Sons and Lovers (1913)
Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (9)
Paul Morel grows up in The Bottoms, a community of coal miners in Nottinghamshire. His mother, Gertrude Coppard Morel--whose family were burghers until they went bankrupt, & father, Walter, have had a horrible marriage since she realized, six months into the marriage, that he was of a significantly different temperament than she:
There began a battle between the husband and wife-a
fearful, bloody battle that ended only with the
Things came to a head when he cut off their oldest sons curls: "This
act of masculine clumsiness
And so, Paul grows up the mollycoddled son of a smothering Mother. As he grows to young manhood he becomes an artist and begins to have relationships with women: Miriam Leivers, a religious good girl, and Clara Dawes, married but estranged from her husband. Of course, his mother's looming presence overshadows these relationships and they end badly.
Meanwhile, when his mother contracts cancer, Paul murders her with morphine. The novel ends with him striding confidently towards a golden future, borne up by the continuing support of her love for him.
My, what a tower of crap hath Mr. Freud wrought.
At the time Lawrence was writing, it was tres chic to accept the ridiculous prattling of the Freudians as gospel. And so, this semi-autobiographical novel would have seemed to be an expression of a universal condition; of course, he so loves his mother that it warps his development, it's the same for everyone. But as we look back, we see that he in fact is depicting a pathological condition. The best art should be timeless and universal. Instead, Sons and Lovers is a tedious artifact of a moment in human thought, when a pernicious philosophy, Freudianism, had won temporary ascendance.
See also:D.H. Lawrence (3 books reviewed)
Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century
-ESSAY: The D. H. Lawrence We Forgot: Lawrence became famous writing novels about sex. But his best stories—and his most profound achievements—reside elsewhere (Frances Wilson, The New Yorker)
-REVIEW ESSAY: The Arch-Heretic: ‘The Bad Side of Books’ (George Scialabba, October 10, 2020, Commonweal)
-REVIEW ESSAY: The D. H. Lawrence We Forgot: Lawrence became famous writing novels about sex. But his best stories—and his most profound achievements—reside elsewhere (Frances Wilson, October 8, 2020, The New Yorker)
Book-related and General Links:
-D.H. Lawrence Grove
-University of Nottingham Library: D.H. Lawrence Links
-Literary Research Guide: D(avid) H(erbert) Lawrence (1885 - 1930 )
-ONLINE STUDYGUIDE: Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence (SparkNote by Rebecca Gaines)
Instead of Sons and Lovers, try:
Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd