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Sons And Lovers by D.H. Lawrence: Summary, Analysis & Themes

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  • 0:01 Novel Summary
  • 1:37 Analysis
  • 2:57 Theme
  • 3:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pylaar Solomon

Middle/Secondary teacher with college experience. Master's degree in Bilingual Education. Fluent in Spanish and English.

In this lesson, you will learn about the seminal novel, 'Sons and Lovers,' by D.H. Lawrence. You'll read a short summary and learn about themes prevalent in the novel. Then, you can test your knowledge on this interesting, psychologically-charged read after you're familiar with the content.

Novel Summary

Sons and Lovers is a novel by D.H. Lawrence that takes place in late 19th-century England and tells the story of a man so emotionally connected to and influenced by his mother that he is unable to form lasting relationships when he encounters other women.

In the first part of the story, the well-bred Gertrude Coppard falls for Walter Morel, a poor coal miner. The couple marries, and Gertrude struggles with adjusting to reduced circumstances on a meager salary in a rented house. The couple drifts apart, and she gradually shifts her affections to her boys, beginning with William, the oldest. Walter Morel begins to retreat to the pub after work with the other miners.

William goes out into the world and starts to rise up into the middle class. When he dies, Gertrude shifts her affection to her second son, Paul, rediscovering her deep love for the boy after he survives a serious bout with pneumonia.

In the second part of the novel, Paul struggles between the comfort and stability provided by his mother and his own need to venture forth and experience his own romantic love. He begins a romance with Miriam, a girl from his church. They seem to be well matched, but Paul's mother looks down upon Miriam, which complicates the relationship. She is far below his social standing and from an even poorer family.

Paul then meets Clara Dawes, a more sophisticated young woman who has separated from her husband. Paul leaves Miriam behind as he spends more and more time with Clara. But in the end, not even Clara can compete with Gertrude's affections, and Paul leaves Clara and returns to his mother. When she dies, he is left alone.

Analysis

This book has a number of conflicts, but Sons and Lovers is primarily a study of human relationships. Paul is the receiver of most of his mother's deep emotional feelings and has with her a bond tighter than normal. Because of this, Paul has trouble handling and being comfortable with his own relationships.

Another key human relationship that Paul deals with is the one he has with Miriam, his jilted love. Even though they deeply love each other, they are kept apart by circumstance. What could have been a caring relationship is destroyed by Gertrude's unkind treatment. Strangely, when Paul's mother meets Clara, she gets along better with her. She views her as less of a threat than Miriam, and Paul is thus 'allowed' to be with her.

However, Paul eventually gets into a fight with her estranged husband, and his rage against his own father surfaces. He cannot express the anger he feels towards his own father and, thus, has to find an outlet for the hatred he feels. His mother has assured this hatred by creating an overreaching attachment with her son and rejecting her unseemly husband.

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