Table of contents
2. The problematic complex
2.1. The perennial motherly love
2.2. Acquired lack of independence
3. Responsibility and shortcomings
3.1. The masculine factor
3.2. Finances and envy
4.1. Number one: Miriam Leivers
4.2. Number two: Clara Dawes
In his foreword for Sons and Lovers, Lawrence compares the relationship between men and women with bees and hives. He introduces an idea at the end of that text that describes one of the most essential statements about the book and about what he has apparently learned.
He says that when a man is too different from a woman and does not respect her, the woman can deport the man “as a drone”. If she does not find a better man now, they are both ruined:
“And she, either her surplus shall wear away her flesh, in sickness, or in lighting up and illuminating
old dead Words, or she shall spend it in fighting with her man to make him take her, or she shall turn
to her son, and say,
‘Be you my Go-between.‘
But the man who is the go-between from Woman to Production is the lover of that woman. And if
that Woman be his mother, then is he her lover in part only: he carries for her, but is never received
unto her for his confirmation and renewal, and so wastes himself away in the flesh. The old son-lover
was Œdipus. The name of the new one is legion. And if a son-lover takes a wife, then is she not his
wife, she is only his bed. And his life will be torn in twain, and his wife in her despair shall hope for
sons, that she may have her lover in her hour.”
In my analysis I will describe how the main character of this book, Paul Morel, grows up to become such a son-lover of his mother’s and how this affects his love and life.
As one can see from this foreword, Lawrence knew about the story of Oedipus which describes a phenomenon Freud’s psychoanalytic approach about the relationship between mothers and sons referred to. He called this the “Oedipus complex”. Lawrence states that a man who is like Oedipus can not have a proper marriage. His wife cannot be a full part of his love, because the husband is not able to transfer the feeling of love from his mother to his wife. During his life, Paul experiences the difficulties in the contact with women he feels attracted to and whom he has relationships with.
I will first introduce the concept of Freud’s theory about the Oedipus complex and show how it corresponds to the life of Paul as told in the book. The relationship between him and his mother is in this connection very important to describe and to analyse.
Other main characters who influence him, like his father Walter Morel, his elder brother William and especially the two girls he is having his experiences with, will be examined as well. Paul’s behaviour and his reasons are based on a complex mesh of fixation, loyalty and inhibitions. In this analysis I will try to point out how his behaviour, caused by education and his milieu, let his plans sink and make him remain as a person without true will-power.
2. The problematic complex
2.1. The perennial motherly love
Sigmund Freud introduced his theories in the times when also Lawrence lived and worked. One of the psychoanalyst’ s main findings was an explanation for a behaviour now known as the Oedipus complex. It occurs when boys do not reach a level in their puberty in which they transfer their desire for the most important female person in their lives, the mother, to other women. It is not possible for them to let go of the mother’s love, so they are destined to feel love and affection only towards their mother.
This, of course, is a problem. The boy, Paul Morel in this specific example, should normally develop into a man during his adolescence who is able to be free in his choice of a girlfriend, lover etc. But Paul, being hold under his mother’s spell, has not the ability to do so. His desire concentrates on this woman who is strong and deeply religious in her customs and way of life, intellectual and strong-willed. He really cares for his mother like a lover, which shows even in an early stage of his life, when he brings his mothers flowers and she takes them as a gift of a lover: “Pretty!” she said, in a curious tone, of a woman accepting a love-token.” (SL 93). Thus his mother stays his first object of love for a unusual long period of time.
If he would find a girl who would show exactly the same features, he would maybe be able to feel true love for her, as she represents his mother, but Mrs Morel, in this example, would never let any girl take Paul away from her. She would not do so, because she needs him as her companion. She knows, perhaps only unconsciously, about the influence she has on him and feels a great competitive pressure of the girl who almost manages to win Paul’s soul.
Gertrude Morel vows that she will love this son of hers as much as she can, because he was not perceived in love and she wants to compensate this. Paul should never feel that he is not as much loved as his elder brother or his sister Annie. Her deep love for her son starts even before he is born. So it is predetermined that Paul will receive an unusual amount of maternal love throughout his life, especially in his early years.
