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A Complex Examination of Dysfunction
on September 23, 2003
Emotional manipulation and possessiveness are at the core of this most intriguing novel. D.H. Lawrence's SONS AND LOVERS greets the reader with the author's elegant prose while systematically immersing the story in a swirling cloud of tangled dysfunction.
Married to a drunken, rowdy coal miner in early 20th Century England, Gertrude Morel has neither a life nor a true love. Her only chance for happiness--as she sees it--is to live vicariously through her sons: first William, then Paul. Her subsequent possessiveness, her relentless interference in their lives, is smothering and destructive. When William dies, Gertrude devotes all of her attention--her manipulation--to Paul. Her son becomes a symbolic soulmate. . .lover. . .and Gertrude is unable to let him go to pursue his own relationships.
Torn between his love for his mother and his guilt whenever he harbors feelings of affection for another woman, Paul is anything but a suitable suitor. He falls in love with Miriam, but his emotional dysfunction all but dooms the relationship--a relationship constantly sabotaged by his mother. Needing a physical outlet, he has a brief affair with a married woman, Clara Dawes, but even then, his love for and devotion to his mother prevails. As his mother's health fails, Paul's existence becomes even more problematic, culminating in a transcendent death.
SONS AND LOVERS is not a "feel good" read, and Paul's inability to break free from the psychological bondage with his mother is frustrating and sometimes exasperating. Yet the true victim of this Lawrence classic is not Paul, but Miriam, who only wishes to love, and be loved in return. The man she has fallen in love with is incapable of such devotion: the tragic complexity of the story lingers long after this book has been put down.