Sons and Lovers

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By D. H. Lawrence, published 1913, a closely autobiographical novel set in the Nottinghamshire coalmining village of Bestwood.

Walter Morel has married a sensitive and high‐minded woman better educated than himself. She begins to shrink from his lack of fine feeling and drunkenness. Morel, baffled and thwarted, is sometimes violent, while Mrs Morel turns all her love towards her four children, particularly her two eldest sons, William and Paul. She struggles to keep herself and her family ‘respectable’ and is determined that her boys will not become miners. William goes to London to work as a clerk, and Paul also gets a job as a clerk with Mr Jordan, manufacturer of surgical appliances; William develops pneumonia and dies. Mrs Morel, numbed by despair, is roused only when Paul also falls ill. She nurses him back to health, and subsequently their attachment deepens. Paul is friendly with the Leivers family of Willey Farm, and a tenderness grows between him and the daughter Miriam, a soulful, shy girl. Mrs Morel fears that Miriam will exclude her and tries to break up their relationship, while Paul, himself sickened at heart by Miriam's romantic love and fear of physical warmth, turns away and becomes involved with Clara Dawes, a married woman, separated from her husband Baxter, and a supporter of women's rights. Paul is made an overseer at the factory and he now begins to be noticed as a painter and designer. Clara returns to her husband. Meanwhile Mrs Morel is ill with cancer. At last, unable to bear her suffering, Paul and his sister Annie put an overdose of morphia in her milk. Paul resists the urge to follow her ‘into the darkness’ and, with a great effort, turns towards life. Sons and Lovers was perhaps the first English novel with a truly working‐class background.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

D. H. Lawrence (1885—1930) writer

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