Mrs Morel somehow has the idea that her son’s name will be Paul, who was her father’s favourite apostle. When Paul grows up and is educated by his mother, he becomes her own disciple. He lives by her rules and doctrine, takes up her way of living and language.
When he gets older, he learns to enjoy simple things like flowers, which is also a habit his mother taught him. Looking at nature which shows the inner state of a person is a theme which continues in the story, whenever Paul experiences an emotional situation.
When his father, Walter, gets ill and has to go to the hospital, Paul becomes the male head of the household and is quite proud of that, having a position in the family in which he is important and appreciated.
“I’m the man in the house now,” he used to say to his mother, with joy. They learned how
perfectly peaceful the home could be. And they almost regretted – though none of them
would have owned to such callousness – that their father was soon coming back.”
Paul can now live, even if it is only for a short time, like he always wanted to. He can be alone with his mother and his siblings without the disturbing factor, his father. Walter Morel cannot intervene in this well-balanced atmosphere of the family Gertrude would really like to have. She has educated her children in a way that Walter is not used to.
“Look at the children, you nasty little bitch,“ he sneered, “why what have I done to the children,
I should like to know. But they’re like yourself – you’ve put ‘em up to your own tricks and nasty
ways – you’ve learned ‘em in it, you ‘ave”
So when he is not at home, everyone feels the harmony in the house. In this situation, Paul can indulge in his paintings without having the feeling that it is an unmanly thing to do. In his father’s presence, Paul’s artistic activity would have looked rather girlish and not appropriate for a boy.
William also is not at home at this point of time. He is the elder brother who already has typically manly characteristics. Unlike Paul, he is outgoing and has no problems with getting to know girls of his age, lives his own life in London and is a independent person who earns his own money.
2.2. Acquired lack of independence
Gertrude now wants Paul to have a job like William, to become more independent and to be able of getting out of his lower social class. But her son does not know what he wants to be. It is said that he would rather go on painting and living at home with his mother like he is used to. Here the reader can see Paul’s strife for security and warmth of his mother’s home. It seems that he is not yet ready to make his own decisions and go out into the “real world”.
He is afraid of being in public and intimidated to take centre stage. Gertrude helps him to get a job and without her, he would not have been able to go to a foreign city and look for a job independently.
When his mother managed to get Paul into a job, he behaves rather shy at the interview on the one hand, but on the other hand he looks down on the firm’s owner and his boss, Mr Jordan. Paul sees himself as better educated and superior to Mr Jordan, who for him is just a “common little man” (SL 120). When he has to translate a letter from French to English, he is not very quick in doing so, but he feels that his translation is right. This shows that under his shyness he is still confident in what he learned and what he thinks he really knows.
If Mrs Morel had forced Paul to do the interview himself, he would have probably felt lost and would not have the self-confidence to walk up to a stranger and ask for work. By helping him and taking all responsibility away from him, she lets him stay in his weak, passive role. Even his letter of application is not his own work, but William’s. Paul did not compose the letter, but he copied and varied it to a degree which suits him. He is not able to write in a professional way like his elder brother, so William takes the effort to formulate the application for him. It is not possible for Paul to feel self-confident when he is asked about the letter. Lying about the origin of the paper and being ashamed of his inadequacy, it even seems to him that the letter is a strange part of him which has been taken away by his boss. The reader can see that Paul identifies with his writing.
Starting to work in the firm, Paul is now a part of the industrial life of the city and cannot live as freely as he was used to. His walks through nature at home are sporadically and he first does not like to be a normal working person. Later, when he gets to know the girls in the firm, he starts feeling more comfortable, because they remind him of a surrounding he knows about.
 Helen and Carl Baron, D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (Cambridge, 1994): 472. (im Weiteren als SL zitiert).
 SL, 473.
 SL, 113.
 SL, 84.
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- ISBN (Book)
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- Institution / College
- Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg – Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
- H.D. Lawrence Sons and Lovers Paul Morel Anglistik Amerikanistik Literaturwissenschaft Kulturwissenschaft