Sons and Lovers
The Five Stages of Walter Morel
The Five Stages of Walter Morel
Sometimes, it is difficult to understand how important a certain problem is unless it is examined on a microscopic level. A broadly stated dilemma is abstract and thus difficult to relate to; on a micro level, it becomes easier to see exactly how the predicament harms people. The phrase “world hunger” is detached; a picture of a starving child is startling. In Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, Walter Morel is used as a microcosm for the stages of domestic abuse; he is the living embodiment of the cycles of abuse exacerbated by alcoholism.
Although Walter is a terrible father and an even worse husband, he was not always that man; once upon a time, he was charming and good natured. When Gertrude first meets him, he is described as someone with a “sensuous flame of life” (Lawrence 20); he sings, he dances, and although he is the opposite of her, he makes her feel like “a warmth radiated through her as if she had drunk wine” (21). In fact, she is so love with him they make the rash decision to get married. This phase of the Morel’s marriage can be considered the setup for domestic abuse. Often times, a couple becomes blindsided by the “honeymoon effect” and thus ignores anything that puts their significant other in a negative light. The rushed nature of their marriage indicates that both Walter and Gertrude can be impulsive and easily bend to strong emotion, key traits in any unstable relationship. Furthermore, Walter is not yet an alcoholic; in fact, he is someone who “had signed the pledge, and wore the blue ribbon of a tee-totaler” (23), indicating his status as a nondrinker. This is the calm before the storm; Gertrude does not see the flaws of Walter, and he is not yet an alcoholic. However, once both these factors change, the storm begins to whip up.
Six months into their rushed marriage, Walter turns out to be the opposite of who Gertrude thought he was. She finds out that the house is rented, and he flirted with women he helped dance: “ ‘An’ it was thronged every Tuesday, and Thursday, an’ Sat’day—an’ there WAS carryin’s-on, accordin’ to all accounts” (27). Although her opinion of Walter rapidly changes as she learns more about the man he is, she is only bitter about it. Up to that point, she still has love for him. Once the drinking starts, however, it escalates into an even tenser scenario. She begins to “despise” her husband, and the later he comes home, the angrier she becomes. This symbolizes a key aspect of the increasing tension; as he is out of the house longer, their communication decreases and as a result, verbal compromises become harder to make. Meanwhile, the drinking causes Walter to become more irritable. The “honeymoon phase” is no more; both sides see all the negative traits of one another, and the complaints about how one behave increase in size. Thus, without alcoholism as a catalyst, the tensions would not have skyrocketed, and the violence would have never erupted.
As the Morels’ tension reaches a peak, the violence begins, marking the true domestic abuse incident. Due to one side being unable to reconcile with the other, Gertrude’s frustration explodes, and as a result, Walter lashes out at her: “He came up to her, his red face, with its bloodshot eyes, thrust forward, and gripped her arms. She cried in fear of him, struggled to be free” (45). This grip he employs symbolizes his control; abusers want to have control over the victims, and thus employ violence to keep them in check. His grabbing her arms is the literal embodiment of his need for power over her, and as a result, she can only escape by throwing herself into passion for her son. Violence is not beneath Walter, and he uses it in his drunken stupor when he cannot coherently speak. However, as many abusers tend to eventually do, Walter feels the need to make reparations. He feels the consequences of the actions when he is not drunk and conversing with his wife: “He was shy, rather scared, and humble. Yet again he felt his old glow. And then immediately he felt the ruin he had made during these years” (379). The cycle of abuse that is spun in the Morel’s household is driven by liquor, and this is proven. When Walter is not drunk, he knows that physically harming his wife is wrong. However, as much as he wants to, he cannot stop drinking. It becomes ironic; abusers tend to seek power, but in Walter’s case he is powerless against the drink.
Due to this lack of defense against addiction, he slowly becomes irrelevant to the Morel household. This is made clear when “conversation was impossible between the father and any other member of the family. He was an outsider” (123). This expresses the typical solution many people go to: they try their best to decrease the influence of the abuser in their lives. By making Walter like the ghost of the Morel family, his influence is decreased. Nobody cares about him, and so he can no longer do any damage. Although he is not a truly wicked character, his drinking problem becomes his identity, and as a result, he loses any respect that he could have reaped.
Although Walter is mostly irrelevant by the second half of the novel, Lawrence uses him to deliver a powerful message about domestic abuse and alcoholism. Although the audience knows that he is a well-intentioned person at heart, his good traits are concealed by the undesirable ones. People tend to remember more negative experiences than positive; for example, when a couple breaks up, their happy times are forgotten and only the separation is remembered. If one wants to have respect, one must be able to stay good consistently, for if there is an alternation between good and bad, only the bad will be remembered.
The Illusion of Women’s Power in D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers
During the early twentieth century, the idea of women having as much power as men was foreign: men were not only better educated, but were also the primary breadwinners for the family. Though individuals do not have the ability to immediately alter how their society is structured, attempts can be made to rectify inequalities. Women in D.H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers try to create their own power by adopting certain views about themselves in relation to men. By creating certain mindsets, the characters of Gertrude Morel, Clara Dawes, and Miriam Leivers mentally elevate themselves to positions of power. These mindsets include adopting attitudes of indifference, ownership, and self-sacrifice towards the men with whom they have relationships. However, the problems they try to overcome do not disappear, but are further entrenched.
A certain mindset may be key to success for some, but for the women in Lawrence’s novel, changing perception does not entail transforming reality.The thoughts of Gertrude Morel and her husband Walter Morel function on two different levels: while Gertrude possesses faculties that allow her to appreciate higher forms of thinking like philosophy and religion, Walter is simple-minded, more concerned with physical pleasures like eating and drinking. Such a contrast between their types of thinking results in conflict. Walter has a nature that “was purely sensuous, and she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face things. He could not endure it—it drove him out of his mind” (Lawrence 13). Mr. Morel’s inability to accept his wife’s moral instruction manifests itself when he squanders his income on drinks rather than sufficiently providing for the needs of his family. Though his unhealthy habit may also be a result of poor self-control, a stronger sense of morality could have better reined in his impulse to drink. Walter’s bouts of drinking often transform him into a violent man, as on more than one occasion he physically abuses his wife while drunk. Gertrude is unable to physically change the situation: she is cannot overpower him by suppressing attacks, and she cannot leave the house, for she needs Walter’s income to raise her children. However, what Gertrude is able to change after repeated incidents of abuse is her attitude towards her husband. The concern over his morals vanishes. Previously, “she had fretted after him, as if he had gone astray from her. Now she ceased to fret for his love: he was an outsider to her. This made life much more bearable” (14).
By viewing Walter as a stranger, Gertrude puts up a shield of indifference against her husband so that his actions no longer put her into despair. Her husband becomes nothing more than a human cash dispenser that she must continue to live with to feed her children. Gertrude’s counterattacks to Walter’s punches may fail to faze him, but the indifference she expresses perturbs Walter, whose “soul would reach out in its blind way to her and find her gone. He felt a sort of emptiness, almost like a vacuum in his soul” (42). Gertrude is able to inflict this kind of harm upon her husband because no longer does she view him as a person worthy of her concern. The problem with indifference is that it roots Gertrude to her miserable present. She can make Walter feel as uncomfortable as she wants with all these mind games, but indifference towards her husband also means indifference towards changing her life situation. No amount of mental power allows Gertrude to escape the reality of her dependency on Walter.
Similar themes are raised by a second vexed couple. Though Clara Dawes and her husband Baxter Dawes have been separated for a period of time, they have not gone through a formal divorce. A major reason why Clara does not want a divorce is that such a formal end to the marriage will deprive her of a form of power she believes she possesses. This form of power is ownership of Baxter, as she admits to Paul Morel: “I think he belongs to me” (315). She is like a child who will not bury her dead cat because the burial would also inter her status as Owner. The reason Clara does not let go of her husband is not due to an ever-enduring affection for him; in fact, she “did not love Dawes, never had loved him; but she believed he loved her, at least depended on her” (316-317). However, Clara’s penchant for feeling depended upon ultimately causes her to become dependent upon Baxter, the man who gives her this illusion of power. The time she spends with Paul reveals to Clara that he does not express the same need that Baxter does for her to care for him. Combined with the fact that Clara is still carrying around her dead cat of a marriage, this fact causes Paul and Clara to eventually stop seeing each other. Immediately after the break-up with Paul, Clara begs Baxter to get back together with her in what seems like a state of delirium: “‘Take me back!’ she whispered, ecstatic. ‘Take me back, take me back!’ And she put her fingers through his fine, thin dark hair, as if she were only semi-conscious” (359). She comes crawling back to Baxter, a woman metaphorically starved during her relationship with Paul, deprived of her sustenance of ownership. Instead of being elevated to a position of power above her husband by being the Owner who provides care, Clara becomes the supplicant who needs to beg Baxter to give her power back. Clara may think she owns Baxter, but it is Baxter who gives her the ability to have this kind of confidence
Here, a third relationship becomes instructive. Ever since Miriam first met Paul, she has admired his various talents, which include being able to speak French, comprehend algebra, and paint with dexterity. Even though her education has not been luxurious enough to bestow upon her similar abilities, she thinks of herself so highly that she believes only Paul is worthy of her love, and that only she is worthy of Paul’s love, for she is a “princess” who is “different from other folk, and must not be scooped up among the common fry” (126). As her relationship with Paul progresses, Miriam continues to cling onto her sense of superiority and begins to exert it over Paul himself. When Paul sleeps with her, Miriam thinks “there was something divine in it; then she would submit, religiously, to the sacrifice” (249). Miriam revels in the thought that only she has the authority to yield to Paul what he wants: she fails to understand that his desire for her as a person is mixed with a desire for sex. Miriam’s expectations for Paul to appreciate her sacrifice do not sit well with him: the pressure to admire her all the time makes him feel stifled. It is not long before he starts avoiding Miriam. The fact that Miriam thinks highly of herself is what leads to her conclusion that she and Paul are suited solely for each other, but it is this overly controlling mindset that drives Paul away. No matter how much Miriam may try to convince herself that Paul will come crawling back to her, she has no power to guarantee such a reality.
D.H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers reinforces the idea that, during the early twentieth century, women are perceived as powerless. Gertrude remains financially bound to her husband, Clara remains dependent on Baxter Dawes, and Miriam loses the man she tries to make love her. Women may gain illusions of control, but these illusions eventually re-emphasize the problems that women try to solve in the first place.
The Father in Sons and Lovers
“I would write a different Sons and Lovers now; my mother was wrong, and I thought she was absolutely right.” (Jeffers 296)This line betrays D. H. Lawrence’s eventual realization about his maternal fixation. As a corollary, it might be implied that he regretted villainizing his father. However, critics have maintained that Lawrence was too severe upon himself—perhaps he was unable to grasp the import of the novel upon a reader who didn’t share his personal associations, or that his genius had unconsciously rendered an objectivity into his work which he failed to recognize himself. As Aruna Sitesh confirms, “Sympathy for Walter is scattered all through the novel.” (494)In Walter Morel, one finds the predicament of a simple-minded man stuck in an incompatible marriage with a woman who possessed a greater sensibility than he did. “What he felt just at the minute, that was all to him. . . . His nature was purely sensuous, and she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face things. He could not endure it—it drove him out of his mind.” Clearly, a situation mirrored in the later Paul-Miriam relationship; but returning from the digression, Gertrude “was too much his opposite. She could not be content with the little he might be, she would have him the much that he ought to be. So, in seeking to make him nobler than he could be, she destroyed him.” (Lawrence 18, 20) This distance continued to grow along with the children as the mother diverted her aspirations towards them (her elder sons in particular), resulting in a marriage where the transitory passion of youth had long evaporated, the one which had impulsively brought the mismatched couple together. As Thomas L. Jeffers explains:“It is an attraction of opposites – the pale civilized lady startled yet warmed by the ruddy native collier – marked in the too-brief but unforgettably vivid scene at the Christmas dance. Though passionately happy with him during the first months of their marriage, she soon decides that, since he has been less than honest about his fiscal status and has proved fonder of the pub than of her company at home, he is no good, and her marriage has been a mistake.” (299)Nonetheless, it is clear throughout the text that Walter continued to love Gertrude. He couldn’t bear to see his position usurped by his sons, and yet he was helpless against his overbearing wife. As a result, he consoles himself in the company of his fellow colliers, “relieving the tedium of their lives with alcohol.” (Murfin 472) In relation to this, there is an interesting observation that the “masculine place is also distinctly feminine . . . it is the orifice of the earth that everyday the colliers “die” into and are “born” out of. This crinkled “womb” – swarming with men, horses, and mice – has enabled Morel to incorporate the feminine side of his self”. One finds an echo of this cathartic sentiment in Lawrence’s Nottingham and the Mining Countryside, where he claims that the miners “knew each other practically naked, and with curious close intimacy, and the darkness and the underground remoteness of the pit “stall,” and the continual presence of danger, made the physical, instinctive, and intuitional contact between men very highly developed, a contact almost as close as touch.” (Jeffers 295, 296)At home, the alienated husband tried to assert himself in vain, leading to brutish moments which further contributed to his estrangement. What heightens the tragedy is the fact that he lacked the sensitivity and awareness to comprehend the problem. For instance, when he flung the drawer at Gertrude, he was overcome with guilt and shame even if he didn’t express it, and the following lines depict his inner turmoil and attempts at self-justification: “‘It was her own fault,’ he said to himself. Nothing, however, could prevent his inner consciousness inflicting on him the punishment which ate into his spirit like rust, and which he could only alleviate by drinking.” (Lawrence 49) Thus followed his inevitable descent into alcoholism, which of course further marginalized his position.On the other hand, the shrewd self-righteous wife was fully aware of the situation, and simply gave up on her husband. “There was this deadlock of passion between them, and she was stronger.” She knew that his statements such as “I’ll make you tremble at the sound of my footstep.” (Lawrence 49, 43) were nothing but empty threats. She was aware of his tenderness and instinctive nature, and thus, in a manner of speaking, she had an absolute emasculating hold over him—something against which he tried to rebel but never succeeded. Therefore, as a foil to Walter, Gertrude projected herself as the victim, and in fact she was actually convinced about it. However, to the reader it is evident that the individuals must bear the blame mutually.Of course, the real guilt might be traced to the 19th century English ethos, which led to “pointedly historical circumstances of maternal domination in Victorian and Edwardian households” along with moral restraints and notions of social decorum, which forced unhappy couples to abide in their marriage in spite of daily heartbreaks. Moreover, as a material aspect, “the stultifying routine in factory, mine, or shop and the dominance of the mother in the verbal nurturance of the children had between them left the father with little to offer in conversation or storytelling” (Jeffers 293, 293), rendering him a nominal head of the family with no actual involvement. For the wife and children would unconsciously view him solely as the provider, and thus endure him as if out of compulsion. Eventually, everyone involved reconciled themselves to the situation. In the case of the Morels, Walter “did not care any longer what the family thought or felt. . . . The family withdrew, shrank away and became hushed as he entered. But he cared no longer about his alienation.” (Lawrence 49-50) As for Gertrude, “she was more tolerant because she loved him less. . . . standing more aloof from him, not feeling him so much part of herself, but merely part of her circumstances she did not mind so much what he did, could leave him alone. . . . autumn in a man’s life. His wife was casting him off, half regretfully, but relentlessly; casting him off and turning now for love and life to the children. Henceforward he was more or less a husk. And he half acquiesced, as so many men do, yielding their place to their children.” (Lawrence 54)Therefore, while the family took each other for granted, Walter’s amiable nature comes to the fore in his interactions with the outsiders, as with his friends, or Gyp or Clara. For the rift at home was too great to be repaired, as reflected by Walter’s dilemma when Paul fell sick: “The father waited undecidedly on the hearthrug for a moment or two. He felt his son did not want him.” (Lawrence 82) One finds an inherent conflict in the father—a dichotomy of feeling, a paternal love which Walter was unable to express or realize, owing to various inhibitions including notions of manhood—in effect, creating a miserable situation.As a reactionary measure, Walter resorted to annoying trifles, perhaps just so the family might take notice of him. He gave up all pretence and manners, and of course he had lost the charm of his youth; “he persisting in his dirty and disgusting ways, just to assert his independence. They loathed him.” (Lawrence 129) Yet by the end of the novel, Walter becomes a timid old man inured to his desolation. He is seen to be afraid of his wife and kids, silently acquiescing to their directions—a most tragic figure, a faint shadow of his past self—a personality succinctly captured by Jeffers in the following passage: “the unlettered butty who went down pit when he was eight years old, rarely sees daylight, labors under conditions physically draining and dangerous, drinks with his mates, and feels generally unwanted by his wife and children. He is also the “natural man” who, in wonderfully evoked scenes, has been famous for his lithe dancing and choir-boy singing . . . who comfortably cooks his own breakfast each morning; who walks to work through the fields and along the hedgerows, off which he may pick a stalk to chew on for the day; and who, having recruited his children to help him make fuses, tells them cunning tales about the mice and the horses in the mine.” (294)* * *Works ConsultedGoode, John. “Individual and Society in Sons and Lovers.” 1970. Sons and Lovers. Ed. Ashok Celly. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 463-69. Print.Jeffers, Thomas L. “‘We children were the in-betweens’: Character (De)Formation in Sons and Lovers.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 42.3 (2000): 290-313. JSTOR. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.Lawrence, D. H. Sons and Lovers. Ed. Ashok Celly. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. Print. All quotations are taken from this edition.—. Nottingham and the Mining Countryside. 1930. Sons and Lovers. Ed. Ashok Celly. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 440-47. Print.Murfin, Ross C. “The Waste Land according to D. H. Lawrence: Social Forms of Conflict and Self-Conflict.” 1987. Sons and Lovers. Ed. Ashok Celly. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 470-86. Print.Sitesh, Aruna. “Women in Sons and Lovers.” Sons and Lovers. Ed. Ashok Celly. Delhi: Worldview-Book Land, 2010. 487-97. Print.
