Sons and Lovers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Sons and Lovers (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080136
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2003
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 81,291
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.28(d)

About the Author

Date of Birth:

September 11, 1885

Date of Death:

March 2, 1930

Place of Birth:

Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England

Place of Death:

Vence, France

Education:

Nottingham University College, teacher training certificate, 1908

Read an Excerpt


From Victoria Blake's Introduction to Sons and Lovers

The story of how and why D.H. Lawrence wrote Sons and Lovers is a love story as much as it is a story about literature. The story begins at D.H. Lawrence's birth and ends just before the outbreak of World War One. Although it is a love story, it is not a story about amor, per se, the exclusive romantic love. Rather, it is about love in all its various guises-love for the Mother Country and the mother, love for the work of writing and, above all, love for life itself. D.H. Lawrence was a passionate man; he threw himself into life. In his presence, his peers were aware of life lived more highly, of emotions felt more truly and of the rawness of human experience. Lawrence took life in huge gulps, personalizing it and, in the end, changing it to suit his own artistic goals.

"I remember seeing him sitting apart at a table doing matriculation work," writes Jessie Chambers in her book D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record (see "For Further Reading"). "He smiled across at me, and I saw again his uniqueness, how totally different he was from any of the other youths. . . . There was his sensitiveness . . . his delicacy of spirit, that, while it contributed vitally to his charm, made him more vulnerable, more susceptible to injury from the crudeness of life" (p. 47).

Sons and Lovers is Lawrence's third novel. He began writing it when he was twenty-five years old, a young, sensitive schoolteacher with periodic bouts of pneumonia and a penchant for problems of the heart. The novel underwent four major revisions and a name change before being published in 1913. As conceived, it was to be a book based on fact: the story of the young man, Paul Morel, growing up in a coal-mining district of the English Midlands. As such, it would be a thinly disguised fictionalization of Lawrence's own life, a portrait of the artist as a young man or, as the critic Harold Bloom suggests, a portrait of the artist as a young prig.

Lawrence was born in 1885 in a lower-middle-class town in Nottinghamshire during a time in English history characterized by repressive social mores, strict morality, and austere, even ascetic, religious practices. In other words, the author was born at a time and in a place particularly inclined toward priggishness.

Lawrence chaffed under the yoke of Victorian England. His gift of perception, which told him that life was a vast mystery and wonder, also told him that his country was ruining itself with its industrialization, its mechanization, and its impulse toward war. As he grew up, he grew intolerant. "Curse you, my countrymen," he wrote to Edward Garnett, his publisher and friend, in a letter dated July 1912, "you have put the halters round your necks, and pull tighter and tighter from day to day. You are strangling yourselves, you blasted fools" (The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, Vol. 1, edited by James T. Boulton). To borrow Lawrence's own phrase, England suffered under a "Thou Shalt Not" mentality.

Lawrence longed for the implied permission of the "Thou Shalt," two words that promise not only freedom but also free will. The purpose of life, Lawrence wrote, was not simply to live, but to live vitally and at the edge of the great mystery of existence. This will to live-or, perhaps more correctly, the will toward life-was, in a characteristically Lawrencian sense, mixed up with a philosophy of sex. With more emotion than logic, Lawrence felt that "Thou Shalt," when murmured by a partially clothed woman, promised not only sexual union but also spiritual union. His philosophy is not simply, as future critics would categorize it, "sex in the head." What Lawrence wanted was not crude, not base, not purely sexual. "It's a pity that sex is such an ugly little word," Lawrence wrote in an essay titled "Sex Versus Loveliness." "While ever it lives, the fire of sex, which is the source of beauty and anger, burns in us beyond our understanding. . . . Sex and beauty are one thing, like flame and fire. If you hate sex, you hate beauty." Lawrence wanted, through sex, to understand beauty and through beauty, mystery. It was this understanding that Lawrence defined as intuition, and it was this intuition that Lawrence felt to be his prime talent as a writer.

