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The Use of Symbolism and Imagery in Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

Sons and Lovers: A Novel of Passion and Conflict

Sons and Lovers is a novel by the English writer D.H. Lawrence that explores the complex relationships between a working-class family and their lovers in the early 20th century. It is considered one of Lawrence's most influential and controversial works, as it deals with themes such as sexuality, psychology, class, industrialization, and art.

Sons and Lovers


What is Sons and Lovers about?

Sons and Lovers is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows the life of Paul Morel, a young artist who struggles to balance his love for his mother, Gertrude, with his romantic attachments to two very different women: Miriam Leivers, a repressed, religious girl who shares his intellectual interests, and Clara Dawes, a liberated, married woman who offers him physical passion. Paul's relationships are constantly affected by his mother's influence, as she tries to live vicariously through him and prevent him from becoming independent. Paul also has to cope with his father's violence, his brother's death, his mother's illness, and his own artistic aspirations.

Who wrote Sons and Lovers and when?

Sons and Lovers was written by D.H. Lawrence, one of the most prominent English writers of the modernist era. Lawrence was born in 1885 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, a coal-mining town that served as the inspiration for the setting of the novel. He had a close but conflicted relationship with his mother, Lydia, who encouraged him to pursue education and literature, while his father, Arthur, was a hard-drinking miner who often clashed with his wife and sons. Lawrence also had several love affairs, most notably with Frieda Weekley, a married woman who became his wife and companion for the rest of his life. Lawrence began working on the novel in 1910, after his mother's death, and finished it in 1912. It was first published in 1913 by Duckworth in London and Mitchell Kennerley in New York, after being heavily edited by Edward Garnett, a literary critic and friend of Lawrence. The novel was originally titled Paul Morel, but Garnett suggested changing it to Sons and Lovers to emphasize the broader scope of the story. The novel received mixed reviews from critics, some of whom praised its realism and psychological depth, while others condemned it for its obscenity and immorality. It was also banned in Australia until 1957.

Why is Sons and Lovers important?

Sons and Lovers is widely regarded as Lawrence's first masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. It is important for several reasons:

  • It is a pioneering work of psychological fiction, as it delves into the subconscious motivations and emotions of its characters, especially Paul Morel and his mother. It also explores the concept of the Oedipus complex, which was popularized by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.

  • It is a social critique of the effects of industrialization and class conflict on the lives of the working-class people in England. It depicts the harsh realities of mining, poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence, and social mobility, as well as the contrast between the urban and rural environments.

  • It is a celebration of art and individualism, as it portrays Paul Morel's artistic development and his quest for self-expression and fulfillment. It also reflects Lawrence's own views on art, which he considered a vital force for human liberation and spirituality.

  • It is a groundbreaking work of sexual fiction, as it depicts the erotic aspects of love and desire in a frank and realistic way. It also challenges the conventional notions of gender roles, morality, and marriage, as it portrays women as active and independent agents of their own sexuality.

Summary of Sons and Lovers

Part One: The Morel Family

Chapter 1: The Early Married Life of the Morels

The novel begins with a description of the Bottoms, a row of miners' houses in Bestwood, a coal-mining town in Nottinghamshire. Gertrude Coppard, a young woman from a middle-class family, has married Walter Morel, a miner from a lower-class background. She is unhappy with her marriage, as she finds her husband ignorant, violent, and unfaithful. She also feels isolated from her neighbors, who are mostly coarse and uneducated. She devotes herself to her children: William, Annie, Paul, and Arthur.

Chapter 2: The Birth of Paul, and Another Battle

Gertrude gives birth to her third child, Paul, who is sickly and weak. She hopes that he will be different from his father and brother, who are both rough and boisterous. She also hopes that he will be her companion and comforter in her lonely life. Walter comes home drunk one night and picks a fight with Gertrude over money. He hits her and she retaliates by throwing a pair of scissors at him. He is wounded in the leg and she tends to him reluctantly. They are both ashamed of their violence.

