Perhaps one of the most enjoyable novels I studied during my graduation was Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. Widely popular, it is regarded as one of Lawrence’s autobiographical novels. The style and form of the novel and the way in which the story evolves, is a refreshing change from the way classics were written in the early 20th century. It is very mature for its time and received a lot of flak as well as appreciation.
The novel tells the story of Paul Morel, the third child of the Morel family. When Gertrude Morel was expecting him, she did not wish to bear another child. And she feels ashamed of this when Paul grows up and probably lays the foundation of their twisted relationship. The central theme of the novel is about Gertrude’s suffering as well as Paul’s devotion to her and his consequent inability to have a normal relationship with the women in his life.
Paul’s father, Walter, was a miner while Gertrude came from a middle-class family. She married for love, but regretted her decision later. She was beaten up by her alcoholic husband, who abused the kids as well. She put up with all this just for her children and slowly took over their lives, especially her sons’ lives.
The relationship Paul has with his mother is problematic. It doesn’t seem like a normal mother-son relationship and you feel the undertones of an incestual relationship seeping in. So much so that at times you feel that Paul is his mother’s lover. Even a slight disapproval from her side makes him terminate his relationships. Gertrude was also responsible for his older brother’s failed relationship.
So strong is the bond between the son and the mother that when she dies, Paul has no aim left in life. He goes on about life in an aimless manner.
An interesting thing you will notice about Lawrence’s work is that he is nonchalantly explicit about his writing. He doesn’t care to use many words to hide things. Yet you might find this book prudish in many ways.