And it is a pity that sex was such a dirty little word in Victorian England, though for admirers of Lawrence it would be hard to wish it otherwise. The most subtle, almost sublime, tensions in his writing owe much to the war between his second-natural will to live and his natural desire to obey. Sons and Lovers is the work of a confused man, one who could not figure out which impulse to follow. As in life, so in fiction. In Sons and Lovers, the two impulses are represented on the one side by Paul Morel's relationship with his mother and on the other side by his relationship with first Miriam, then Clara. In a much-quoted letter written to Edward Garnett dated November 1912, Lawrence defends the idea of the book, succinctly illuminating its themes.

A woman of character and refinement goes into the lower class, and has no satisfaction in her own life. She has had a passion for her husband, so the children are born of passion, and have heaps of vitality. But as her sons grow up she selects them as lovers-first the eldest, then the second. These sons are urged into life by their reciprocal love of their mother-urged on and on. But when they come to manhood, they can't love, because their mother is the strongest power in their lives, and holds them. . . . As soon as the young men come into contact with women, there's a split. William gives his sex to a fribble, and his mother holds his soul. But the split kills him, because he doesn't know where he is. The next son gets a woman who fights for his soul-fights his mother. The son loves the mother-all the sons hate and are jealous of the father. The battle goes on between the mother and the girl, with the son as object. The mother gradually proves stronger, because of the tie of blood. The son decides to leave his soul in his mother's hands, and, like his elder brother, go for passion. He gets passion. Then the split begins to tell again. But, almost unconsciously, the mother realizes what is the matter, and begins to die. The son casts off his mistress, attends to his mother dying. He is left in the end naked of everything, with the drift toward death (Letters).

Since Freud, mother love versus romantic love has become a familiar theme. Hundreds of pages, perhaps thousands, have been written about Lawrence's Oedipus complex as demonstrated in the novel. Critics began to see the novel in a Freudian light as early as 1913; Sons and Lovers was taken to be the first, great, Freudian allegory. "As he stooped to kiss his mother, she threw her arms round his neck, hid her face on his shoulder, and cried, in a whimpering voice, so unlike her own that he writhed in agony," Lawrence wrote. "'And I've never-you know, Paul-I've never had a husband-not really-'" Mrs. Morel says. Paul "stroked his mother's hair, and his mouth was on her throat."

Although Lawrence was aware of Freudian ideas as early as 1912, there is no indication that he intended the book to have a Freudian subtext. Responding to the Freudian interpretation, he thought the critics had carved a half lie from an honest portrayal of his childhood. He saw what he had written as a novel, not a case history, and considered the text universal, a representation of "the tragedy of thousands of young men in England" (from the Garnett letter of November 1912). Later, in 1921, he published an anti-Freudian tract titled Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious.

However, Lawrence admitted in various letters that he had loved his mother like a lover. He wrote descriptions of Mrs. Lawrence as if he were writing about a girlfriend: "She is my first, great love. She was a wonderful, rare woman-you do not know; as strong, and steadfast, and generous as the sun. She could be as swift as a white whiplash, and as kind and gentle as warm rain, and as steadfast as the irreducible earth beneath us," he wrote to Louise Burrows in December 1910, on the eve of his mother's death (Letters). In the same month he wrote to Rachel Ann and Taylor, "This has been a kind of bond between me and my mother. We have loved each other, almost with a husband and wife love, as well as filial and maternal." Later in the same letter he wrote, "Nobody can have the soul of me. My mother has had it, and nobody can have it again. Nobody can come into my very self again, and breath me like an atmosphere" (Letters).

This, then, is the setting for the composition of Sons and Lovers. A remarkably gifted young man, tragically stifled under both the yoke of his mother's love and the weight of Victorian morals, conceives of an autobiographical novel that will stick to the facts of his upbringing. Eastwood, the rundown though respectable mining town where Lawrence was born, changes to Bestwood. Lydia Lawrence, his mother, changes to Gertrude Morel. And Lawrence, with little change, renames himself Paul.

