts her, she is humiliated. Then Clara is jealous of Miriam and vice versa. Mum approves Clara. Once when they were at the theatre, Paul was late and Clara offered him to sleep in her flat. Her mother controlled every step of Paul but she liked him.

  1. Climax – Paul’s mother dies, he separates with Clara

Baxter Dawes appears on the scene and he wants to beat Paul for dating his wife, but Paul would like to be his friend. Baxter is sacked of work. Paul talks to his mum that he is unable to love any other woman as soon as she (his mum) lives. Even though he is in love with Clara he tells her that he wants to leave his job and move to London. Clara on the other hand realizes she needs something permanent. Then he offers her marriage and wish to have children, but she doesn’t want to divorce Baxter. Baxter beats Paul on the way to train, then Paul discovers his mother is very ill, she lies in Annie’s house, in Sheffield. Operation is not possible her heart wouldn’t hold it. Paul discovers Baxter in one of the hospitals and joins him with Clara, for what she hates him, but at that time Paul devotes more time to his mother who suffers from cancer and tries, with his sister Annie, to end her suffering by poisoning her. His mother dies, he is heartbroken and Clara and Baxter leave to Sheffield to start again.

  1. Resolution – Paul is sad, alone, Miriam wants to save him but he refuses her for the last time.

After the death of his mother and departure of Clara and Baxter, Paul lives from day to day. Walter Morel separated from his son and overcame problems. Paul lives in Nottingham “destroying himself” by constant recollections of his mum. He also thinks of marriage to save something of her for the future and thinks of Miriam. When he meets her during sermon in Unitarian church, he finds out that she still loves him and she tries to resume old times and shows him her love that she would like to marry him. He thinks only of friendship not marriage although he asks her to marry him quietly. But she refuses. At the end Paul remains abandoned and unhappy as his mother foretold him.

IV. Setting

Bottoms – Hell row, Spiney Park – first mine on the edge of the Sherwood forest, where were built houses for miners by Carston, Waite & Co, Derbyshire, Mansfield road, Cargill Street House, Nottingham, Willey farm, Sheffield

V. Characters

Main characters:

  1. Mrs Gertrude Morel – 31 years old, when they moved in, expected 3rd baby. Two babies – boy William – 7 years old, very active, freckled and girl Annie 5 years old. She liked her small boy very much but was scared of her 3rd baby, she didn’t want it. She came of good burgher family. Daughter of George Coppard – foreman of engineers. She has special relationship with William, she supported him in everything, going into ministry against the father’s will. She was too intellectual, she liked philosophy. As the result of her unhappy marriage with husband who went to work and mainly drank she devoted more time to her sons. Then Walter became jealous and kept much salary for drinking. Once she was sacked out of home by drank husband (in the morning he didn’t know what had happened). Then She had another child boy (Paul) and was again ill. Then her husband was sick she nursed him and wished he could die. Meanwhile she expected 4th baby, it was again boy (Arthur) but devoted her life to children. This fourth child put family a bit together. She joins women guild. Mrs. Morel doesn’t like her son’s girlfriends. Generally she is too demanding of their love.
  2. Paul Morel – required different treatment from the other children from the beginning, he was shy, especially in socializing. He had problem to reassert himself, for example when he went to take salary to his father to Scargill Street House. When his name was spoken, he couldn’t say anything. Physically he was build as his mother, slight and rather small. Later he became tightly knit to her especially emotionally similarly as other of his brothers but he was the most influenced. Apart from this he was extremely sensitive – when he damaged doll Arabella he waited until her destruction. He is also sensitive to his mum. When he sees her ironing he feels love to her, feels her unhappiness and wants to help her. He loves to buy her presents and she takes them as love tokens. Paul often feels pity for his mom, when she went to see her husband to hospital he advises her what to take. During the hard times he is listener of his mother. At the age of 14 he is looking for job, because father is in hospital, he applied to Thomas Jordan and got the job although he couldn’t read letter in French properly. He became Junior Spiral clerk in Nottingham Paul likes painting and mum supports him very much. Paul starts to be interested in Miriam. Paul is successful in painting, wins, two first prizes and his pictures are in Castle Gallery. His mum is proud of him. He also sold one picture for 20 guineas to Major Moreton. Paul’s major problem is indecision. He separated from Miriam but is in connection with her and meeting Clara so his mother thinks he would be unhappy – chapter 10. Paul thinks that Miriam wants his imagination not him, but Clara shows him, he is mistaken. Paul suffered with shyness and virginity.
  3. Miriam – swine girl, she started to like Paul as he visited Willey farm and Edgar, she taught she could love Paul if she could care about him, she is about 16 and beautiful. When they meet again she is going to be a teacher at Broughton Farming College. She presents opposit pole to Paul she is loving and desires for something long term, she wants marriage and children but Paul is scared of it.
  4. Mrs. Clara Dawes - a friend of Miriam, who is separated from her husband and is interested in Paul. She is about thirty, while Paul 23, she likes independence, singing, riding horses. She lives with her mother and lives from laces, then Paul offers her position of spiral girl which she accepts after some persuasion. She got married at the age of 22 but not from love because her husband wanted her to marry him. She is in nature similar to Paul, she doesn’t want to divorce to stay with Paul. She is built for temporary pleasure but finds her way later with her genuine husband.

Minor - stereotype (flat) characters:

  1. William Morel – supported by his mum, he became teacher, was growing quickly. He does everything for his mum. He won first contest in running for her, he imagined he was running for her, he doesn’t drink and changed work two times, all the money gives to her. Once, when Izz, is searching him at home Mrs Morel becomes jealous of him and when he is offered good job in London she feels as if missing someone. William loves to dance, learns Latin and argues with mum about a lady that his mother didn’t tell her about. When he wrote her about the girl from London, his mum became jealous. His mum advises him to stop engagement with Lily.
  2. Annie Morel – became junior teacher, she is getting married, only girl of Mrs Morel
  3. Walter Morel – husband of Mrs. Morel, miner, at first she was in love with him but then she found out what he was, he didn’t pay bills for furniture and still was owing 8 pounds, paid too much for the house to his mother and started drinking and was cruel to his wife. After the first accident (he sacked her out of home) he changed a bit. He later became cruel again. Injured her eye, took money from her purse. At that time she loves him no more. He is skilled at many thing and children like it during this period there are happy times in the family.
  4. Mrs Anthony, Kirk, Bower – women concerning Mrs Morel’s pregnancy at Bottoms
  5. Mr. Heaton – Congregational clergyman, he became god-father of the child and often stayed with Mrs. Morel Talking, once had an argument with her husband. After this incident (W.Morel wanted beer) also children are afraid of their father.
  6. Arthur Morel – very touchy, quick, careless like his father. He enlisted to the army, mum wants to save him but Paul is against it and asks her if he is her favourite. Also father wants her to leave him in the army. He dates Beatrice
  7. Louisa Lilly Denis Wester – William’s girl from London, he sent her mum photo, but she didn’t like it. William took her home at Christmas but whole family seemed to her inferior. She can’t even read.
  8. Mr.Papleworth – Paul’s boss at work
  9. Edgar – brother of Miriam
  10. Baxter Dawes – Clara’s husband, a smith, working in Paul’s company – he hates him. He is on the downfall track, falling in social ladder. He is Paul’s enemy and wants to beat him because he saw him with his wife. He was at trial, because he wanted to beat Paul at Jordan’s.
  11. Mrs. Radford – Clara’s mother

VI. Point of view

3rd person authorial, there is someone else who talks, but there are examples of characters speeches, so point of view is changing (also 1st person)

VII. Style

Middle / neutral English in most of the novel but there are used also low, informal expressions especially in case of Walter Morel and Baxter Dawes.

VIII. Tone

Sadness – describing life of miner family with happy but mostly unhappy side of life.

Irony – unwanted child Paul was the most favourite of Mrs. Morel

Irony of fate – a human who was given all the maternal love cannot love

IX. Symbolism, allegory

Chapter 10 – when Clara slips off her wedding ring she becomes free woman and Paul is more conquering

X. Genre (type) - fiction

Sons and lovers are in my opinion combination of problem novel and psychological novel, because there are set themes of overexposed maternal love that influenced normal development of human self towards the other members of the society of the opposite sex.

XI. Own interpretation

Whole novel is a story about unhappy marriage of Gertrude Morel whose husband, early after the marriage, started to drink and spent money. At the time when her husband starts to threat her violently she turns all the effort towards her children, mostly sons end gives them all the love. And there the problems begin. Hers sons contest for their favour and do everything for her, she treats them as her own lovers. Paul is buying her tokens of love. As soon as William brings his girlfriend home she is jealous and only his death saves him from the same fate as Paul who was knitted with mother due to illnesses and became her favour although she didn’t wanted the 3rd child. Paul had grown into dependent human being connected with mother unable to show love to any other woman and live independently.

This novel is good example how too much of something creates wicked. Paul is then indecisive and shy, weak in socializing and afraid to show his real feelings “what would his mother say”. That is the reason why he was so cruel to Miriam and then to Clare, even though she was also indecisive. She couldn’t forgive her husband. This indecision and sense just to live for “one moment” foretells Paul unhappy life that is fulfilled as soon as his mother dies, Clara leaves with husband and he refuses to marry Miriam for the last time.

So what is the real purpose of the novel? We should aim at something long-term and not on short happiness that won’t last long.

Category