Chapter 3: The Casting Off of MorelThe Taking on of William

As Paul grows up, he becomes closer to his mother, who teaches him to read and write. He also develops a bond with his sister Annie, who is two years older than him. They play together in the garden and the countryside, while their father works in the mine. William, the eldest son, is ambitious and intelligent. He gets a job as a clerk in Nottingham and moves out of the house. He sends money and presents to his mother and siblings, who are proud of him. He also starts dating a girl named Louisa Lily Denys Western (Lily), who is fashionable but shallow.

Chapter 4: The Young Life of Paul

```html Chapter 5: Paul Launches into Life

Paul finishes school and gets a job as a junior clerk at Jordan's, a surgical appliance factory. He is unhappy with his work, as he finds it boring and meaningless. He also dislikes his boss, Mr. Pappleworth, who is rude and stingy. He prefers to spend his time drawing and painting, which he does in his spare time. He also joins a painting class run by Mr. Harvey, a friendly and encouraging teacher. Paul meets Miriam Leivers, a girl from a nearby farm, who is also interested in art and literature. They become friends and share their thoughts and feelings.

Chapter 6: Death in the Family

William gets engaged to Lily and invites her to visit his family. Gertrude dislikes Lily, who she thinks is superficial and snobbish. She also resents William's attachment to her, as she feels that he is drifting away from her. William falls ill with pneumonia and dies shortly after. Gertrude is devastated by his death and blames Lily for taking him away from her. She transfers her love and hopes to Paul, who becomes her favorite son.

Part Two: Paul Morel and His Lovers

Chapter 7: Lad-and-Girl Love

Paul becomes more involved with Miriam, who he visits regularly at the farm. He teaches her algebra and French, and they read books together. He also helps her with the farm chores and plays with her brothers. He admires her intelligence and sensitivity, but he also feels frustrated by her shyness and lack of physical expression. He is afraid of hurting her feelings and losing her friendship. He also feels guilty for neglecting his mother, who disapproves of Miriam.

Chapter 8: Strife in Love

Paul and Miriam's relationship becomes more strained, as they both struggle with their conflicting emotions. Paul wants Miriam to be more passionate and assertive, while Miriam wants Paul to be more spiritual and respectful. They often argue and misunderstand each other. Paul also feels torn between his love for Miriam and his love for his mother, who he thinks is dying of cancer. He tries to break up with Miriam several times, but he always comes back to her.

Chapter 9: Defeat of Miriam

Paul decides to end his relationship with Miriam once and for all, as he feels that she is holding him back from living fully. He tells her that he does not love her and that they should part ways. Miriam is heartbroken and hopes that he will change his mind. She also blames herself for not being able to satisfy him. Paul feels sorry for her, but he also feels relieved and free.

Chapter 10: Clara

Paul meets Clara Dawes, a married woman who works at Jordan's as a lace-maker. She is separated from her husband, Baxter Dawes, a violent and jealous man who works at the same factory as Walter Morel. Clara is a feminist and a suffragette who believes in women's rights and independence. She is also attractive and sensual, which appeals to Paul. They start an affair, which is based on physical attraction rather than emotional intimacy.

Chapter 11: The Test on Miriam

Paul realizes that he still has feelings for Miriam, who he has not seen for a long time. He decides to test his love for her by sleeping with her. He hopes that this will either bring them closer together or make him forget her completely. He seduces Miriam in the woods near the farm, but he feels no joy or satisfaction from the act. He feels that he has betrayed both himself and Miriam, who he thinks deserves better than him.

