Sexual Repression In D.H. Lawrence

’s Sons And Love Essay, Research Paper

Paul Morel, as a result of a possessive relationship with his mother is sexually repressed. He is repressed in that he cannot allow himself to assert his sexual desires with members of the opposite sex. In order to illustrate that this is true three things will be examined: The elements of the relationship between Paul and his mother which precipitate the repressive behavior, the manifestation of the behavior, and the emergence of Paul from the behavior in his relationship with Clara. Examination of these elements of the novel will illustrate the manifestation of the repressive behavior and its subsequent resolution. The possessive relationship between Gertrude Morel and her sons William and Paul is a result of her loveless marriage with her abusive alcoholic husband Walter. Gertrude tells her son Paul: “And I’ve never – you know, Paul – I’ve never had a husband – not really” (p. 252). Her sons occupy the part in her heart that would normally be reserved for a woman’s pride in her husband. As a result of her loveless marriage it appears to the reader that Mrs. Morel is overly possessive of her sons: ” She could think of two places, great centers of industry, and feel that she had put a man into each of them, that these men would work out what she wanted; they were derived from her, they were of her, and their works would be hers.” (p. 127) She does not want anything to take her sons love away from her; this is evident in the manner in which she treats Paul and his relationship with Miriam. She refers to the relationship saying: “She is one who will want to suck a man’s soul out until he has none of his own left” (p.196). She feels threatened by Miriam and her appreciation for his art and by the amount of time that she and Paul spend together conversing. Mrs. Morel’s assertion that Miriam will take away Paul’s soul is true. However, it will not be Paul from whom she is taking it, but rather from Mrs. Morel, and hence the animosity. The possessive relationship between Paul and his mother is best illustrated when she tells Paul that Miriam will leave no room for her in his life, Paul’s immediate temporary response is to hate Miriam (p. 252). It is this relationship and the immense respect Paul has for his mother which forms the basis for sexual repressive behavior of Paul. Paul’s feeling that having a father who had blundered rather brutally through his mothers feminine sanctities made him too sensitive to women (p. 323). Paul felt this sensitivity to women made it easier for him to deny his own physical attraction to Miriam, rather than incur any reproach from her for any physical advance (p. 323). Throughout the novel there are underlying references to Paul’s sexual desires. This is illustrated while he and Miriam are walking one day: “There was a cool scent of ivory roses, a white, virgin scent. Something made him feel anxious and imprisoned.” (p.196). The pure scent of the flowers can be understood by the reader to remind Paul of his own purity, or virginity, stirring the feeling of imprisonment within him, imprisoned by his maternal relationship. Paul’s repressed sexuality is also seen in the novel the evening that he stays at Clara and her mother’s home in Nottingham one evening after the theatre. In this instance he tries on a pair of Clara’s stockings which were in the room. At first glance, this behavior seems very unusual and unrelated to the story and his feelings about Clara. However, the reader could interpret this to be rooted in an experience with his brother William in his youth in which William reads a love letter from an acquaintance of his:” “I think I’ve never saw anybody look so nice, with that kilt and those stockings-”. To which William exclaims: “It’s my knees – I know it’s my knees Mater. They can’t escape ‘em” (p.80). The reader could understand Paul’s donning of Clara’s stockings to be a manifestation of his repressed sexuality. Paul and Clara’s evening at the theatre with is the equivalent of William and his evenings dancing. It is possible that because of William’s successes with members of the opposite sex as a result of wearing his kilt and stockings Paul equates sexuality to the wearing of stockings on an unconscious level. Thus, as his passion for Clara heightens his repressed sexual desires manifest themselves in an outward manner.

It is in this relationship with Clara that he gains release from his sexual repression. She shares a passion in him that he did not receive with Miriam, even in their sexual encounter. The sacrificial way in which Miriam gives up her body to him, only makes him regret his passion for her, making him wish he was either dead or sexless (p.333-334). It is only in his physical relationship with Clara that he truly discovers his sexuality. He feels free of his mother’s possessiveness; his mother feels of Clara: ” she could let him go to Clara – so long as it was something that would satisfy a need in him and leave him free for herself to possess” (p. 362). His continuous references to her body, and most clearly his feelings the first time which he sees Clara without her clothes at her mother’s home are evident of a sexual awakening in Paul Morel: “Then he loosed her, and his blood began to run free. Looking at her, he had to bite his lip, and the tears of pain came to his eyes, she was so beautiful she watched him at his service of worship, he looked up at her, his face radiant” (p. 383)Paul Morel finally is freed from his repression by a series of mutually fulfilling sexual experiences with Clara; his repressive behavior is ended. Paul Morel is a character who undergoes an internal sexual transformation in the novel. While he does not outgrow his possessive relationship with his mother he does cease to repress his sexual desires and does not feel guilty in expressing those to feelings to others. This is illustrated by the manifestation of his sexual repression and the subsequent release he feels when he has the opportunity to express himself sexually with Clara Dawes. Although the author leaves the reader wondering as to whether Paul can recover from the loss of his mother, there is no such uncertainty with respect to his sexuality. Literature Cited:1. Lawerence, D. H. Sons and Lovers. Penguin: New York, 1994


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