Love and its Consequences in D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers
D. H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers depicts the unhappy marriage between Walter and Gertrude Morel, and their four children. As Mrs. Morel’s relationship with her husband begins to disintegrate, she turns her attention to her sons in the hopes of filling the emotional void that her husband no longer can. The imprisoning nature of Mrs. Morel’s love towards Paul serves to cripple any romantic relationship he attempts to maintain, eliciting an abnormality in Paul’s character as a result of the relationship with his mother. Gertrude and Walter Morel’s unhappy marriage as well as an incongruence between their social classes is problematic because it causes Gertrude to displace her, once passionate, love for her husband onto her sons. Gertrude Morel, “a rather small woman, of delicate mould but resolute bearing” (10), came from a “good old burgher family” (15) where she “loved ideas, and was considered very intellectual” (17). Conversely, Walter Morel “was opposite” (17); “He was well-set-up, erect and very smart. He had that rare thing, a rich, ringing laugh” (17). While Gertrude initially “thought him rather wonderful, never having met anyone like him” (18), it is through the occurrence of pivotal events, such as Mr. Morel lying about owning their home and not having paid the furniture bills to cutting young William’s hair , that we see the Morel’s marriage begin a steady, downward spiral. Macdonald Daly, a critic of the novel, lends some insight into the breakdown of the Morel’s marriage when he explains that “what ruins it decisively is Walter Morel’s inability to deliver to Gertrude the bourgeois material standards she has been led to expect their marriage to secure” (82). Mrs. Morel begins to recognize a shift in their relationship when she notices that “her manner had changed towards him” (21), thus beginning a “battle between the husband and wife, a fearful, bloody battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfil his obligations. But he was too different from her” (23). Daly further explains that “it is from the failure of this marriage that the enormous conflict and heartache at the centre of Sons and Lovers unspool” (82), causing Gertrude to fulfil the inadequacies of Walter through another source: her children.Though William, the Morel’s eldest son, was the focus of Mrs. Morel’s affection initially, in which “William was a lover to her” (44), it is through Paul that we see the displacement of love from her husband really manifest itself into the relationship between mother and son. As a young boy Mrs. Morel notes how “her treatment of Paul was different from that of the other children” (65), additionally feeling “as if the navel string that had connected [Paul’s] frail little body with hers had not been broken” (51). Robin Ramsay, the course author of the Sons and Lovers unit, explains that “Initially, much of the relationship between Paul and his mother stems from a natural, wholesome, familial intimacy. Only as each depends too much on the other does it become stifling” (21). Ramsay’s point becomes especially clear when we notice that it is only after William’s death that “Mrs. Morel’s life now rooted itself in Paul” (171). The gradual movement from son to lovers is particularly evident after taking a trip to Jordan’s together and “feeling the excitement of lovers having an adventure together” (118), Mrs. Morel was “like a sweetheart” to Paul (117). Paul’s pet names for Mrs. Morel, such as “pigeon” (428), “my love” (434), and “my little” (435), in addition to his intimate behaviour with his mother, “He stroked his mother’s hair, and his mouth was on her throat” (252), depict a relationship of lovers rather than one of a maternal nature. Daly provides an interesting insight into Mrs. Morel and Paul’s relationship when he discusses the idea of transference, explaining that mothers who are “dissatisfied with their own sexual relationships in marriage, have actively transferred their sexual desires onto their sons. These desires cannot be expressed or acted upon because they are incestuous, and incest is a major taboo. The mothers react by sublimating their feelings into other forms of desire: possessiveness towards, or claims to power over the son” (80). However, it is not until Paul becomes interested in embarking upon a romantic relationship that we actually see the consequences of Mrs. Morel’s love for him. Ramsay brings to attention the implications of the mother and son’s relationship when he explains that “more and more, this closeness has sexual overtones and ramifications that affect Paul’s later relationships” (22), with Daly further adding that Paul’s role towards Mrs. Morel is dual in that “he is both her son and her ‘lover’. But the price of being a ‘lover’ to his mother is that it adversely influences his relationships with the other women in his life, the more ‘legitimate’ objects of his sexual desires, Miriam and Clara” (80).Yet the only “legitimate objects of his sexual desires, Miriam and Clara” cannot ever reach fruition because “the deepest of [Paul’s] love belonged to his mother” (255), “hers was the strongest tie in his life” (261). It would appear that Miriam and Clara represent different polarities on the spectrum of love: Paul “loved Miriam with his soul” (319), he “belonged to her” (261), whereas “Clara was indeed passionately in love with him, and he with her, as far as passion went” (395). Despite her son’s happiness, Mrs. Morel is not shy about her reservations of the women he chooses to pursue. When Miriam visited Paul at the Morel residence, “Mrs. Morel sat jealously in her chair” (212), feeling Paul “being drawn away by this girl. And she did not care for Miriam” (196). Ramsay touches on the nature of Paul’s relationship with each woman and its effect on Mrs. Morel when he explains that “Mrs. Morel can more readily tolerate someone like Clara than she can Miriam, since Paul’s relationship with Clara is mainly physical, whereas Miriam encroaches on those areas of Paul’s life that he also shares with Mrs. Morel” (22). As he ages and his relationships continuously fail to deepen and progress, Paul comes to the realization that “it was as if the pivot and pole of his life, from which he could not escape, was his mother” (261). Perhaps the most significant conclusion that Paul arrives at however, is the condemnation he feels by his mother as a result of their relationship: “Sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her bondage. His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle where life turned back on itself, and got no further. She bore him, loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could not be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman” (389). The consequences of Mrs. Morel and Paul’s relationship are substantial; Paul’s attempts at relationships with first Miriam and then Clara fail miserably and leave him wondering if he will ever break the hold that his mother has on his soul. Paul’s bond with his mother is so strong that he is incapable of loving another woman as much as he loves his mother; a factor that affects his entire life, and thus, in this way, rendering him an abnormal character. Works CitedDaly, Macdonald. “Relationship and Class in Sons and Lovers.” D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers: A Casebook. Eds. John Worthern and Andrew Harrison. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 77-90. Print.Lawrence, D. H. Sons and Lovers. 1913. Eds. Helen Baron and Carl Baron. London: Penguin. 2006.Ramsey, Robin. “Unit 1: Sons and Lovers.” ENGL 424: Modern British Fiction. Kamloops, BC: TRU Open Learning, 2008
A Mother’s Love: A Study of Love and Its Consequences in D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers
D. H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers depicts the unhappy marriage between Walter and Gertrude Morel, and their four children. As Mrs. Morel’s relationship with her husband begins to disintegrate, she turns her attention to her sons in the hopes of filling the emotional void that her husband no longer can. The imprisoning nature of Mrs. Morel’s love towards Paul serves to cripple any romantic relationship he attempts to maintain, eliciting an abnormality in Paul’s character as a result of the relationship with his mother.Gertrude and Walter Morel’s unhappy marriage as well as an incongruence between their social classes is problematic because it causes Gertrude to displace her, once passionate, love for her husband onto her sons. Gertrude Morel, “a rather small woman, of delicate mould but resolute bearing” (10), came from a “good old burgher family” (15) where she “loved ideas, and was considered very intellectual” (17). Conversely, Walter Morel “was opposite” (17); “He was well-set-up, erect and very smart. He had that rare thing, a rich, ringing laugh” (17). While Gertrude initially “thought him rather wonderful, never having met anyone like him” (18), it is through the occurrence of pivotal events, such as Mr. Morel lying about owning their home and not having paid the furniture bills to cutting young William’s hair , that we see the Morel’s marriage begin a steady, downward spiral. Macdonald Daly, a critic of the novel, lends some insight into the breakdown of the Morel’s marriage when he explains that “what ruins it decisively is Walter Morel’s inability to deliver to Gertrude the bourgeois material standards she has been led to expect their marriage to secure” (82). Mrs. Morel begins to recognize a shift in their relationship when she notices that “her manner had changed towards him” (21), thus beginning a “battle between the husband and wife, a fearful, bloody battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfil his obligations. But he was too different from her” (23). Daly further explains that “it is from the failure of this marriage that the enormous conflict and heartache at the centre of Sons and Lovers unspool” (82), causing Gertrude to fulfil the inadequacies of Walter through another source: her children.Though William, the Morel’s eldest son, was the focus of Mrs. Morel’s affection initially, in which “William was a lover to her” (44), it is through Paul that we see the displacement of love from her husband really manifest itself into the relationship between mother and son. As a young boy Mrs. Morel notes how “her treatment of Paul was different from that of the other children” (65), additionally feeling “as if the navel string that had connected [Paul’s] frail little body with hers had not been broken” (51). Robin Ramsay, the course author of the Sons and Lovers unit, explains that “Initially, much of the relationship between Paul and his mother stems from a natural, wholesome, familial intimacy. Only as each depends too much on the other does it become stifling” (21). Ramsay’s point becomes especially clear when we notice that it is only after William’s death that “Mrs. Morel’s life now rooted itself in Paul” (171). The gradual movement from son to lovers is particularly evident after taking a trip to Jordan’s together and “feeling the excitement of lovers having an adventure together” (118), Mrs. Morel was “like a sweetheart” to Paul (117). Paul’s pet names for Mrs. Morel, such as “pigeon” (428), “my love” (434), and “my little” (435), in addition to his intimate behaviour with his mother, “He stroked his mother’s hair, and his mouth was on her throat” (252), depict a relationship of lovers rather than one of a maternal nature. Daly provides an interesting insight into Mrs. Morel and Paul’s relationship when he discusses the idea of transference, explaining that mothers who are “dissatisfied with their own sexual relationships in marriage, have actively transferred their sexual desires onto their sons. These desires cannot be expressed or acted upon because they are incestuous, and incest is a major taboo. The mothers react by sublimating their feelings into other forms of desire: possessiveness towards, or claims to power over the son” (80). However, it is not until Paul becomes interested in embarking upon a romantic relationship that we actually see the consequences of Mrs. Morel’s love for him. Ramsay brings to attention the implications of the mother and son’s relationship when he explains that “more and more, this closeness has sexual overtones and ramifications that affect Paul’s later relationships” (22), with Daly further adding that Paul’s role towards Mrs. Morel is dual in that “he is both her son and her ‘lover’. But the price of being a ‘lover’ to his mother is that it adversely influences his relationships with the other women in his life, the more ‘legitimate’ objects of his sexual desires, Miriam and Clara” (80).Yet, the only “legitimate objects of his sexual desires, Miriam and Clara” cannot ever reach fruition because “the deepest of [Paul’s] love belonged to his mother” (255), “hers was the strongest tie in his life” (261). It would appear that Miriam and Clara represent different polarities on the spectrum of love: Paul “loved Miriam with his soul” (319), he “belonged to her” (261), whereas “Clara was indeed passionately in love with him, and he with her, as far as passion went” (395). Despite her son’s happiness, Mrs. Morel is not shy about her reservations of the women he chooses to pursue. When Miriam visited Paul at the Morel residence, “Mrs. Morel sat jealously in her chair” (212), feeling Paul “being drawn away by this girl. And she did not care for Miriam” (196). Ramsay touches on the nature of Paul’s relationship with each woman and its effect on Mrs. Morel when he explains that “Mrs. Morel can more readily tolerate someone like Clara than she can Miriam, since Paul’s relationship with Clara is mainly physical, whereas Miriam encroaches on those areas of Paul’s life that he also shares with Mrs. Morel” (22). As he ages and his relationships continuously fail to deepen and progress, Paul comes to the realization that “it was as if the pivot and pole of his life, from which he could not escape, was his mother” (261). Perhaps the most significant conclusion that Paul arrives at however, is the condemnation he feels by his mother as a result of their relationship: “Sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her bondage. His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle where life turned back on itself, and got no further. She bore him, loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could not be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman” (389). The consequences of Mrs. Morel and Paul’s relationship are substantial; Paul’s attempts at relationships with first Miriam and then Clara fail miserably and leave him wondering if he will ever break the hold that his mother has on his soul. Paul’s bond with his mother is so strong that he is incapable of loving another woman as much as he loves his mother; a factor that affects his entire life, and thus, in this way, rendering him an abnormal character. Works CitedDaly, Macdonald. “Relationship and Class in Sons and Lovers.” D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers: A Casebook. Eds. John Worthern and Andrew Harrison. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 77-90. Print.Lawrence, D. H. Sons and Lovers. 1913. Eds. Helen Baron and Carl Baron. London: Penguin. 2006.Ramsey, Robin. “Unit 1: Sons and Lovers.” ENGL 424: Modern British Fiction. Kamloops, BC: TRU Open Learning, 2008
Use of Nature in Sons and Lovers
Because of his past, the protagonist in D.H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers is a perfect example of a character crippled with the incapability to hold fast to a relationship. Paul Morel had three significant relationships in the novel that all somehow parallel elements found in nature. The symbolism found beneath the natural settings that Lawrence used are all provocative and sexual, and all provide depth into Paul’s relationships with his mother, his neighbor and a woman who eventually became his muse.The first of these relationships was with Paul’s mother, Gertrude Morel. Mrs. Morel’s unhappiness and instability was based on her premature marriage. Her only solace came from living vicariously through her sons, especially Paul. When pregnant with Paul, Mrs. Morel experienced a sensual and reeling moment in her garden that not only shaped the novel but her son’s character as well. This scene in the novel used a lot of provocative images. Both Lawrence’s choice of flowers and flower colors seemed to be significant. “The tall white lilies were reeling in the moonlight… she touched the big, pallid flowers on their petals then shivered… She put her hand into one white bin: the gold scarcely showed on her fingers by moonlight… Then she drank a deep draught of the scent. It almost made her dizzy.” The first image given was of a white lily. The color white seems to be used to describe a virginal moment. Although technically Gertrude was not physically a “virgin,” a lot of the pleasure in the garden seemed new to her. Her sensuality was heightened, something that never seemed to happen through the course of her relationship with her husband. A lily is a very spread out flower, with long petals and an erect center with tips coated in pollen. The petals of the flower are very open and seemed to be used to symbolize the vaginal area. It was hard not to notice the center of a lily. The carpel center, which was long, erect, and straight, seemed to be a phallic symbol. The combination of the color white, long petals and fertile center of a lily is extremely suggestive. Something I also considered when reading this passage was the fact that at the root of a lily is a bulb as opposed to a seed. In comparison to seeds, bulbs are much larger and weightier. The analogy between the seed and the bulb can parallel Walter Morel’s relationship with Gertrude as opposed to Paul’s. In that same scene, images of hills and roses were also mentioned. Lawrence’s use of hills seem to reaffirm her sexual arousal, one that Paul took part of in Gertrude’s womb. Hills are very curvy and feminine as opposed to mountains, which are often described with “peaks,” another phallic symbol. The use of hills instead of peaks reinforces the idea that Gertrude will have some sort of womanly hold over her son, which is what leaves him incapable of evolving romantically with other women. The author used a second reference to flowers in the same chapter to reinforce the idea of Mrs. Morel’s sexual encounter: “She passed along the path hesitating at the white rose-bush. A few whiffs of the raw strong scent of phlox invigorated her. She touched the white ruffles of the roses. Their fresh scent and cool, soft leaves reminded her of the morning-time and sunshine. She was very fond of them.” In this occurrence, Lawrence refers to roses. Roses in literature often symbolize romance. It is very important to remember that Paul is experiencing this arousal vicariously through Gertrude. The roses’ leaves remind her of morning-time and sunshine. Images of morning and sunshine are often metaphorical for a new beginning. In the context of this passage, the new romance seemed to be very welcome to Gertrude. She accepted it, and from this came the development of an Oedipal, almost-incestuous relationship between her and her son.After giving her son the name Paul, “a fine shadow was flung over the deep green meadow, darkening all.” Lawrence once again uses nature symbolically. By darkening the meadow, he was closing one chapter in Gertrude Morel’s life, her relationship with Walter Morel. Although the relationship between Gertrude and Walter was already rocky by this point, the use of a dark meadow is significant because of its placement right after the son’s naming. It suggests that the passion once held for Mr. Morel is now nonexistent, leaving room for Paul to make some sort of territorial claim on Gertrude Morel. The meadow was dark, seemingly representing an ending, as opposed to green and fertile. This also strengthened the idea that what Mrs. Morel experienced in the garden was orgasmic and furthermore that Paul experienced her pleasures vicariously through her. When she was pregnant with Paul, she saw the sunshine, which is symbolic for a new beginning, with a new male. D.H. Lawrence’s symbolic use of nature in the novel continued with the introduction of Miriam Leivers in “Death in the Family.” Paul’s first encounter with Miriam was during a visit with his mother to the Leivers’ farm. Miriam first appeared in a garden with a “rosy” complexion in. Appearing in a garden foreshadows the possibility of a new relationship between Paul and Miriam, and having a “rosy” face gives her character the idea of fertility. Upon meeting Miriam, Paul was obviously fascinated, because he starts a conversation with her about cabbage roses, even furthering the foreshadowing of a romance. “‘I suppose they are cabbage roses, when they come out?’ he said. ‘I don’t know,’ she faltered. ‘They’re white, with pink middles.’ ‘Then they’re maiden-blush.’ Miriam flushed. She had a beautiful, warm coloring.’ ‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘You don’t have much in your garden,’ he said…” This passage from Paul and Miriam’s first meeting is significant, because of its extreme sexual connotations. Once again, D.H. Lawrence introduced the romantic, fertile image of the rose. However, this time he described the roses as “white, with pink middles.” By doing this, he has put Miriam’s character on the table. The image given off is very sensual. A rose that is white with a pink middle could be seen metaphorically for the vaginal area. The color gets deeper toward the center. She was a girl, in her prime. The color “white” can be seen in the passage, once again indicating virginity or purity. This is also supported by the fact that Paul skeptically said, “You don’t have much in your garden.” While red is often associated with love and passion, she was described as pink and rosy, which means she was at the brink of her sexuality. She was a virgin; she was almost ready. Toward the beginning of “Lad-and-Girl Love,” Paul decided to pay a visit to the Leivers farm “as soon as the sky brightened” and the “plum blossoms [were] out.” Like the chapter title, the brightened sky foreshadowed the beginning of a relationship between Paul and Miriam. It was interesting to me how it specifically said that Paul waited until the plum blossoms are out. Like D.H. Lawrence’s previous choices of lilies and roses, the choice of plum blossoms didn’t seem to be a coincidence. Plum blossoms are often white, pink and a deep red. Two of those colors had already been used to describe Miriam, and the remaining color is the color of romance and sexuality. Like lilies, plum blossoms also have a carpel center, with stigmas tipped with pollen. Their petals are also spread out and are very curvy and circular, much like the female shape. After Paul approached Miriam, the first thing he said to her was, “’I say… your daffodils are nearly out. Isn’t it early? But don’t they look cold? The green on their buds…‘” The author’s use of nature in this passage is to draw a relationship between a woman’s breasts and a daffodil. Like nipples on a breast, the daffodil’s center protrudes. This passage is meant to draw the reader in and focus on the Miriam’s femininity and development. During the visit, Paul made several comments about celandine bushes coming out and being glad about the “sunny” weather. There is increased imagery on plants and nature, which is used to set the “earthy” relationship between Paul and Miriam. The fact that Paul noted that it was now “sunny” rather than a “brightened sky” like before suggests that they have moved past the initial flirtation into something that may have substance. Celandines are small, delicate yellow flowers that were chosen by Lawrence to reinforce Miriam’s delicate, warm nature. “I like [celandines]… when their petals go flat back with the sunshine. They seem to be pressing themselves against the sun.” It was easy for me to infer that Paul happily approved of celandines as a subliminal invitation toward Miriam. He liked when the celandines’ petals were pressed against the sun. I interpreted the use “sun” as a metaphor for Paul, both because since his birth, he had been closely associated with morning. Also because “sun” seemed to be a play-on word for the homonym “son.” If the “sun” was Paul and the celandines were Miriam, he was openly proclaiming his interest and swelling desire for her. “So it was in this atmosphere of subtle intimacy, this meeting in their common feeling or something in nature, that their love started.” Their love for one another evolved as “Lad-and-Girl Love” moved forward. However, how Miriam viewed their relationship and how Paul viewed their relationship was completely different. Miriam wanted a “communion