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Sons and Lovers 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book evokes a complete world as very few others I have read. The main characters are so well written you feel you know them, you sympathize with them, you can see them in your mind. It is also is a very sensual book at times. Lawrence creates sexual tension between the romantic leads, and uses natural settings to heighten those tensions. The book is ultimately about the relationships between the members of a family and their friends, and describes those relationships beautifully, but in the end, to me, sadly.
Kat_2010 More than 1 year ago
I read this book for an APLIT project and overall, I thought the book was very good. It was interesting and not hard to read. Some parts drag on a bit and the characters' love affairs can get a little annoying towards the end of the book because it seems as if they can't make up their mind when it comes to being with someone. None the less, I would highly recommend the novel, and although it might take you a while to read, it's worth it.
andreablythe on LibraryThing 17 days ago
Essentially this stretches a working family's life into epic proportions, giving minutia and emotions scope. The main focus is on the son Paul Morrel, who is caught between his mother and his lover, Miriam, and the emotional tug and pull that that causes. Meh. The writing is great and I really enjoyed learning about the family and their internal conflicts in the beginning, but as the story stretched on and on and on, I grew tired of it. It was too long, too meandering, and I only finished it because it was on audio book and I needed something to listen to on the way to work.
janemarieprice on LibraryThing 22 days ago
What an amazing book this is! The character is one which we can all relate to in the beautiful coming of age story. The plot is indicative of the time it was written but the themes go far beyond that.
LitReact on LibraryThing 22 days ago
One notable aspect of Lawrence's work is the simplicity of how it is written. Lawrence does not go overboard with his descriptions and drama. Everything is kept just right. Never focusing too long on details that would not matter, such as how the view looked from head to toe, what tree did they pass, how many items were there in the house - he gave just the right amount of attention to every detail in the novel to ensure that the readers would not grow bored from reading things which they have absolutely or little interest in and leaves these details to tackle the issues or concerns that are much more pressing. It is in stories like these that prove to readers and writers alike that simplicity is a powerful tool for presenting what one wants to say and having the audience understand what he or she is trying to say without much explanation. While there are words that have changed from 1913 to the present, it is still written so that despite the changes in the times, the words could still be linked to their present word and meaning. A few examples are morphia for morphine and programme for the program of the drama or play.While the language and simplicity are notable enough, another aspect of Lawrence's writing that makes the work move like a panther in a cage, moving back and forth restlessly in the small space it has been given, growling and tense, waiting to jump out and run into the wild, is the power of his characters' emotions and feelings that flow off the pages and seep into the readers' skin, drawing them nearer to the characters and their own motives. The greatest example is Mrs. Morel. While readers might not personally like the idea of her having a possessive, obsessive love for her son/s, she makes it so that the readers side with her, first of all by making her the spunky housewife that does not allow her husband to take the power away from her and by continually doing everything she can to ensure that her son/s would always return to her despite their current infatuation with a certain girl. She is so strong that she manipulates the people, especially her sons, to remember or heed her words and even have them think the way she does. Despite her overbearing and unnatural love, she is the kind of character that readers later on sympathize with and hope that she would leave Paul in the state he is in. Another great example is Miriam. Though the reaction did not tackle her deeply, she is one of the most memorable characters in the sense that she is so strange in her way of behaving that when she comes to love Paul and loves him with her soul, willing to sacrifice himself to whatever he wanted, the readers feel that she is either a saint with a tight hold on Paul or a saint that wanted to be rewarded for her being good by getting what she wanted.
Luli81 on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Another of Lawrence's gems.Not as good as Women in Love, but still worth reading.In this work you can easily notice one of Lawrence's obsessions. The love for his mother.