Chapter 12: Passion

Paul continues his affair with Clara, who he finds more exciting and satisfying than Miriam. He takes her to various places, such as the seaside, the theater, and the countryside, where they have passionate encounters. He also introduces her to his mother, who likes Clara better than Miriam, but still thinks that she is not good enough for him.

Chapter 13: Baxter Dawes

Baxter Dawes finds out about Paul's affair with Clara and confronts him at the factory. He insults and threatens him, and they get into a fight. Paul is injured and has to stay at home for a few days. He feels sorry for Dawes, who he thinks is a miserable and pathetic man. He also feels sorry for Clara, who he thinks is still in love with her husband. He tries to reconcile them, but they refuse to listen to him.

Chapter 14: The Release

Gertrude's condition worsens and she becomes bedridden. Paul takes care of her and tries to ease her pain. He also decides to end his affair with Clara, who he thinks is too demanding and possessive. He tells her that he does not love her and that they should part ways. Clara is hurt and angry, but she also realizes that he is right. She decides to go back to her husband, who has fallen ill and needs her care.

Chapter 15: Derelict

Paul is left alone and miserable, as he has lost both his mother and his lovers. He feels that he has no purpose or direction in life. He also feels guilty for killing his mother, as he gives her an overdose of morphine to end her suffering. He contemplates suicide, but he also hopes for a new start. He visits Miriam one last time, but he rejects her offer to marry him. He also visits Dawes, who has recovered from his illness and has reconciled with Clara. He wishes them well and leaves them in peace.

Analysis of Sons and Lovers

Themes in Sons and Lovers

Oedipal Complex and Mother-Son Relationship

The main theme of Sons and Lovers is the Oedipal complex, which is the psychological theory that a son has an unconscious sexual desire for his mother and a rivalry with his father. This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, who was influenced by the Greek myth of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother. In the novel, Paul Morel has an intense and possessive love for his mother, Gertrude, who he sees as his ideal woman. He also has a hostile and contemptuous attitude towards his father, Walter, who he sees as his enemy and inferior. Paul's relationship with his mother prevents him from having healthy and fulfilling relationships with other women, such as Miriam and Clara, who he either idealizes or objectifies. Paul's relationship with his mother also causes him to suffer from guilt, anxiety, and depression.

Class Conflict and Social Mobility

Another theme of Sons and Lovers is the class conflict and social mobility that characterized the English society in the early 20th century. The novel depicts the contrast between the working-class and the middle-class worlds, as well as the challenges and opportunities that arise from moving between them. Gertrude Morel comes from a middle-class family, but she marries Walter Morel, a working-class miner. She regrets her decision, as she feels that she has lowered her status and wasted her potential. She also tries to raise her children above their father's level, by encouraging them to pursue education and culture. William Morel succeeds in becoming a clerk in Nottingham, but he also becomes alienated from his family and roots. Paul Morel also tries to escape from his working-class background, by becoming an artist and mingling with the middle-class circles. However, he also faces discrimination and prejudice from his employers and peers.

Industrialization and Nature

