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Sons and Lovers (Vintage Classics) Paperback – March 7, 2011
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Sons and Lovers was the first modern portrayal of a phenomenon that later, thanks to Freud, became easily recognizable as the Oedipus complex. Never was a son more indentured to his mother's love and full of hatred for his father than Paul Morel, D.H. Lawrence's young protagonist. Never, that is, except perhaps Lawrence himself. In his 1913 novel he grappled with the discordant loves that haunted him all his life--for his spiritual childhood sweetheart, here called Miriam, and for his mother, whom he transformed into Mrs. Morel. It is, by Lawrence's own account, a book aimed at depicting this woman's grasp: "as her sons grow up she selects them as lovers--first the eldest, then the second. These sons are urged into life by their reciprocal love of their mother--urged on and on. But when they come to manhood, they can't love, because their mother is the strongest power in their lives."
Of course, Mrs. Morel takes neither of her two elder sons (the first of whom dies early, which further intensifies her grip on Paul) as a literal lover, but nonetheless her psychological snare is immense. She loathes Paul's Miriam from the start, understanding that the girl's deep love of her son will oust her: "She's not like an ordinary woman, who can leave me my share in him. She wants to absorb him." Meanwhile, Paul plays his part with equal fervor, incapable of committing himself in either direction: "Why did his mother sit at home and suffer?... And why did he hate Miriam, and feel so cruel towards her, at the thought of his mother. If Miriam caused his mother suffering, then he hated her--and he easily hated her." Soon thereafter he even confesses to his mother: "I really don't love her. I talk to her, but I want to come home to you."
The result of all this is that Paul throws Miriam over for a married suffragette, Clara Dawes, who fulfills the sexual component of his ascent to manhood but leaves him, as ever, without a complete relationship to challenge his love for his mother. As Paul voyages from the working-class mining world to the spheres of commerce and art (he has fair success as a painter), he accepts that his own achievements must be equally his mother's. "There was so much to come out of him. Life for her was rich with promise. She was to see herself fulfilled... All his work was hers."
The cycles of Paul's relationships with these three women are terrifying at times, and Lawrence does nothing to dim their intensity. Nor does he shirk in his vivid, sensuous descriptions of the landscape that offers up its blossoms and beasts and "shimmeriness" to Paul's sensitive spirit. Sons and Lovers lays fully bare the souls of men and earth. Few books tell such whole, complicated truths about the permutations of love as resolutely without resolution. It's nothing short of searing to be brushed by humanity in this manner. --Melanie Rehak --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
When Sons and Lovers was first seen by its reading public in 1913, its publishers had in fact, out of caution and timidity, shortened Lawrence's originally submitted version by about ten percent--cuts that are restored in this new ``uncensored and uncut'' edition. Complexity of characterization, intensity of characters' confrontations, and sexual frankness are now, say the publishers, as the author intended them. Example: ``He could smell her faint perfume'' returns to its original, ``He could smell her faint natural perfume, and it drove him wild with hunger.'' -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I believe this is my first full reading of a DH Lawrence novel. I think when I was younger I read all the “good parts” in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but not the full book. This story is about Paul Morel and his absolute love for his mother and his hatred of his father. Does this remind you of anything? Yes, it is all about the Oedipus complex.
Paul is a sensitive young man whose father is a miner and a bit of a brute around his mother. Many times in his youth, he witnesses ferocious drunken fights with his mother the victim. He vows to grow up to protect her and take care of her for the rest of her life.
Paul has two women that mean something special to him Miriam and Clare. Neither of them can get past the love he has for his mother. His mother will always be first in his life even after she dies. She once tells Paul, “I was never really a wife, and you know how it was.” I found that a very chilling and too intimate thing to tell a young man. No wonder he could not find love elsewhere.
This is a beautifully written story but also extremely sad and disturbing. I liked Paul; I liked all of the characters in this book, even his father and mother. They were very believable human beings.
There's no doubt that Lawrence suffered from such feelings, and his rambling autobiographical novel takes the reader into the deep feelings and troubled musings of Paul Morel, Morel's relationships with his mother and two lovers, hatred for his father, and the subsequent unhappy entry into a lonely life. The feelings are intense, the cogitation never ending, and the entire story is circuitous and based on decisions that sometimes seem poorly implemented.
There is no question that Lawrence embodies the classical writer with exceptional language skills and a talent for the portrayal of realistic scenes. One should read this novel, if for nothing else, to revel in the descriptions of the beautiful countryside, the inclement weather, and the community found in rural England's coal country. The passages describing the flora and fauna are mesmerizing in their detail and his descriptions of family life conjure up the simplicity of cooking, eating, and socializing that characterized subsistence during this time in history.
The plot is easy to follow but difficult to relate to. A young man is torn between the obsessive love of his mother, the platonic friendship with a neighboring farm girl, and a passionate physical affair with a married woman, all the while harboring extreme hatred for his father. Lawrence captures that simple idea through a multitude of mind-numbing explorations of unfulfilled love, so much so that I found myself becoming impatient with the indecision and shouting, "Get on with it."
I recommend this book for those with the patience to wade through intense personal relationships, the ability to interpret thick symbolism, and the patience to unravel convoluted streams of consciousness. I would not recommend it to those who want fast action, graphic sexual encounters, or captivating mystery.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES