David Herbert Lawrence Essay, Research Paper
David Herbert Lawrence As a twentieth century novelist, essayist, and poet, David
Herbert Lawrence brought the subjects of sex, psychology, and religion to the
forefront of literature. One of the most widely read novels of the twentieth century,
Sons and Lovers, which Lawrence wrote in 1913, produces a sense of Bildungsroman1,
where the novelist re-creates his own personal experiences through the protagonist
in (Niven 115). Lawrence uses Paul Morel, the protagonist in Sons and Lovers,
for this form of fiction. With his mother of critical importance, Lawrence uses
Freud’s Oedipus complex, creating many analyses for critics. Alfred Booth
Kuttner states the Oedipus complex as: “the struggle of a man to emancipate
himself from his maternal allegiance and to transfer his affections to a woman
who stands outside the family circle” (277). Paul’s compromising situations
with Miram Leivers and Clara Dawes, as well as the death of his mother, display
the Oedipus complex throughout Sons and Lovers. At an adolescent age, Paul’s
oedipal love towards his mother is compromised by a young lady named Miram Leivers.
This profound situation puts Paul to the emotional test of Oedipal versus physical
love. As Kuttner goes on to state: “Paul’s admiration for his mother
know no bounds; her presence is always absorbing. Often at the sight of her, ‘his
heart contracts with love’” (278). Paul’s maternal relationship
defines the Oedipus complex. Miram pulls Paul away from his mother, while Paul’s
mother, Gertrude, sees Miram as a threat to her son. Paul, even though Miram is
around, still will not commit totally to her because of the strong ties between
mother and son. Paul says to his mother, “I’ll never marry while I’ve
got you – I won’t…” (Lawrence 240). Lawrence wrote frequently
of Paul’s love belonging to his mother and only his mother (212). Though
Miram Leivers could not truly find Paul’s heart, another woman named Clara
Dawes provides more stress on Paul’s maternal relationship. Although Paul
loved Clara, he still kept his attraction toward his mother. “Everything
he does is for her, the flowers he picks as well as the prizes he wins at school.
His mother is his intimate and his confidant” (Kuttner 278). Clara tried
desperately to win Paul over, but her social sophistication was too much for him.
Paul tells his mother: “I don’t want to belong to the well-to-do middle
class. I like my common people the best. I belong to the common people”
(Lawrence 250). Clara shows frustration with Paul because of his maternal devotion.
Again Lawrence displays the Oedipus complex through Paul to his mother, “And
I shall never meet the right woman as long as you live” (341). Paul’s
Oedipal love would be tested once more by him dealing with the death of his mother.
Paul, though, was tough enough in handling this dilemma. R.P. Draper recognizes
the loss of Paul’s mother as: Their special, private, intimate grief over
the impossible dream, and the magnificence of the woman, and the devotional quality
of Paul’s love, render the deathbed scenes poignant and innocent (292).
The verification of Kuttner’s statement is seen as Lawrence has Paul react
to her death in this manner: “my love – my love – oh, my love!
My love – oh, my love!” (384). Lawrence also writes of Paul’s
continuing love for his mother: “Looking at her, he felt he could never,
never let her go. No!” (385). Kuttner Implies: “But death has not
freed Paul from his mother. It has completed his allegiance to her. For death
has merely removed the last earthly obstacle to their ideal union” (280).
The love that Paul feels towards his mother would never die. He loves her just
as much when she died as he did when she was still alive. Paul continues life
having a maternal devotion that no other woman would ever be able to fill. Throughout
the novel, Paul is seen as one who lives for his mother. Mark Spilka explains:
“For if Paul has failed in his three loves, he has drawn from them the necessary
strength to live” (293). Sons and Lovers was written with Lawrence almost
defining the Oedipus complex through Paul. With this in mind, Kuttner gives this
insight about the novel: Sons and Lovers possesses this double quality to a high
degree. It ranks high, very high as a piece of literature and at the same time
embodies a theory which it illustrates and exemplifies with a completeness that
is nothing less than astonishing (277). Psychologists of today still accept the
Oedipus complex as a viable explanation for the love and fascination that male
children display towards their mothers. Lawrence successfully created an educational
novel as well as an easily readable and interesting novel. Literary critics tend
to speculate that Sons and Lovers was written by Lawrence as somewhat of an autobiography
centering Paul’s life around his own. Whether or not this is true will never
be determined, though it will continue to remain a favorite topic for critical
analysis for years to come.
Draper, R.P. “D.H. Lawrence
on Mother Love.” Essays in Criticism 8 (1958): 285-289. Rpt. In TCLC. Ed.
Dennis Poupard. Vol. 16. Detroit: Gale, 1985. 293-294. :Kuttner, Aldred Booth.
“Sons and Lovers’: A Freudian Appreciation.” The Psychoanalytic
Review. 3 (1916): 295-317. Rpt. In TCLC, Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 16. Detroit:
Gale, 1985. 277-282. :Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers. New York: Barnes & Noble,
1996. :Niven, Alastair. “D.H. Lawrence.” British Writers. Vol. 7.
1984. 87-126. :Spilka, Mark. The Love Ethic of D.H. Lawrence. (1955): 244. Rpt.
In TCLC. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 16. Detroit: Gale, 1985. Bibliography **** Works
Cited : ****
raper, R.P. “D.H. Lawrence on Mother Love.” Essays
in Criticism 8 (1958): 285-289. Rpt. In TCLC. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 16. Detroit:
Gale, 1985. 293-294. :Kuttner, Aldred Booth. “Sons and Lovers’: A
Freudian Appreciation.” The Psychoanalytic Review. 3 (1916): 295-317. Rpt.
In TCLC, Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 16. Detroit: Gale, 1985. 277-282. :Lawrence,
D.H. Sons and Lovers. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1996. :Niven, Alastair. “D.H.
Lawrence.” British Writers. Vol. 7. 1984. 87-126. :Spilka, Mark. The Love
Ethic of D.H. Lawrence. (1955): 244. Rpt. In TCLC. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 16.
Detroit: Gale, 1985.