“The feeling that she never got her life’s fulfillment made his heart contract with love, coupled by his own incapability to make it up to her brought to him a sense of impotence…”_ D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers
David Herbert Lawrence is rated as one of the greatest English novelists of the 20th century. No other author has ever made his readership significantly contemplate over the theme of sensual bonds based on love and affiliation, more than Lawrence in his novel Sons and Lovers.
For Sons and Lovers, Lawrence chose to bind his sentences with intensely sensuous diction, and this is principally the case with instances where he had to describe the mother and son’s relationship. This book itself being, for the most part, an autobiographical one, suggests that it would not be incorrect to state that this feeling of love and the tinge of sensuousness as portrayed between the son, Paul, and the mother, Mrs. Gertrude Morel, is purely a reflection of what Lawrence felt towards his mother in his life. Lawrence designed for his mother Lydia, the character of Mrs. Morel, while articulating himself as Paul, the youngest of Mrs. Morel’s children—just the way that Lawrence was to Lydia.
Lawrence, from the very beginning had a spiritual bondage with his mother. Psychologically speaking, while being in her womb, he endured the hardships and the suffering that she went through—particularly the pains of a broken marriage that she was fronted with. He was, by all means, a part of her and bore with her equally whatever came her way, which is why his underlying description of Paul and Mrs. Morel’s ‘love’ in the novel highlights the idea that there is the presence of an emptiness in both of them. An emptiness that could only be put to an end by the comforting equanimity of each other’s company.
Lawrence powerfully punctuates the book with a diverse variety of vellums that ‘love’, as an essential human feeling, seems to be draped in throughout the novel. Love in its many textures, is the pivot upon which the whole story of Sons and Lovers is maintained. The different shades that the theme of love has donned throughout the development of the novel, lead the readers into understanding a careful exegesis of human obsessions in the manner that the author has endeavored to interpret in the book.
Generally, the theme of love in any book is not given more than what is called, a calculated allocation of significance. One observes that the art of characterization, the development of the story and the scaffolding of the plot are allotted more pages in any novel instead of a single theme, but in Sons and Lovers, one sees that all of the segments revolve around the underlying theme of love. The development of the characters, the unfolding of the events and the unravelling of the story, all are connected by the changes in the nature of love between the characters concerned.
The theme of love in the story begins with identifying “infatuation” between Mr. Walter Morel and Gertrude (before they got married) as being misconstrued as ‘love’ by Gertrude. The only realization that pours in, is after they get married, it is only then that Mrs. Morel is able to understand that what she really felt for Mr. Morel was nothing but a curious caprice of fascination; she was amused by the way Morel carried himself and accorded his disposition with a passion of life, the way “he danced […] as if it were natural and joyous in him”.
He was different from the other men she had had become immune to meeting at her parent’s place. This could be termed as “infatuation” and the “fascination towards being stirred by someone who looked different”. This temporary fascination could never promise to serve as a guarantor for a long-term bond between the husband and wife, and eventually the romanticized notion of love was soon dismantled, making Mrs. Morel hate and regret her decision of marrying Mr. Morel which had not given her anything except for a poor life and a poor status of a miner’s wife, making their marriage a “bloody battle”.
The next is the love between the mother, Mrs. Morel, and the son, William. Love in this part of the novel is considered purely, as Lawrence writes,“maternal from both ends”. Mrs. Morel does seem to assign her son the duties he needs to fulfil as a dutiful one—he is taught to emerge as a better individual by being goaded by his mother into not practicing the same formula as that was practiced by his father. Mrs. Morel loves William as a typical woman who has not had the fecundity of a good marital relationship with her husband and therefore her love for her son, William, is a product of the hopes she sees in his face for herself, the hope of her efforts not going into a waste and the good that she would feel when her son would prove to be a constructive individual of the society.
The love between William, Annie and Paul, is a beautiful understanding of a typical bond between young siblings. The early lives of the children are portrayed with the lushness of childhood, innocence and naivety. According to Lawrence in the novel, this is “filial love”.
After this segment, the next and most important relationship of the novel takes place with numerous psychological insights connected to it. The development of a relationship between Mrs. Morel and Paul—the mother and the youngest son. The abstraction of love as attached to this relationship is pure, devout and sincere. It cannot be treated as a sort of love that exists between a mother and a son typically, as both soothed each other with each other’s presence in an unusual manner. This love and obsession between them acted as an antidote to the crises that both faced individually throughout the course of the novel.
Mrs. Morel “could not have simply loved Paul like a son after she had realized that there was a major absence of a fulfilling love in her life and the only fulfillment she received was through Paul being around her”. This realization of Mrs. Morel coupled with Paul’s inability to install in his heart any woman other than his mother, resulted in a love which was an amalgamation of a spiritual, a complementary and a fulfilling connection, between him and his mother.
The relationship between Paul and Miriam cannot be called a wholesomely love-in laid relationship. As depicted through the text, there are some instances when one is made to believe that the desire for love and the acquirement of physical gratification is perhaps even more in Miriam than in Paul. However, it is because of Miriam’s staunch Puritan background and the fear of being reprimanded by her brothers does not allow Miriam to break the chains of her imprisoned passions and volitions.
From Paul’s side, it is but a platonic, half-baked affair, as Paul does not even want to make an effort towards cultivating any feelings for Miriam. In certain textual references Lawrence also outlines the liking that Paul has for Miriam and how at times, unconsciously, he thinks about a future with her but then suddenly it is as if the reality is rustled into his eyes and he is again brought back to the conscious world where he does not want to wound his mother’s heart by being with Miriam. He feels spiritually moved by her, but this is exactly what gives birth to a competition between Miriam and Mrs. Morel. This competition is what leads Paul into giving it up with Miriam as he faces an intrinsic guilt of being disloyal to his mother. There is a constant comparison and analogy drawn by Lawrence between Mrs. Morel and Miriam which makes it easy to grasp that Paul really felt a heavy burden upon himself by the complicated heterogeneous interpolation of feelings that he felt for Miriam.
When the warmth of affection and the spirit of connectivity evaporate from a relationship, it becomes a bland one—built upon the sole foundations of material indulgence and physicality. Paul’s relationship with Clara therefore involves lust but not love, and eventually ends in futility and hollowness. Mrs. Morel never felt an insecurity from Clara because she knew that Paul was not involved with her with even a vestige of a serious attitude.
The different stages that love, as a theme, takes throughout the novel contribute in making it seem like a roller-coaster ride from soaring expectations to shattered illusions to unbounded euphoria and eventually futility, but Lawrence has been exceptionally magnificent in portraying the realms of reality, the universal truths of some relationships and the possible faces that ‘love’ can have in the modern world which therefore makes the theme of love in Sons and Lovers, a literary marvel.