richardderus on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I was in a foul humor, so I decided to take it out on a book I hate.Rating: 0.125* of five BkC51) [SONS AND LOVERS] by [[D.H. Lawrence]]: The worst, most horrendously offensively overrated piece of crap I've read in my life. Yeup. Since I'm in a real bitch-slappin' mood, here goes. The Book Report: Sensitive, aesthetic nebbish gets born to rough miner and his neurasthenic dishcloth of a wife. She falls in love with her progeny and tries to Save Him From Being Like His Father, which clearly is a fate worse than death. So, lady, if you didn't like the guy, why didn't you just become a prostitute like all the other women too dumb to teach did in the 19th century? Things drone tediously on, some vaguely coherent sentences pass before one's eyes, the end and not a moment too soon. My Review: Listen. DH Lawrence couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag. The reason his stuff is known at all today is the scene in Lady Chatterly where the gamekeeper bangs her from behind. Oh, and those two dudes wrestling naked in front of the fireplace in Women in Love. Believe me when I tell you, those are *the* highlights of the man's ouevre. The hero of this book, Paul MOREL, is named after a bloody MUSHROOM! He's as soft and ishy and vaguely dirty-smelling as a mushroom, too. Lawrence was one of those lads I'd've beaten the snot out of in grade school, just because he was gross. Weedy and moist are the two words that leap forcefully to mind when I contemplate his sorry visage, which exercise in masochistic knowledge-seeking I do not urge upon you. If you, for some reason, liked this tedious, crapulous drivel, then goody good good, but if we're friends, I urge you not to communicate your admiration to me. It will not do good things for our relationship. I more easily forgive Hemingwayism than affection for this.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing 24 days ago
indulgent and personal and true. but in a good way. I really loved this one.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Quite an oddity among 'classics' of this age - it started off fairly prim and proper, and then once it got beyond half way if I'm not much mistaken there was sex on every other page. More or less.If DH Lawrence wrote this from personal experience I can only conclude his mother was one scary lady.
bennyb on LibraryThing 26 days ago
A very long piece of literature. I found this quite hard work to finish. Worth a read if you are interested in Freudian ideals. I prefered Lady Chatterley's lover.
branfulness on LibraryThing 26 days ago
First part of this book is about the family history of the Morel family, or Mrs Morel's sons. Second part is about Paul Morel's lovers. It is a bi-focal novel, so to speak. I am rather interested Miriam's apathy to body love, which reminds me of Aritha in Gide's "Narrow Gate." Paul cannot be satisfied with Miriam nor Clara. He must recognize his unique way of existence. When I first read this at 19, it felt quite long and tedious. Now I can allow for the detailed descriptions in the first part of the book and I can wait for the drama to build up. But if you are young and reading Lawrence for the first time, I advise you to avoid this.
BetaCummins on LibraryThing 26 days ago
This was my first D. H. Lawrence. I was, simply put, charmed. His detailed descriptions of places, characters, personalities, situations, feelings, are very grasping in their own smooth ways. It seems all classics hold that very descriptive factor that will eventually bore you or put you to sleep. Not this one.
samantha464 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Love it. I have to say, I've never been a big D.H. Lawrence fan, but this had me so caught up I was almost embarrassed to read it in public (but I did anyway)!
npbone on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A book where not much happens, it's more of a study on interpersonal relationships and how we stumble our way through misguided ideals of love and romance. I actually liked this book more than I thought I was going to.
wiremonkey on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I thought I had read this book but I hope to heaven that I didn't because I didn't remember a single thing from it. In pure Lawrence style, sometimes achingly lyrical, sometimes achingly annoying and embarrassing, it is still a good read as well as an intense portrait of the oedipal relationship between mother and son.
Ibreak4books on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I didn't like Lawrence when I was a youngin, but now that I am a little older, I totally get it--the sexes cannot live in harmony, but we are drawn to the the "otherness" of, well, the other. Superb prose. Superb conjuring of nature, and that most illusive of all things--the mother/son relationship.
pmf on LibraryThing 5 months ago
No one looks deeper into nature and human nature than D.H. Lawrence.
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Wanted to read for awhile now...others in series
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Sons and lovers is book that deals with a middle class British family everyone can relate to a character. The book deals relationships with family and the main character Paul Morel. The book starts of between how the mother and father and then it talks about the children Paul, William, and his sister. Anyway if you want to read about a british family in the nineteen twenty about their every struggles you should read this book. It will make you laugh, some parts will make you mad especially William and his girlfriend.
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