together” while Paul wanted Miriam physically. The sexual tension continued to build and many images of trees began to be offered by D.H. Lawrence, especially in the scene where Miriam wanted to show Paul a wild, rose bush that had fascinated her. “By the time they came to the pine-trees Miriam was getting very eager, and very tense. And she wanted it so much. Almost passionately, she wanted to be with him when she stood before the flowers. They were going to have a communion together, something that thrilled her, something holy.” This passage showed the eagerness Miriam had to be with Paul: body and soul. Whereas Paul’s focus, despite being somewhat intrigued on Miriam’s mind, was on how physically restless he was becoming. His impatience was metaphorically described through the author’s imagery of trees. “The tree was tall and straggling. It had thrown its briars over a hawthorn bush, and its long streamers trailed thick right down to the grass… Point after point, the steady roses shone out to them, seeming to kindle something in their souls.” The straggling tree proved to be a very provocative, phallic image of Paul’s sexual appetite. The images offered by Lawrence in these passages are very suggestive and very sensual. The “straggling” tree seemed to refer back to an erection while Miriam’s “white” and “incurved” roses were very suggestive of a pure, untouched, vaginal area. The adjective “wild” used to describe the rose bush was used to convey something less proper than how Miriam is used to acting since normally she could be described as pious, innocent and conservative. The word “wild” suggested the extreme opposite. “Round the broken top of the tower, the ivy bushed out, old and handsome… The tower seemed to rock in the wind.” The sexuality presented by Lawrence remains constant through the rest of the section. In this particular passage, he used the imagery of a tower metaphorically to describe Paul’s sexual frustration with Miriam’s continuous hesitation. He was swollen, ready for Miriam to consent to his invitation, yet she held back, leaving him unsatisfied and sexually repressed. “It was blowing so hard, high up there in the exposed place, that the only way to be safe was to stand nailed by the wind to the wall of the tower…. Miriam was somewhat scared by the wind… Paul was now pale with weariness.”D.H. Lawrence also used various images in nature to represent the descent of Paul and Miriam’s relationship, which also led to the next, major relationship in Paul’s life. When Paul realized that Miriam could not console his sexual agitation, he started taking steps back in attempt to claim his sensibilities back. “He wanted to give her passion and tenderness, and he could not. He felt that she wanted the soul out of his body and not him.” While taking one of their habitual walks, Paul noticed Miriam smothering the flowers and responded negatively. “’Can you ever like things without clutching them as if you wanted top pull the heart out of them?’… ’You’re always begging things to love you as if you were a beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn over them.’” How Paul interpreted Miriam’s reaction toward nature paralleled how he interpreted Miriam’s treatment of him. He was sick of being smothered, leading to the eventual “Defeat of Miriam.” Clara Dawes’ impression of flowers was the complete opposite of Miriam’s. Rather than picking them and metaphorically repressing her sexuality by “fawning” over them, she chose to leave them planted in the ground stating, “’I don’t want the corpses of flowers about me.’” Not only could she be labeled as “challenging” because she constantly went against societal norms, but she also had the capability to offer something completely different to Paul, something less temporary and unknown to him. She allowed the flowers to stay planted in the earth, giving them room to grow rather than die abruptly. This ends up being metaphorical of their relationship, since Clara Dawes ended up becoming his muse, his inspiration for a lot of his artwork. With Miriam, Paul felt very suppressed and Clara offered something completely different. Clara inspired passion within him, which can be seen when he chose to purchase “scarlet, brick red carnations” for her. The color scarlet is a very deep, erotic color that suggested a deep desire. The various appearances of nature when Clara was present versus when Miriam was present have a sharp contrast. Often the flowers and plants associated with Miriam were very virginal, very pure as opposed when Clara was presented. “The cliff of red earth sloped swiftly down, through trees and bushes, to the river that glimmered and was very dark between the foliage. The far below water-meadows were very green. He and she stood leaning against one another, silent, afraid, their bodies touching all along. There came a quick gurgle from the river below.” The colors used were described as “red”, “dark”, and “very green.” These colors suggested an engrossment on Paul’s side. Because of a previous marriage, Clara can already be assumed to be anything but pure. However, it was this deeper sense of knowledge attracted Paul. He wanted to thrive off of her experience and be stimulated by Clara’s maturity. The foliage present with Clara included trees, bushes and a river that was dark and gleaming. The trees once again appear as a phallic symbol for Paul’s lust. The bushes also refer to the male pubic area and the river symbolized a yearning. His proposition of “Will you go down to the river?” was an invitation towards Clara. He is asking her to be his lover, despite the fact that it had the complications of being both “risky” and “messy.” Their encounter with nature in “Passion” is very representative of sexual intercourse, and at times D.H. Lawrence even used words closely associated with the activity such as “erect.”“When they were going away the old lad came timidly with three dahlias in full bow… speckled scarlet and white.” Dahlias are very full flowers, even when budding. The significance of this bold, full flower is a parallel with the character, Clara. Like dahlias, she is full figured and the image given of something “full” is also something “more mature.” Clara possessed a maturity that Miriam had never claimed. The colors presented in this passage were particularly interesting. White and red seemed to be such a sharp contrast. However, because there were three dahlias, it seemed to be very symbolic of the women presented in Paul’s life and foreshadowed his incapability of truly having a relationship outside of his mother, Miriam Leivers and Clara Dawes. The white flower seemed to be representative of Miriam while the scarlet seemed to be associated with Clara and her more experienced perspective of the world. The color of the third flower was not distinguished as either scarlet or red, and I cannot help but wonder what the color would be. While it could be scarlet to represent the passion and true love Paul had for his mother, it could easily be white as well because of the purity and unconditional deep affection he had toward her.“The Release” signified an important change, and once again, although not as abundant, D.H. Lawrence referenced nature in order to foreshadow his plot and it’s need for the symbolic release and death of Mrs. Morel. “And he watched the tangled sunflowers dying, the chrysanthemums coming out, and the dahlias.” The change of seasons, which can be assumed by the change of the different blossoms, signified a change in Paul’s life. Furthermore, this quote placed meaning within each range of flower. Once again the dahlias could be paralleled to Clara Dawes. The fact that there was no “action” word used after the flower breed foreshadowed no further “action” in Paul’s relationship with Clara. The sunflowers represented Gertrude Morel in the sense that these particular flowers need sun in order to keep living. By going back to the idea that the word “sun” seemed to be a play on word for Paul Morel (the “son”), this translation is easily justified. It was essential for Gertrude Morel’s character to die for the protagonist to have some sort of shot of a future romance, which is supported by the fact that Paul himself says, “…I never shall meet the right woman while you live.” The word “tangled” was suggestive of suffocation, and although it was apparent that Paul loved his mother to the point of questionable incestuous desires, his character had begun to go around in circles, unsure of the next path in his life. The chrysanthemums physically resemble the celandines that Miriam was so fond of and a further assumption can be made that these flowers were symbolic for her, because she returned to Paul’s life later in the novel, after his mother’s death. D.H. Lawrence made his final use of nature, specifically flowers, in “Derelict.” In a final meeting between Paul and Miriam, the author chose to zoom his focus onto a bowl of freesias. “[Miriam] bowed her face over the flowers, the freesias so sweet and spring-like… It was like [Paul] to have those flowers… ‘Have them!’ he said, and he took them out of the jar as they were… She waited for him, took the flowers, and they went out together, he talking, she feeling dead.” By taking the flowers upon her departure from Paul’s apartment, Miriam was also claiming back her sexuality, leaving Paul dry and alone. From the time of Paul’s conception in his mother’s womb to a final heartbreak in “Derelict,” nature played a prominent role in essentially becoming a “story teller” of Paul’s relationships with Mrs. Morel, Miriam and Clara. As a reader, I felt as if the relationship between the different breeds of flowers and the women in Paul’s life was very interesting, risqué and provided for a sensual, interesting read. Without the use of suggestive language through nature, Sons and Lovers would have been flatter, and a lot of the depth you could only retain from the parallelism would be lost. D.H. Lawrence’s use of nature in a metaphorical sense was necessary for both the novel, the women in the novel and Paul Morel to be multi-dimensional and emotional, sexual human beings. Works CitedFlower Anatomy. (n.d.). EnchantedLearning.com. Retrieved May 27, 2007, from http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/plants/gifs/Floweranatomy_bw.GIFLawrence, D. H. (1994). Sons and Lovers. London, England: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1913)
Postmodernism and Freudian Analysis
Write a concise analytical description of ‘Postmodernism’ in no more than 200 words. Postmodernism was a movement which took place in the Arts from the 1930’s to 1980’s, which sought not just to act as a continuation of modernism, but to attempt to reform its modes, which had themselves become conventional, as well as breaking away from elite high art to forms of mass culture, such as television, advertising, cartoons, and popular music. Western morale was threatened by the world-wide economic crisis and political division of the 1930’s this was later exacerbated by the experiences of Nazi totalitarianism, mass extermination, and the threat of the atomic bomb. In 1984, Orwell depicted society’s fear of a totalitarian regime, as a mass consumer culture and centralised economy developed in the post-war period. There was a rejection of old ideals such as Marxism, Freudianism, and the Enlightenment Project. The literature of the period by authors such as Pynchon, Barthes, and Nabokov blended genres so as to avoid traditional classification, and the movement was also seen in Warhol’s pop art, the musical compositions of John Cage, and the films of Jean-Luc Godard. The value of the term is debated; some welcome it as a liberation from the hierarchy of high and low cultures, while sceptics see it as mindlessly glamorising consumer capitalism and its moral vacuity. In no more than 1300 words, debate the relative strengths and weaknesses of Freudian and psychoanalytic perspectives, and feminist and gender studies as approaches towards Sons and Lovers. Psychoanalytical and feminist approaches are two relatively recent critical responses towards literary texts. When applied to D. H. Lawrence’s Son’s and Lovers, both can be insightful yet problematic at the same time. The theories of psychoanalysis, primarily identified with Sigmund Freud, can be applied to imaginative literature and art in general, in order to study their manifest and latent content, in the same way as Freud studied dreams. Literature clearly lends itself to such a study, since, like dreams, the most significant meaning often lies below the conscious surface narrative of a text. Feminist approaches towards literature are concerned with the portrayal of female characters. Lawrence’s representation of women in his work has been admired by many readers for it’s insight, women among them, and has been strongly attacked by others for its prejudiced male perspective. Classic psychoanalytic criticism applied the theories either to the author, or his or her characters, which were seen as internalised images that have come from the author’s unconscious. The high autobiographical content of Sons and Lovers lends itself to this type of study. Also, if works of art are taken to be disguised expressions of an infantile wish driven into the unconscious, as Freud suggests, then Sons and Lovers is doubly of interest. It is about the fundamental infantile wish that all boys have and repress, according to Freud, the wish of Oedipus to kill their father and marry their mother. Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex and of its frequent effect of psychical impotence, of which Paul is a classic victim, offers a valuable key to a coherent understanding of the novel and the way in which it is structured. The extent of the bond established between mother and son is most vividly dramatised by the episode where Paul’s mother cries at the thought of losing him to Miriam: ‘I can’t bear it. I could let another woman - but not her. She’d leave me no room, not a bit of room’And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.’And I’ve never - you know, Paul I’ve never had a husband - not really ’He stroked his mother’s hair, and his mouth was on her throat.(Lawrence, 1994, p. 212) Not only does she invite Paul to occupy the place of her husband, but she accuses Miriam of the same possessive love with which she smothers Paul. At the end of the chapter, Paul echoes Hamlet, another exemplary Oedipal victim, when he tries to persuade his mother not to sleep with his father. At this point in the novel, the presence of an Oedipus complex in Paul is so patent that one can hardly consider it as a submerged theme. Looked at another way, a major theme of the book is the gradual awakening of Paul to the deadly effects of his Oedipal fixation on his mother. The penultimate chapter, tellingly called ‘The Release,’ shows how Paul comes to reverse the Oedipal desire to kill the father by administering an overdose to his mother. One could say that he has finally learnt to direct his anger outwards to its source. A weakness of the psychoanalytic approach is the tendency to be too selective when choosing evidence from the texts to support the theories. Most interpretations of Sons and Lovers polarise Miriam and Clara as the two sexual objects desired by the psychically impotent Paul. Miriam, in her similarity to Gertrude, represents the woman Paul can only love by repressing desire, so why does Lawrence find it necessary to include the episode in which she and Paul become lovers? And if Clara is the harlot-mother Paul can enjoy sexually, what of the introduction of Baxter Dawes? It has been suggested that he acts as a father figure, so that by adultery, Paul can live out the Oedipal fantasy by proxy. At the same time, his guilt at breaking the incest taboo is strong enough for him to almost desire the punishment he receives during his fight with Dawes. The son-lover later arranges the reconciliation of his proxy parents, living out a fantasy in which the incestuous son undoes the harm he has caused to the marital relationship. One of the roles of feminist criticism is that of deconstructing texts written by men, by reversing the hierarchies, in order to detect prejudice and distortion beneath the appearance of ‘natural’ behaviour. The first feminist critic to attempt this reversal of Sons and Lovers was Kate Millett in Sexual Politics. Despite obvious flaws such as partiality and selective dealing with the text, her views permanently altered subsequent reader’s responses to the novel. The faults of selectivity and partiality have already been encountered in the failings of a psychoanalytic reading, and it also arises in Millet’s interpretation when she accuses Paul of unrepentant cruelty towards Miriam when he attempts to teach her algebra, for example. Her feminist reading has acutely discovered a streak of sadism in Paul’s sexual relationship with Miriam, which may have gone unnoticed, yet her reading is dependant on an extremely partial reading of the text. The novel expresses how Paul repeatedly vacillates between anger and shame at his loss of temper: He was often cruelly ashamed. But still again his anger burst like a bubble surcharged; and still, when he saw her eager, silent, as it were, blind face, he felt he wanted to throw the pencil in it; and still when he saw her hand trembling, and her mouth parted with suffering, his heart was scalded with pain for her.(Lawrence, 1994, p. 157) This quote shows that Millett’s reading is dependent on too small a portion of the evidence. Having examined the curious episode where Paul hands Clara back to Baxter in terms of the enaction of a proxy Oedipal fantasy, (according to psychoanalysis,) we can reinterpret it separately via a feminist slant. Paul’s actions, from a woman’s point of view, are offensive and arrogant, but with feminism, as with psychoanalysis, the novel is more complex that the narrowing summary offered by the reading suggests. Prior to this scene, Clara has been terrified by the death within Paul and can hardly wait to get away from him. Also, Clara is faced with a choice between Baxter, who is reliant on her, and Paul, who would demand her unquestioning loyalty and subservience. In choosing Baxter she is choosing personal freedom. There is certainly plenty of evidence for chauvinism on Lawrence’s part in the novel, and a feminism reading does well to expose this, but the impartial nature of the reading can often omit important information, and be unfair to Lawrence, and characters such as Walter Morel. In places, Walter cuts a rather sympathetic figure, and feminist studies can overlook this side to him. Lawrence often gives a voice in his text to the female Other, giving a narrative voice in places to all the predominant female characters, and the book is full of references to the economic oppression suffered by women. Lawrence itemises at length the amount of money Morel gives his wife, sympathises with Miriam’s degradation at the hands of the male members of her family, and describes the sweated work for pittance that Clara must undertake the price for her sexual freedom. As a science and medical practice, psychoanalysis has proved to be inherently flawed, but it’s ideas and terminology have had a remarkable impact on our culture. A psychoanalytic reading of Sons and Lovers conveniently overlooks passages which may contradict it’s theories, and Freudianism doesn’t account for individuality, since the characters do not exist in a social void, but essentially it has provided some of the most revealing critical observations since the text’s publication. It does not just uncover the subtext (unconscious) of the novel, but focuses on symptomatic passages that illustrate the presence of the unconscious taking the text in its own direction, usually of repetition, as in the triangle between Paul, Clara and Baxter, mirroring that of Paul and his parents. Feminist readings have discovered overlooked women writers and promoted their study, and have enlightened this text in many places, but they can be selective, narrow, and unfair to male characters and the author. Characters are limited by both readings when they are transformed into stereotypes Paul does not act the way he does because he is simply male, or he is simply the victim of an Oedipus complex. Paul is alienated from his father, not just as a result of his complex, but because the father works as part of the traditional working class set-up, and does not spend as much time with the children as the mother. One single reading of the novel will inevitably prevent the student from seeing the whole picture, since each perspective has its own priorities, and several need to be incorporated in order to fully realise all of the characters and understand the true workings of the novel. Bibliography Finney, B. (1990). Penguin Critical Studies: Sons and Lovers. Middlesex: Penguin Group Kuttner, A. B. (1969). A Freudian Interpretation (1916). In Gmini Salgado (Ed.), D. H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers A Selection of Critical Essays 1969 1994. Hampshire: Macmillan Press. Lawrence, D. (1996). Sons and Lovers (1913). M. Daly (Ed.), London: Everyman Lucy, N. (1997). Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Millett, K. (1996). Sexual Politics (1969). In Rick Rylance (Ed.), Sons and Lovers: New Casebooks. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Pope, R. (1998). The English Studies Book. London: Routledge
The Sacrifice of Arabella: Symbolism and Self-Actualization in D.H. Lawrence
In D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, the nature of Paul is epitomized in one particular scene in which he sacrifices Annie’s doll after accidentally breaking it. Lawrence reveals a central idea here about Paul that not only parallels the character of Walter, but also foreshadows Paul’s eventual treatment of Myriam as well as his mother. Ultimately, Paul’s inability to accept things that are broken, particularly those that he breaks himself, exposes the reason that he is unable to contribute to society as a functional and healthy human being.
After breaking the doll Arabella, it seems as though Paul is upset for hurting his sister, who cries upon realizing what Paul has accidentally done. Yet, after a short time, she moves on the way young children normally do. What’s odd is that Paul is still upset—for him, the doll remains a reminder of the distress he caused his sister. Paul’s inability to get over his breaking of the doll can be seen when Lawrence writes, “So long as Annie wept for the doll he sat helpless with misery. Her grief wore itself out. She forgave her brother—he was so much upset” (66). Rather than let it go, Paul does not find peace of mind until he physically destroys the doll by sacrificially burning it. Ironically, however, what he dubs a sacrifice is actually done as a means of easing his own tormented mind. The scene itself is paralleled to an earlier one in which Paul’s father, Walter Morel, throws a drawer at Gertrude out of anger. Just as Paul despises the doll after breaking it, Morel comes to despise his wife for having hurt her, a fact that can be seen when it is said, “He dreaded his wife. Having hurt her, he hated her” (48). The difference is that while Paul mends his own suffering through the destruction of the things that cause that suffering, Morel destroys himself through drink and mends other things to ease his suffering.
In Lawrence’s description of Walter, we learn that his constant bad mood and his need to get drunk disappear whenever he has work to do at home. “He always sang when he mended boots because of the jolly sound of hammering. And he was rather happy when he sat putting great patches on his moleskin trousers” (72). This contrast between father and son represents a major reason as to why Walter remains static and unchanging throughout the novel while Paul eventually grows. While Walter’s guilt consumes him like a cancer, Paul finds relief through the destruction of the things that remind him of that guilt, namely his mother. Aside from its parallelism to the scene with Walter, Paul’s sacrifice of Arabella can also be paralleled to his treatment of Myriam, his lover and spiritual confident. After realizing that his sexual desires and his inability to give himself to her completely cause her suffering, Paul rejects her. This can be seen after they have sex for the first time and he realizes how much Myriam is hurt by his need for physical intimacy, described, “Now he realized…that her soul had stood apart, in a sort of horror… very dreary at heart, very sad, and very tender, his fingers wandered over her face pitifully” (314). He literally breaks a part of her when they have sex and afterwards, he sees the pain and sacrifice that she has endured because of him. Soon after, he ends his relationship with her just as he could not help but burn the broken doll after causing pain to his sister.
