My initial reaction when starting Sons and Lovers was that I’d have difficulty with the dialect, especially with the character of the father, Walter Morel, however, I adjusted rather quickly and appreciated the various ones used for the different characters.
It is really not an interesting tale, but rather a sad look at an overbearing mother and a young man easily manipulated by her. Yes, different characters do try their hand at rising above their stations, but not enough to make the story more enjoyable. The initial chapters describing Mrs. Morel’s early married years and her extreme disappointment were strong and greatly written, however, subsequent chapters seemed to serve to denigrate all other female characters. Perhaps this was intentional, but since the story is nearly autobiographical, I fear not.
Bearing in mind that the novel was published in 1913, I tried to remind myself that there was most definitely a distinct inequality of the sexes at that time. Even so, there was no depth to the female characters beyond Mrs. Morel, of course. There was clear development of many male characters; brother William, Paul, the narrator, Mr. Morel and even Paul’s nemesis, Baxter Dawes.
Paul’s inability to see any woman other than his mother as worthy of him left me wondering at his sexuality. Although sexually active with women, he didn’t seem to see it as possibly being mutually enjoyable. That he would proposition Miriam, the woman he’s strung along for years, sexually after telling her he had not interest in a relationship showed him as an inconsiderate young man. Had Miriam accepted, I would have slammed the book shut.
If I were to meet the young Mr. Lawrence, I don’t think I’d have much to say to him as I imagine he’d be quite smug and immature. Perhaps we could debate politics or religion, but I fear it would end in fisticuffs.
Quotes worth noting:
All the life of Miriam’s body was in her eyes, which were usually dark as a dark church, but could flame with light like a conflagration. Her face scarcely ever altered from its look of brooding. She might have been one of the women who went with Mary when Jesus was dead. Her body was not flexible and living.
…”She is one of those who will want to suck a man’s soul out till he has none of his own left.”
“Why can’t a man have a young mother? What is she old for?”
“What would you prefer to do?” he asked. She laughed at him indulgently, as she said “There is so little likelihood of my ever being given a choice, that I haven’t wasted time considering.”
My rating for Sons and Lovers is an 8 out of 10.
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