```html and peaceful home. She also loves the countryside, where she takes her children for walks and picnics. Paul Morel also has a strong connection with nature, which inspires his art and his emotions. He enjoys the flowers, the trees, the animals, and the seasons. He also contrasts the natural beauty of Miriam and Clara with the artificial glamour of Lily and the other city girls.

Art and Individualism

A fourth theme of Sons and Lovers is the art and individualism that represent the aspirations and the struggles of Paul Morel and his mother. The novel explores the role of art as a means of self-expression and self-fulfillment, as well as a source of conflict and alienation. Paul Morel has a natural talent for drawing and painting, which he develops with the help of his mother and his teacher. He also uses art as a way of coping with his problems and expressing his feelings. He paints portraits of his mother, his lovers, and himself, as well as landscapes and still lifes. He also writes poems and letters to communicate with his friends. However, Paul also faces difficulties and challenges in pursuing his artistic career. He has to work in a factory that he hates, where he is exploited and mistreated by his boss. He also has to deal with the criticism and rejection of his work by the public and the critics. He also has to balance his artistic vision with his personal relationships, which often clash with each other.

Characters in Sons and Lovers

Paul Morel

Paul Morel is the protagonist of the novel, a young artist who is torn between his love for his mother and his love for his lovers. He is sensitive, intelligent, creative, and passionate, but he is also insecure, conflicted, depressed, and guilty. He has a strong bond with his mother, Gertrude, who he sees as his soulmate and his inspiration. He also has a hostile relationship with his father, Walter, who he sees as his rival and his oppressor. He has two main lovers in the novel: Miriam Leivers, a religious girl who shares his intellectual interests but frustrates him sexually; and Clara Dawes, a married woman who offers him physical passion but lacks emotional depth. He also has a brief affair with Beatrice Wyld, a flirtatious girl who works at Jordan's. Paul is unable to commit to any of his lovers, as he feels that they are inferior to his mother or incompatible with him. He also suffers from various illnesses and injuries throughout the novel, such as pneumonia, fever, blood poisoning, and appendicitis. He ends up alone and miserable after losing both his mother and his lovers.

Gertrude Morel

```html and possessive. She encourages Paul to pursue his education and his art, but she also tries to control his life and his relationships. She disapproves of his lovers, especially Miriam, who she thinks is too religious and too weak. She also resents Clara, who she thinks is too worldly and too old. She suffers from cancer and dies at the end of the novel. Paul gives her an overdose of morphine to end her pain.

Walter Morel

Walter Morel is Paul's father and Gertrude's husband. He is a coal miner who works hard to support his family, but he also drinks heavily and gambles away his money. He is violent and abusive towards his wife and children, who he often beats and insults. He is also unfaithful to his wife, who he cheats on with other women. He is illiterate and ignorant, but he also has a sense of humor and a love of nature. He is proud of his sons, especially William, who he sees as successful and handsome. He is indifferent to Paul, who he sees as weak and feminine. He is also jealous of Paul's relationship with his mother, who he sees as superior and distant. He survives his wife and lives alone in the Bottoms.

Miriam Leivers

Miriam Leivers is Paul's first lover and his intellectual soulmate. She is a farm girl who lives with her mother and brothers at Willey Farm. She is religious, shy, sensitive, and idealistic. She loves books, poetry, music, and nature. She also loves Paul, who she sees as her teacher and her hero. She shares his artistic interests and supports his ambitions. However, she also frustrates him with her lack of physical expression and her fear of sexuality. She wants him to be more spiritual and respectful towards her. She also suffers from low self-esteem and insecurity, as she thinks that she is not good enough for him. She hopes that he will marry her, but he rejects her several times.

Clara Dawes

Clara Dawes is Paul's second lover and his sexual partner. She is a married woman who works as a lace-maker at Jordan's. She is separated from her husband, Baxter Dawes, who is a violent and jealous man. She is a feminist and a suffragette who believes in women's rights and independence. She is also attractive and sensual, which appeals to Paul. She has an affair with Paul, which is based on physical attraction rather than emotional intimacy. She enjoys his company and his passion, but she also wants him to be more mature and responsible. She also realizes that he does not love her and that he still loves his mother. She decides to go back to her husband, who has fallen ill and needs her care.

Style and Techniques in Sons and Lovers

Autobiographical Elements

Sons and Lovers is a semi-autobiographical novel that reflects Lawrence's own life and experiences. Many of the characters and events in the novel are based on Lawrence's family and friends, such as:

  • Paul Morel is based on Lawrence himself, who was also a young artist from a coal-mining town.

  • Gertrude Morel is based on Lydia Lawrence (née Beardsall), Lawrence's mother, who was also a middle-class woman who married a miner.

  • Walter Morel is based on Arthur Lawrence, Lawrence's father, who was also a hard-drinking miner who often clashed with his wife and sons.

  • Miriam Leivers is based on Jessie Chambers, Lawrence's childhood friend and first love, who was also a farm girl who shared his intellectual interests.

```html and lover, who was also a married woman who worked as a lace-maker.

  • Baxter Dawes is based on Ernest Weekley, Alice's husband and Lawrence's former teacher, who was also a violent and jealous man.

  • Lily is based on Louisa Burrows, Lawrence's fiancée, who was also a fashionable but shallow girl.

Lawrence also used his own experiences and memories to describe the setting, the events, and the emotions in the novel. For example, he used his knowledge of mining and industrialization to depict the life and work of the miners. He also used his love of nature and art to portray the beauty and vitality of the countryside and the paintings. He also used his own illness and grief to

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