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Sons and Lovers (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – August 5, 1997
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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 alternate Paperback edition.
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 alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
What I am sure of is Lawrence's pathetic appeal. When I finished this book, the part of me that mattered was the son, and less so the lover. I called my mother, much to her surprise, and poured to her.
I loved it, but you have to be careful; you'll cry.
Writing Style – I love D.H. Lawrence’s writing style, it’s fun (for an autobiographical written during this time) and full of imagery that allows you to feel and see everything he’s painting. Although sometimes drawn out, his writing was the main thing possessing me to continue the novel.
Plot – Surprisingly enough the plot (which is semi-autobiographical) is intriguing, especially for people who are interested in the psychological side of the novel. It’s not everyday I read a novel based on the Oedipus complex, so I was interested in how he was going to pull it off without crossing that line where it’s unforgivable – and Lawrence pulled it off splendidly.
Walter Morel – His character was a beautiful disaster. I have it on good authority that the novel would have been exponentially superior to Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. He is a character living a life he believed was suitable, however was condemned the moment he met Gertrude. I know it might seem weird to enjoy the antagonist of a novel but he was the only character with some substance.
Characters – It’s rare that every character in a novel annoys the ever-living s*** out of me, but this book succeeded beyond my imagination. Paul never stops whining about being dissatisfied with living because it didn’t live up to his standards, and neither do the women in his life, which are Miriam and Clara. Miriam is a hard character to understand because you feel compassion towards her, but then you’re like girl have some confidence. Clara started off strong, a true feminist, but then she just became another dumb, annoying girl in Paul’s life. Along with his mother, Gertrude who’s conclusion was where the story should have started.
Length – I’m not a person who is generally concerned with the length of a novel, if a novel is good it’ll take no time for me to gobble-up every word entirely; but this novel was too long when it didn’t need to be.
Boredom – Basically I was plagued with serious boredom while reading this novel, which is probably the reason it took so long to complete it. My mind has been trying to wrap around the purpose of the novel but it doesn’t seem to have one, and I think D.H. Lawrence hypothesized that his life was much more provocative and thought-provoking than it actually was.
Overall, this novel was painful and uniteresting but for some it might be beautiful and heartbreaking – therefore it really just depends on the person.
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