The Parallels Between Two Families It is morning again, and she is still here… These are the words D. H. Lawrence wrote to a friend describing his terminally ill mother in 1913. I look at my mother and think O Heaven-is this what life brings us to? You see mother has had a devilish married life, for nearly forty years- and this is the conclusion- no relief. (Barons Educational Series, 1993). At the time this letter was written Lawrence was fictionalizing his relationship with his mother, as well as the rest of his family, in the novel Sons and Lovers .
In the novel the Lawrences would be named the Morels, but though the names are different there are many parallels between Sons and Lovers and Lawrences own life. These parallels are what make the novel truly autobiographical. However, the strongest evidence of the autobiographical nature of this novel exists in the comparisons between Lawrence and his parents with their fictional counterparts in the book. David Herbert Lawrence was born in 1885, in Eastwood, England. Eastwood is an industrial town, the main industry being coal mining.
In the novel, Eastwood becomes the town of Bestwood. As in the novel, Lawrences family was poor and working class. Lawrence was a sickly child (Croom, 1996). He had bronchitis a mere two weeks after he was born, and lung problems would plague him all his life, eventually developing into repeated bouts of pneumonia which permanently weakened his lungs (Meyers, p. 248). Eventually, it was tuberculosis, which attacked his weakened lungs, that killed him (Moynahan, p. xiii). At that time, one of the few ways for a poor person to better himself was through education.
Lawrences mother Lydia recognized this, and encouraged it in young Lawrence. Lawrence started school at the early age of four, but it proved too much for the child. He was withdrawn from school and did not return until he was seven years old. The fact that he was older than the other children when he reentered school set him apart socially. He had few friends, and instead sought out the company of his younger sister, Ada. Despite Lawrences late start, he did well in school, and became the first pupil in his school to win a scholarship to Nottingham High School (Croom, p. . This posed a severe financial burden to his family since he was unable to work if he was attending school (Croom, p. 2). However, his family allowed him to enroll, and in 1898, near the time of his thirteenth birthday, Lawrence began attending high school. Almost all of his schoolmates were of a higher social class than Lawrence. In addition to the strain of schoolwork, the teenage Lawrence had to contend with the bigotry of his peers. In fact, his wife Frieda told of an instance when a schoolmate learned that Lawrences father was a miner.
The boy was disgusted and immediately ended his association with Lawrence (Croom, p. 2). This attitude represented the feelings of his peers and increased his feelings of social solitude. Because he excelled in high school, Lawrence earned a scholarship to Nottingham University College. This was a feat rarely achieved by someone of Lawrences social background. However, Lawrence was extremely disappointed by college because he felt cheated by the lack of enthusiasm of the lecturers. He said that he might as well have been taught by gramophones as by those men.
Letters, p. 72). As mentioned, Lawrences father Arthur was a coal miner. In most respects he was a typical miner. He was uneducated, illiterate, and, like most coal miners, drank to excess (Barons, 1993). He was not an ambitious man, instead resigning himself to a life in the mines (Stewart, p. 96). In spite of his alcoholism, Arthur Lawrence was a hard working man who did his best to provide for his family. Lydia Lawrence (nee Beardsall) was attracted to Arthur Lawrences good looks, and this led to their marriage (Stewart, p. 96). In many ways they were opposites.
Lydia Lawrence came from a middle class family that had experienced financial strife. This decline in social status had humiliated Lydias father. His whole family felt this shame, and Lydia swore that her own childrens success would vindicate her father. She continually strove to better the familys social standing (Stewart, p. 96). She pushed her children to succeed in school and in life. She herself opened a shop which was something rarely done by women of that time. Lydia and Arthur Lawrence had a relationship much like that of Gertrude and Walter Morel.
Though they married for love, soon after their differences led to constant unhappiness. The difference in their social class was obvious, and could be seen in their daily lives. A good example of this could be seen in the way they spoke. In the book, Gertrude speaks in proper English, as did Lydia Lawrence. When Walter speaks, however, it is usually in a crude local dialect common to the miners. Evidence of this is seen throughout the novel. Arthur Lawrence had the ability to speak properly, but chose not to most of the time. Lawrences Walter Morel has this same trait.
In the novel, as in real life, the fathers drinking has a serious effect on the family. While Lydia/Gertrude understood her husbands need to unwind after a day in the mines, he unfortunately did not handle his liquor well. When Arthur/Walter drank he would come home very irritable. Often it was in this state that fights between the Lawrences/Morels would begin (Stewart, p. 96). This could be seen many times throughout the book (Moynahan, p. 213-214). The heavy drinking of his father had a profound effect on Lawrence and his family which is clearly shown through its depiction in Sons and Lovers.
Gertrude Morels love for her husband could not withstand the strain of his drinking, and she feels trapped. Lawrence states this eloquently in a single sentence: She despised him, and was tied to him (Moynahan, p. 5). Lawrences Gertrude does not open up a shop, as did Lydia Lawrence. This is the greatest example of Lydias ambition, and why Lawrence left it out of the novel is a mystery. Lawrences relationship with his parents is portrayed through his character Paul Morel. Both in the book and in real life he seemed to hate his father and idolize his mother.
With the knowledge that this novel was written while Lawrence was mourning his mothers death, some people believe that it is in fact a tribute to his beloved mother. Lawrence himself, though, later felt remorse at the harsh depiction of his father in the novel. Walter Morel was an exaggeration of the bad side of Arthur Lawrence. Lawrences novel Sons and Lovers brings into question the type of relationship Lawrence had with his mother. Analysis of his real life reveals that, like Gertrude Morel, Lydia Lawrence was a very controlling woman.
She kept her son very close to her at all times. She had strong influence in every aspect of his life, including his love life. Gertrude Morel used emotional blackmail to prevent her son from developing romantic attachments to other women, as she did with his relationship with Miriam D. H Lawrence himself spent most of whatever time he had free with his mother, and she did nothing to discourage this. In fact, it was not until after Lydia died that he got married. Many critics have suggested that Lawrences relationship with his mother was of an Oedipal nature (Moynahan, p. ii). There is also some evidence to support this theory in the novel. At one point, Paul is angered at the idea of his mother and father sleeping together (Moynahan, pp. 214-215). In another instance, the way in which Gertrude touched and kissed her son was questionable (Moynahan, p. 213). The way she acted was more like a girlfriend than a mother. Paul Morel, like D. H. Lawrence, escaped the mines through education. Both excelled in school and received scholarships which enabled them to continue their education far beyond what was expected of people of their class.
Lawrence, as well as Paul Morel, hated the ugliness of the miners life. In the book, Paul Morels education in combination with his mothers adamant refusal to let him become a miner enabled him to avoid the life he despised so much. However, in real life D. H Lawrences lung ailment also factored in to his decision (Meyers, p. 248). His lifelong sickness is not mentioned in the book. Through the examination of D. H. Lawrences life it is obvious that his parents serve as models for Gertrude and Walter Morel, and he himself is a model for Paul Morel.
Because there are such strong links between the Lawrences and the Morels it is obvious that the novel is autobiographical. While Paul Morels future is unknown at the end of Sons and Lovers, because of the nature of the novel Lawrences own life can be looked at to provide closure. In the novel Gertrude Morel dreams of a life for her son away from the mines. She wants him to lead a life of education and refinement. D. H. Lawrence led such a life. He succeeded in his own life, and through this success his mother was vindicated, memorialized, and repaid.