Comment on the themes of love, sex and marriage in Sons and Lovers.
Ans. Sons and Lovers opens with a picture of the marriage of Walter Morel and Gertrude Morel. Mrs. Morel was attracted to Morel by his manly figure, his sensuous, non-intellectual warmth of life and his charming personality with wonderful sense of humour. She marries him and love, sex and marriage are brought together for a moment in a way they never are again in the novel. Problems arise because of other considerations ‘higher than sensuality. Mrs. Morel, Paritan, tries to reform her husband; when she fails, she begins to hate him and tries again, first with William and then with Paul. Mrs. Morel turns from the father to her children for love and this
introduces into the novel the theme of the Oedipus complex. The main movement of the novel, from the point of view of love, however, concerns Paul’s development away from the obsession with his seems to offer love but she is unable to offer herself physically. We feel Paul’s frustration increasing as he continues his relationship with this soulful and awkward girl. All their activities together as ‘Lad- and-girl’ rest uncomfortably on Miriam’s sexlessness. Even when Paul tries to teach her algebra, and becomes angry when she is slow at understanding, his anger has a sexual quality that implies the frustration of the relationship.
Clara is Paul’s next attempt at love. From the first moment Clara is presented as a physical being, in opposition to Miriam, and as extremely sexual. Paul tells Miriam that what he likes about Clara is that “there’s a sort of fierceness somewhere in her”. That is, Clara is passion while Miriam is frigidity. Inevitably Paul is attracted to this passion. He himself is intensely physical, as even Miriam recognises, and he becomes fascinated by Clara’s bodily figure, her beautiful appearance; her bare shoulders and arms and her curves have a special fascination for him. But Clara fails to satisfy Paul for any length of time. Though she satisfied Paul’s importunate physical desires, she cannot satisfy his soul.
Besides the relationships of Paul, we also see the sexuality of William, which is largely rendered negative by his mother. Some clear hints are dripped about Leonard’s desire for Annie and about Arthur’s passion for Beatrice. We have already seen that Mrs. Morel’s passion for her husband is a basic question underlying the novel. This sexuality in the novel has been stressed because the whole purpose of the book, the tracing of Paul’s development, almost seems to get taken over by the development of his sex-life. Nonetheless the novel concerns love. In Lawrence love and sex are almost identical, one seems impossible without the other.
To sum up, Sons and Lovers is an adolescent novel in that it deals with the problem of a young man. As a result, although the possibility of marriage does appear briefly on Paul’s horizon, the central issues are sex and love and his development can be estimated in terms of women, beginning with his mother.
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