‘Sons and Lovers’ is one of the major novels of David Herbert Lawrence, published in 1913, before the beginning of the First World War. In the novel ‘Sons and Lovers’, Lawrence portrays different types of interpersonal human relationships. Because Lawrence has a deep understanding of human life and has too much experience of the world. Lawrence elaborated on the nature of human relationships in three ways- ‘relationships between man and woman, between man and man, and between man and nature or the universe.’ These three types of relationships depends on ‘communion of blood and truthfulness.’
‘Sons and Lovers’ is basically a story of human relationships. Different relations have mentioned and discussed in the novel in different perspectives. The novel is centred on the relationships of a single and a mother and the subjugate relationship of the son. In this novel, we have three leading female characters. First, Mrs. Morel, she is the mother of Paul, then Miriam, Paul’s first love, and Clara Davis, a woman whom Paul ultimately falls in sexual relationship.
According to the critic Dorothy Van Ghent, the structure of the novel is controlled by a notion. ‘The notion of organic disorder in the relationship between men and women’ – the polarization that is seen first in the dissatisfaction of the parents and then in the mother tried replace her husband with her son, and ultimately failed in the son’s struggle to establish natural masculinity.
Through the analysis of the full text, we can say that the relationship between men and women in the novel is so disturbing. There is no harmony or cooperation between them. There are always conflicts of thoughts between them and they cannot understand each other. First of all, the Morel’s are suitable for this situation. Walter Morel is a coal miner who used to fight and quarrel with his wife Gertrude Morel. She is a sensible, educated and proud middle class woman, while Morel belongs to the working class. He tried to make Mr. Morel a sensible gentleman, but that became a matter of dispute. Mrs. Morel likes discussing religion and philosophy. Walter listens to her obediently, but he never participates in any such discussion. He is sensuous by rigid Puritanism, which frustrated her. They quarrel often and he beats her. Mrs. Morel began to hate her husband. Mr. Morel became the object of the family. The children becomes hostile towards their father, and this hostility is flamed by Mrs. Morel. Mr. Morel was treated as ‘an outsider’ by his wife and children. There was a ‘fearful bloody battle’ between them, which lasted until the death of Mrs. Morel.
‘There began a battle between the husband and wife – a fearful bloody battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him fulfill his obligations. But he was too different from her – 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.’
A close reading of the novel leaves no doubt that Mrs. Morel is more responsible for the destruction of their marriage than Walter Morel because of her rigid Puritanism and philosophical thinking.
The man-man relationship is very weird and peculiar to understand. The distinguishing point of Mr. Morel’s relationship with his children is the lack of relationship. The children avoid their father when possible. In their childhood, he is usually either working or drunk, and when they are adults, they avoid him. Mrs. Morel’s attitude of disappointment and even hatred toward her husband strongly affects the children’s feelings toward their father. Mr. Morel seems to live as an outsider in his own home, in stark contrast to Mrs. Morel’s parental relationship with the children.
The man-woman relationship was the dominant theme of Lawrence’s major novels particularly the ‘Sons and Lovers’. Among the human relationships mother and son relationship is the most important for humanity. Like this, Mrs. Morel turns to her children for her emotional satisfaction. Her eldest son, William is a talented boy and the mother looks to him as a young man who will make ‘the world glow again for her.’ Mrs. Morel wants him to rise in life and move toward the middle class. William gets a job in a London firm. William’s success is quite in tune with her plans. She hopes that the dreams that had remained unfulfilled in her marriage with Morel will now be fulfilled through William. William, too, is not only deeply attached to his mother, but is also under the powerful influence of her mind and thought. In London, William falls in love with a girl, ‘Lily’ and wants to marry her. But, Mrs. Morel is jealous of her and does not want that William should marry her. William was deeply attached to his mother, therefore, he torn with conflict between his love for his mother and his passion for his beloved. This inner conflict becomes unbearable for him. He falls ill and dies in arms of his mother. Before the death of William Mrs. Morel remarked ‘I ashamed of you William! Why don’t you be more manly. To do nothing but find fault with the girl, and then pretend you’re engaged to her’.
The man-man relationships of Paul and William is weird too. Paul had a jealousy on William, his older brother, whom his mother had a more passionate relationship with. After his death when Mrs Morel could not pull herself out of her grief and barely spoke to Paul, he became ill and lost the will to live until she woke from her grief-stricken stupor. Paul was more of a companion to his mother, particularly after William’s departure to London and his eventual death; ‘Mrs Morel’s life now rooted itself in Paul’. She told him all her troubles and ‘he took it in as best he could’ as a child and a man.
At the death of William, Mrs. Morel pins her hopes on Paul and nurses her physically weak second son with great love and care that also maintains her own mental balance. She wants the fulfilment of her self through him. Paul too feels that his life and achievements have meaning only in relation to her. She has a strong spiritual hold on him. When he grows up, this spiritual bondage makes him unfit to establish healthy adult relationship with any woman. Paul comes close to Miriam, the love between them is idyll. But his mother not allowed a mature love between them because she regards Miriam to be one of those women who will want to ‘suck a man’s soul out.’ She fears that this relationship will leave no room for herself in the mind and soul of Paul. Mrs Moral depicts: ‘she’d leave me no room – not a bit of room.’
Paul deeply loves his mother so not wants to go against wishes of his mother. Thus the strong mother pull stands his way of giving himself completely in love to Miriam. On the other hand, Miriam’s attitude towards love and sex is typically Christian that may be regarded as Spiritual, but it is certainly neurotic, as her mother told to her that marriage is always dreadful. This awareness of physical passion makes them feel uneasy that becomes the reason of the failure of their relationship. Miriam thinks that if Paul’s lower desires (physical passion) are burnt away through Clara, she might then have him altogether for herself. Miriam brings Paul and Clara together and Paul goes all out for passion with Clara, a sensuous woman. Mrs. Morel is not hostile to her and rather glad to know it as she thinks that Clara will take his body and leave his soul to her. Their passion soon gives way to dissatisfaction and uncertainty. Now Clara feels that in the matter of sex her husband Baxter was preferable to Paul. Both of them realize that they will not stay together permanently. Clara realizes that Paul will never surrender his will to her. In the meantime, Mrs. Morel has cancer and her suffering makes Paul suffer terribly, which becomes unbearable for Paul and he gives her mother an overdose of morphine to relief off cancer. After her death, the world appears to be unreal for him. Clara cannot provide any comfort to him and now she wants to go back to her husband and it is Paul who re-unites them. Paul thinks of Miriam once again but she offers herself to him as a sacrifice as she had done before. But he does not want her sacrifice and again thinks of his mother.
Lawrence first showed how Paul is unwanted child and yet Mrs. Morel gave birth to him and their bond become so intense and when Paul make contact with Miriam, she depicts as a ‘jealous vampire figure clinging to Paul as her substitute husband’ Paul first made relationship with Miriam spiritually and came back to his mother. This shows the childlike attitude of Paul. In order to get eternal bliss and solitude, he remains with his mother after two breakups.
To conclude, it can be said that in the novel ‘Sons and Lovers’ we saw different types of relationships man- woman relationship in which there was always disturbance. No relationship has harmony and understanding. Throughout their marriage, Mrs. Morel attempts to offset her rapid disillusion with her husband by living through her sons. Father-child relationship in novel was also vulnerable. Paul and William have hatred towards his father and extreme love towards their mother. This leads to stoppage in the growth of both the character. Paul showed childlike attitude as unable to decide himself and took his life decision on his own. It can be concluded with the fact that the novel gives the scientific study of human motives.