Paul’s obsession with brokenness is also seen in the anguish he feels watching his mother grow older and weaker. While observing his mother, Paul is described, “ With all his young will he could not alter it. He saw her face, the skin still fresh and pink and downy, but crow’s-feet near her eyes…and there was on her the same eternal look, as if she knew fate at last. He beat against it with all the strength of his soul” (264). Moreover, he sees that his relationships with Clara and Myriam make her sad and he believes that this contributes to her growing illness—a fact that fills him with immense grief. Yet, unlike with the doll or with Myriam, Paul loves his mother above all else, which is why it so hard for him to let go of her the way he lets go of them. As a result, he forces himself to watch her suffer for months while she refuses to die and it slowly consumes him—he has no life outside of his mother and is virtually a shell of a man. Eventually, however, he builds up the courage to kill her by slipping morphine in her milk. It is this final act of destroying the brokenness in his life that catalyzes his growth as a man.
In the end, Paul moves towards the light of the city instead of following his mother into death. This marks the difference between he and his father, who never finds a way out of the darkness of his guilt. Discarding the broken things in his life is an innate characteristic of Paul’s being, one that has been present ever since he was a child. By removing himself of all of this brokenness—with the doll, with Myriam, and with his mother—Paul moves on with his life. In Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence, Paul’s instinctual desire to be whole triumphs over his love for his mother, and ultimately leads to his renewed sense of life.
The Interesting Id: A Freudian Analysis of the Mother Complex in Lawrence’s Works
A mother is arguably the most important figure in a child’s life, especially during his or her developmental stages. However, too much love, especially while a child is learning to bond, has the potential to create a mother complex and permanently damage a child’s psyche. This concept, popularized by Sigmund Freud at the turn of the twentieth century, is explored in numerous literary works, especially those of D.H. Lawrence. Through Sons and Lovers, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” and “Rocking Horse Winner,” Lawrence demonstrates how a mother complex, specifically one formed during a time of childhood trauma, results in a magnified Id.
The first example of this concept is Paul Morel in Sons and Lovers. His extremely close bond with Gertrude is borne of the traumatic events that transpire during his developmental years. His brother dies, and soon after he becomes deathly sick as well. During this time, both Paul’s mental and physical health are under duress, and the person who constantly tends to him is Gertrude. She is with him through his grave illness, creating a much more intricate bond than that of a normal mother-son relationship. The two are described as being “knitted together in perfect intimacy,” explicitly describing the nature of their connection (Sons 97). This deprives him of his ability later in life to bond intimately with other women, especially on a romantic level, because he is never able to fully form the layers of his personality. Like his love for Gertrude, Paul Morel’s Id, which is still forming at the time of his traumatic experience, becomes overly expressed. According to Freud, the Id “has no knowledge of objective reality… [and] attempts at immediate satisfaction” (Mitchell). Paul’s amplified Id manifests itself in both of the romantic relationships he holds throughout the novel; he seeks immediate sexual satisfaction through Clara and immediate spiritual satisfaction through Miriam. These relationships illustrate the extent of his inability to understand his mother complex and his own life’s reality, an obvious example of his over-expressed Id.
D.H. Lawrence also demonstrates this idea through Mabel Pervin in “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter.” Mabel’s fond memories of her childhood all revolve around her mother; Mabel’s developing years were years spent with her mother, living prosperously and surrounded by love. However, with her mother’s death came the amplification of her mother complex. Her extreme opposition to her father’s decisions coupled with the immense emotional trauma of her mother’s passing leaves her forever infatuated with the memory of her mother’s love. She has a sort of jealousy for her mother, who was able to escape the world that soon condemned Mabel to ten years of servitude. She strives to be a likeness of her mother: “Mindless and persistent, she seemed in a sort of ecstasy to be coming nearer to her fulfilment, her own glorification, approaching her dead mother, who was glorified” (Horse). This clearly defines Mabel’s exaggerated Id, a result of the complex formed by her mother’s traumatic death. The Id is “not governed by logic” (Mitchell), shown explicitly by her mindless attempt to become her mother. She is stuck in the childlike mindset of idolizing her mother, a mindset governed solely by her Id.
Paul in “Rocking Horse Winner” is yet another example of a mishandled childhood situation resulting in over-attachment to a mother. The story begins with an explanation of the tireless whispers that course through the house during Paul’s childhood: “the unspoken phrase, There must be more money! There must be more money!”(Rocking). This constant reminder of the money issues that Paul’s family faces is accompanied by his knowledge that his mother does not love him, as explicitly stated in the opening paragraph. These perpetual expressions of the familial issues that Paul faces is traumatic for him, as he is young and extremely impressionable. He is just at the time that his id is fully developing, but throughout this period he is reminded of his mother’s problematic situation. His father is not helping ease the tension, so young Paul must take the burden. He decides that it is his duty to be “lucky” and bring home money for his mother (Rocking). However, this obsession with fulfilling his mother’s needs is not fueled by rational thinking but instead by his overbearing Id. At the time when his Id should start being modified by a developing ego, he forms a strong mother complex that stunts this growth, leaving him with an obsession to ride his horse until he wins. Only then will he fulfill his irrational, Id-driven desire to make money for his mother. He cannot regulate himself because his Id is too powerful.
Each of these characters cannot understand the root of their irrational needs, yet they know that they must channel it into some sort of release. Their need for catharsis crosses the literary borders between plotlines, uniting all three Lawrence characters. They yearn to “discharge their pent-up energy and cease to be a source of disturbance” (Mitchell), resulting in not only a release of their Id-powered fantasies but much, much more. Paul Morel, driven to insanity and isolation by his mother complex, exercises his final catharsis by killing Gertrude, attempting to free himself of the bondage that has held him his entire life. Mabel Pervin, stuck wandering in a life of confinement and unhappiness without her mother, attempts to purge herself by committing suicide, an extreme form of catharsis that expresses the extent of her underdeveloped psyche. Finally, young Paul, trapped in a cycle of making money and seeing it spent by his mother, never quieting the whispers in the house, exercises the ultimate catharsis: true death. His final win on the rocking horse results in the largest sum of money yet and his mother finds out; this causes Paul to feel fulfilled, satisfying his Id and allowing him the sweet release of death, cleansing him of the problems he harbored due to his damaged mindset. By crafting these parallel stories, D.H. Lawrence successfully conveys the idea that a traumatic childhood experience coupled with a mother complex leads to an overly expressive Id and, inevitably, the need for an extreme form of catharsis — even as extreme as death.
Narrative Voice in Sons and Lovers
Sons and Lovers renders a fractured narrative capturing the dynamic nature of the ‘interior of the text’ through a rigorous analysis of its characters (and their actions); this is achieved by the narration’s rhythmic pattern of theses and antitheses being constantly posited against each other. The text makes a decisive shift from the traditional omniscient narration to a more ambivalent narrative where the idea of ‘singular truth’ (and narrative) is demolished and subsequently rebuilt. The disintegration of the singular narrative enables the reader to acknowledge the dynamic nature of points of views(POVs) being represented while looking at the complexities involved in what the text ‘tells’ and ‘shows’. The reader is asked to ‘trust the tale and not the teller’, but even this is complicated by the ‘doing’ and ‘undoing’ that the narrative continuously engages in. This essay seeks to look at the shift from omniscient narration to a more fragmented narrative with reference to the chapter ‘Lad-and-Girl Love’; it will also focus on Miriam’s characterisation as the key to examining the contradictions within the narrative with specific references to the chapter. Moreover, the essay will try to rein in the different theoretical approaches to the text to further explore the significance of the ambivalent narrative deployed.
The text possesses features of both Realist and Modernist fiction which contribute to the ambivalence of the narrative; the conflicts that arise within seem to be an attempt to weave in multiple strands into the narrative while allowing intensive internal engagement. However, there is no sense of closure arising out of such conflicts and the ‘doing’/’undoing’ in the text ends up giving it the texture of refined interiority. If so, any investigation into the narrative technique has to begin with the conflicts that occur within the text, be it social, gendered, ideological or primarily, narratorial. The conflicts based on social and ideological grounds are quite evident throughout the text, beginning with the conflicts between Mr and Mrs Morel in Chapters 1 & 2 or even between William and Mrs Morel later in the text. However, I’m more concerned with the narratorial conflicts that occur in Chapter 7 and the changes they effect upon the remaining narrative. To do so though, it is necessary to begin with Part I and observe the shifts that happen in Part II.
Part I of the novel has had its fair share of ideological conflicts; the narratorial voice has been quite consistent and even been omniscient to a certain extent. The narrative strategy has been in sync with what Realist fiction usually follows – that of narrativizing reality. The first part narrativizes the life of the Morels with focus split on Paul, William, and Mrs Morel in a triangular relationship. Here, the narrative is often biased towards Mr Morel, to even castigating him for his class belonging (and resulting characteristics) and taking Mrs Morel’s side in most arguments. Mr Morel is relegated to the fringes of the text as Mrs Morel with her ‘men’ is brought to the epicentre; at times, there’s no effort made to maintain a neutral narrative. On the same strain though, there are moments which act as ‘compensatory’ in reaction to the biased narrative. One such incident is the scene when William is dead and Paul is there at the mine to fetch his father.
“Paul saw everything, except his father leaning against the truck as if he were tired.”
This statement on part of the narrator distances him from Paul and Mrs Morel while sympathising with Mr Morel’s condition. Here, the intentionality of the narrative seems to be to balance out the unfairness meted out to Mr Morel earlier; it becomes some sort of a juggling act.
In Chapter 7 (Part II), the narrative strategy changes; the omniscient narrator is no more present. Earlier in the text, at certain moments, the narrator’s voice had been Paul’s point of view being overtly influenced by his mother’s opinions. Certain sections were biased but there were some compensatory moments as well to balance out the former. However, in Chapter 7 and even later, the narrative voice is entirely taken over by Paul. This is evident by the first description of Miriam in the chapter; it is far from being objective since it seems to carry within it ‘an intense analytical strain’ which is determined to direct the reader in a certain direction. There’s no space left for any deduction or to follow an alternative line of thought. The reader is supposed to follow Paul in his evaluation of Miriam (which is by using adjectives such as mystical, sensitive, possessive, and as ‘romantic in her soul’).
