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Expectations, Differences of Choices and Striking Reality: An Analysis of Sons and Lovers

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David Herbert Lawrence was an important and controversial English writer of the 20th century. He wrote a lot of great works, one of his most prominent novel, Sons and Lovers, is an autobiographical account of his youth that captures the Morel’s disharmonious family situation. The author develops the story by portraying the relationship between a lot of characters, especially the different choices and expectations of the characters which will be the prime concern of this paper.

Though much of the text is focused on the relationship of the protagonist, Paul Morel. There are two major relationships in this novel: the relationship which is between, Gertrude Morel and husband Walter Morel, whereas the other is the relationships between Mrs. Morel and her two sons. Mrs. Morel is the cord that binds the novel together and the catalyst for every major event in her son’s life. Her character bears closer investigation.

Mrs. Morel’s Gender Expectations

In the novel Sons and Lovers, Mr. and Mrs. Morel did love each other at the very beginning of their marriage, even later they may have some disputes, but they still stuck to each other. Besides, Gertrude Morel is a strong willed, middle class lady who has been shocked and disappointed by her marriage to a coal miner. Soon the glow of Mrs. Morel’s first love wore off. She began to regret her choice, eventually coming to despise her husband. Though Gertrude Morel marries Walter because of their differences but eventually she discovers that reality isn’t happy. The poor condition makes her feel very tired. At the beginning, Gertrude Morel thinks she will reform him but now she realizes Walter is too different from her. In a word, the marriage of the Morels is ruined by the great differences between them.

Mrs. Morel’s possessiveness to her sons

As the novel suggests, Mrs. Morel has four children: William, Annie, Paul, and Arthur. Though Mr. Morel is disappointed by her husband, she puts all of her faith in her three boys. As she wanted to make her mark on the world by being the mother of influential men. She seeks solace, and purpose in her children. Through this aspect, Mrs. Morel proved to be possessive towards all men in the family. She succeeded making her boys succeed, but the negative effects of strong possession also affect her sons.

Mrs. Morel’s possessiveness to William

William Morel, the oldest son, begins to contribute to the family finances at a young age. When he is able to find a job in London, his mother is overjoyed, expecting constant communication and increased financial support. Mrs. Morel is saddened as William slowly drifts away from her, spending his money instead on his fiancee Louisa. Mrs. Morel is chagrined at William’s choice of lover and deems Louisa unworthy of William.

‘My boy, remember you’re taking your life in your hands,- says Mrs. Morel.

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So he suffers a split in his mind and body, and at last he suffers to die of pneumonia. Because of Mrs. Morel’s possession, she deprives her son’s right of love. Her son William can’t live because her mother controls his mind tightly. And somehow it’s believed that William couldn’t resolve the conflict he feels between marrying his girlfriend ‘Lily- and remaining devoted to his mother.

At the death of William, Mrs. Morel retreats into despair until she turns her attention to her second son, Paul.

Mrs. Morel’s possessiveness to Paul

After the death of William, Paul’s story occupies the rest of the novel. Mrs. Morel’s steady influence drives Paul at every turn. She provides Paul daily companionship, talking with him about his thoughts, feelings, and actions. When she sends him to work, she expects him to return not only with income but with detailed reports of every experience. She monitors his movements, waiting up for him each night and demanding explanations for every late homecoming.

Mrs. Morel is a particular factor in Paul’s love life. Paul takes up first with a neighbor named Miriam, but Mrs. Morel’s disapproval is one of several factors that leads to their relationship’s demise. In a convert with his mother, Paul complains that:

‘But why-why don’t I want to marry her or anybody? I feel sometimes as if I wronged my women, mother.-

It’s obvious that his intense attachment to his mother keeps him from properly loving any other woman. Later Paul is with Clara, but finds himself unable to commit fully to her either. Paul believes that while his mother is alive he will be unable to fully love another woman because of the claim his mother has on his love. This is not merely a mother – son relationship, it seems to be a relationship between lovers. This intimate relationship maybe a joy to the mother, but it is unwholesome to the son, as we can perceive in Paul’s subsequent development in his life. The abnormal love and expectations from mother deprives not only Paul from his independent personality and mental health but also William from his lover and drive him to death which is the ultimate reality of Mrs. Morel’s expectations towards her sons.

After an analysis of Sons and Lovers, it can be considered that Gertrude Morel, for her different choices and reasons – failed to ripen into a permanent bond of love with her husband, her passionate nature shifted and fixed on her sons as objects of a most intense passion. Indeed, Gertrude partially destroyed her sons talents and hopes. And therefore, the ultimate striking reality never matches with her ultimate expectations from the men in the Morel’s family.

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Expectations, Differences of Choices and Striking Reality: An Analysis of Sons and Lovers. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
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