A Journey Down The Link-Road of Powerplay and Passions – D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers: A Review
Review by Puja Chakraborty
Numerous scholars and social scientists have variously interpreted D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. The classic book, which is almost an autobiography of Lawrence, has received overwhelming responses for its blatant and translucent depiction of portrayal. Some have stacked praises upon it, while others have bombarded it with critical blows. Take for example, the psychologists or psychoanalysts who have gone to the extent of calling it a sheer case of Oedipus complex. My purpose, here, would be to transcend these marginal boundaries and elusive theoretical dynamisms, so as to bring to the fore a simple yet potent aspect of life.
What is life? One would be tempted to ask. Here, I partially agree with the Marxist dictum. But instead of focussing merely on social hierarchy, I would rather move a step further by proclaiming that life is an incessant struggle between the powerful and the powerless. The great saint and scholar Swami Vivekananda once opined that men’s conducts are primarily governed by two things: either might or mercy. Either be strong or prepare to be crushed. I hereby, deduce that Lawrence’s book holds out the mirror of life and therefore, cannot be restricted to any narrow idealism.
The novel also embarks upon another potent condition of life i.e., love and conjugality. Both the terminologies are widely different in their applicability and functions. While love does not require any conformation to exchange of vows and divine rituals, and can subsist outside the altar; marriage stipulates no such prerequisite as love and largely depends on reciprocal concessions. Lawrence’s book is a concoction of a variety of emotions that draws inspiration from these two idioms. It is from here that these emotions channel out into different directions.
The novel distinctly draws a parallel between Platonic love and sexual love. This can be found primarily in the case of Paul and Miriam. Most critics have viewed Paul’s disposition as reflective of teenage insecurities and take on premature sex. Some critics have also snubbed Lawrence for being selfish and insensitive enough to use Miriam for his own whims and fancies, technically as an experimental lab rat. But instead of laying credence upon these opinions, let’s plainly posit the fact that the book rubbishes any such thing called Platonic love and maintains that only love, which is realised, can be deemed to exist. Out of the three chief characters: Paul, Miriam and Clara, only Miriam appears at first to be unrealistic and ethereal. Comparatively Clara is fare more pragmatic and worldly. Miriam looks for an impending shelter in Paul, while Paul contemplates a secure haven for himself, as he is himself riddled with insecurities. At this juncture, Clara comes to his rescue. She engulfs herself in a steamy relationship with Paul and leads him, as she reckons best.
Coming to the early phase of the novel, where the reader is introduced with Walter and Gertrude Morel, upon their chance encounter in a Christmas party, the dance, a whirlwind romance and courtship ultimately consummating into marriage and subsequent chaos; it is interesting to note that here again love plays the spoiled sport and wreaks havoc upon the Morel household. One should mark that this phenomenon of love is ephemeral and has the potential of evolving itself from good to bad and the ugly, unless renewed time and again. Differences crop up (between Walter and Gertrude) within a short time and the fissures are left untended. Gertrude shifts all her love and attention towards her children, mostly to her eldest son, William. William grows up to be a very amiable and adorable son. One day he decides to go to London and earn a living. Incidentally, he falls for the charms of a city woman and gets married. But he is fared poorly by his wife. He dies young and Gertrude is inconsolable. She becomes overly protective of Paul and stringently governs his decisions. She dislikes Miriam or any other woman who clenches to her son. She is able to ward off women from Paul’s life for a considerable amount of time, unless truth beckons on her deathbed and she realises her folly.
Paul befriends Miriam but stays away from her because of his mother. When Clara pursues him to explore the nature of his relationship with Miriam, he does so. He gets intimate with Miriam, but soon realises that he does not want to live with her. He wants to live with Clara. But Clara is intent upon not leaving her husband Baxter. On one occasion, Clara’s estranged husband, Baxter almost beats the life out of Paul. Their relationship comes to a halt and Paul realises that he can never fully commit to any woman other than his mother. When Gertrude dies, Paul is left course less. Paul and Miriam meet again, but are no longer passionate about their relationship. Paul treks upon the desolate road.
Technically, the novel is faulty. There are passages in the novel, which could have well been omitted and at times, makes the reading tedious. Then again the psychological diversions and musings are a huge turn-off (even though it’s fondly proclaimed as a Psychological novel). But Lawrence outlays the plot in a natural manner and not artificial, weaving it as close to life as possible. Herein, this defect gets sheathed.
If anything ‘Sons and Lovers’ is a searing portrayal of life in all its trial and errors. It is a mature and realistic depiction of life in its true colours and is a savoury treat; one whose taste lingers even after a long time. It is also a semi-autobiographical masterpiece.
Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
(Puja is an Editor at Ashvamegh and occasionally she reviews great classics and modern novels.)