However, it would be detrimental to accept Paul’s (and the narrator’s) evaluation of Miriam as the final word of the text, for what it ‘tells’ and ‘shows’ the reader is entirely different. The narrative is dialogical in nature and is imbued with the multiplicity of perspectives and voices. To analyse the text, it is necessary to recognise the ‘other voices’ existing in there which challenge the dominant mode of narration (that of Paul’s voice). At this juncture, I seek to analyse Miriam’s portrayal in Chapter 7 as an example of reading against the dominant narrative from within.
Many readers choose to accept the narrator’s rendering of Miriam as the legitimate portrayal of her character. If one were to take up this characterisation to work with initially, it is interesting to note the differences in the narratorial handling of Miriam in Part I and Part II. Part I had briefly introduced Miriam just as other characters had been and with an incident that marked her entry.
“She was about fourteen years old, had a rosy dark face, a bunch of short black curls, very fine and free, and dark eyes; shy, questioning, a little resentful of the strangers, she disappeared.”
Her entry into the narrative is unannounced and perhaps even unnoticeable, except for the incident with the hen.
“Now, Miriam,” said Maurice, “you come an ‘ave a go.”
“No,” she cried, shrinking back.
“It doesn’t hurt a bit,” said Paul. “It only just nips rather nicely.”
“No,” she still cried, shaking her black curls and shrinking.
“I only wanted to try,” she said in a low voice.
He waited grimly, and watched. At last Miriam let the bird peck from her hand. She gave a little cry—fear, and pain because of fear—rather pathetic. But she had done it, and she did it again…
This incident is interesting since it enables us to learn about Miriam without Paul’s interference; the characterisation drawn is of a sensitive(defensive?) girl, shy in nature yet willing to learn if provided with the opportunity and encouragement.
This characterisation is dismissed once we move on to Part II. The opening paragraphs of Chapter 7 seem to be fixating her identity as what Paul seeks to see her as – mystical and possessive. Her possessiveness is made evident at various points in the chapter; one incident is when she smothers her brother with ‘love’.
“What do you make such a FUSS for?” cried Paul, all in suffering because of her extreme emotion. “Why can’t you be ordinary with him?”
For Paul, Miriam acts in a frenzy which he directly contrasts with his mother’s reserved demeanour. He treats her poorly for her ‘failings’ as he sees them, but he hardly attempts to look beyond his blinkered judgements. In the chapter, it is always Paul looking at Miriam and never Miriam looking at herself. He sees her as he wants her to be and ignores (as well as detests) the unwanted characteristics; even her resolve to learn which was appreciated in Part I is dismissed.
“Why do I like this so?”
Always something in his breast shrank from these close, intimate, dazzled looks of hers.
“It’s because—it’s because there is scarcely any shadow in it; it’s more shimmery… That seems dead to me. Only this shimmeriness is the real living. The shape is a dead crust. The shimmer is inside really.”
And she, with her little finger in her mouth, would ponder these sayings. They gave her a feeling of life again…She managed to find some meaning in his struggling, abstract speeches…
The fence episode and the extract above are evidences of Miriam attempting to move out of her ‘misty’ state by holding on to Paul’s abstract speeches and getting closer to him – as she reaches out to the ‘shimmeriness’ which is ‘real living’. But, as she does so, Paul hates her. It seems as if he is bound by force to not embrace what Miriam offers him by their communion. It can also be argued that it is his mother’s influence which rules his life.
So, while he was away with Miriam, Mrs. Morel grew more and more worked up.
She glanced at the clock and said, coldly and rather tired:
“You have been far enough to-night.”
His soul, warm and exposed from contact with the girl, shrank.
“You must have been right home with her,” his mother continued.
He would not answer.
Even though he enjoys and desires Miriam’s company, he is constantly drawn back to his mother; it is this conflict which is evident throughout the narrative. In the chapter, the narrative doesn’t pretend to be fair to Miriam, for all Paul hates in Miriam are her faults, not his. He detests moving closer to her emotionally because of her blasphemous possessiveness; at first, he doesn’t realise that it is his mother’s possessiveness that forbids him from bonding well with Miriam. Even when he realises so, he doesn’t attempt to rectify it since the conflict is too complicated to be resolved.
The ambiguity of Paul’s consciousness also affects his characterisation of Miriam and leaves us with an incomplete picture. Paul’s point of view is plagued by ‘confusion, self-deception and desperate self-justification’ which constantly clouds his opinions about Miriam. If so, it is difficult to determine the ‘truthful’ characterisation of Miriam. And yet, Miriam’s portrait has to arise from the constant ‘doing’ and ‘undoing’ of Paul’s narrative; the ‘painting’ and ‘overpainting’ produces a ‘strange and unique tension’ in the chapter which is left unresolved. Even till the end, Paul is left struggling to resolve his conflicted state of being both moored to his mother and emotionally drawn to Miriam at the same time.
The ‘doing’ and ‘undoing’ of (Paul’s) narrative in the chapter enables the characterisation of Miriam to be embellished with the texture of refined interiority. The first step to acknowledging the complexity of her character is to accept that Miriam can exist apart from what the narrative allows her to be. If so, she is simultaneously sensitive and possessive and vital and restrained. Also, Miriam’s character is shaped by all that is said in the narration, yet she is also shaped by all that is not said. As per the narrative, she is the hysteric and yet, no so. It is true that Miriam transforms anything to become religious; she simultaneously accepts and rejects her sexuality. But, is Miriam the only hysteric of the novel, as the narration would have us believe? Or to extend the argument, is Miriam even the hysteric?
Perhaps. The former question is more important for discussing the narrative strategy; there is textual evidence of Miriam having accepted her sexuality despite having been in denial earlier (and been afraid of it).
…But there was a serpent in her Eden … she was afraid she did want him. She stood self-convicted. Then came an agony of new shame … Did she want Paul Morel, and did he know she wanted him? …. Yet there she stood under the self-accusation of wanting him, tied to that stake of torture …
On the contrary, Paul is vehement in his denial of any sexual tension existing between him and Miriam; he only saw their relationship as a ‘platonic friendship’ and ‘stoutly denied there was anything else between them’. If so, he is definitely the hysteric too, for he splits himself into an artistic (intellectual)companion while harbouring unsatiated sexual passion for Miriam. This further strengthens the argument of the narratorial voice and Paul merging into a singular narrative which projects Paul (and his identity) onto Miriam. Unable to handle his own identity as a hysteric, all Paul can do is to project himself on to Miriam and lay the blame on her for everything that happens.
On a similar note, the narrative strategy of the text can be further explored by reining the different theoretical approaches to it, though it might seem repetitive at times. For instance, it is accepted that Paul’s consciousness and viewpoint is what governs the narrative; this has already been validated with sufficient textual evidence. However, it is also of consequence that narrative is not just about what it says it is, for what it ‘tells’ is not always what it wants to ‘show’. The novel doesn’t ‘say what it means or mean what is says’; there’s always the ‘unconscious of the work’ itself which brings out the multiple texts within the larger text. As an extension of psychoanalytical criticism, it is imperative to look at the multiple texts of the interior(sub-texts) at points of ‘ambiguity, evasion or over-emphasis’ and look at what has not been said (and how they have not been said).
Similarly, another theoretical approach that can be employed in the text focuses on breaking down Paul’s supremacy in the narrative; it seeks to look for moments in the text which undo the tale that the text is about Paul. Sons and Lovers has often been called both a bildungsroman and kunstroman in the sense that it is Paul’s story of his growth into maturity. However, it is quite evident that the text isn’t just about Paul or his life; there are many other characters who challenge his heroic status (prominently his mother, Miriam, and Clara). The text undoes itself by its own narrative strategy which is ambiguous and distorted. It is never just Paul’s narrative but the narratives of Paul, Mrs Morel, Miriam, and Clara intermeshed into a singular narrative. If so, the disruptive moments in the narrative have to be analysed to gain access to the ‘interior’ of the text.
Going by its narrative strategy, Sons and Lovers is a novel of interiority which attempts to explore what the ‘interior’ of the text entails; the ‘interior’ is dynamic, complex, ambivalent, and often, distorted. The narration of the text shifts from the traditional omniscient narration to a more ambivalent narrative which leads to the disintegration of ‘singular truths’ and the inclusion of multiple points of views. There’s disruption between what the narration seeks to ‘tell’ and ‘show’ which is exemplified in the characterisation of Miriam in Chapter 7. Moreover, the constant ‘doing’/’undoing’ of the narrative highlights the numerous conflicts that occur within the text; the conflicts enable engagement of diverse points of views in a singular narrative.
Though the ambivalent narrative is sustained throughout the novel, it isn’t endowed with any sense of closure. The ideological conflicts are sustained throughout and most characters are left entangled in their messy spots; there has been a suspension of authorial intent, but the constant doing/undoing of the narration doesn’t even evince satisfactory narratorial intent per se. If so, the ambivalent narration seems to exist only to enable the exploration of the ‘interior’ of the text and unravel the distorted complexities existing within.
· Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan.
· Eagleton, Terry. “Psychoanalysis.” Literary Theory: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2015. 151-55. Print.
 https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/26137-never-trust-the-teller-trust-the-tale-the-proper-function Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan. Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan. Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan. Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan. Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan. Martz, Louis. L. (1996). A Portrait of Miriam: A Study of the Design of Sons and Lovers. In Rick Rylance, Houndmills, & Basingstoke ( Eds.), New Casebooks: Sons and Lovers (pp.49-73). Macmillan. Eagleton, Terry. “Psychoanalysis.” Literary Theory: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2015. 151-55. Print. Eagleton, Terry. “Psychoanalysis.” Literary Theory: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2015. 151-55. Print.