Evaluate the View That Sons and Lovers Contends That It Is Not Possible to Overcome the Legacies of Childhood and Adolescence.

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  • Topic: D. H. Lawrence, The Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers
  • Pages : 8 (3149 words )
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  • Published : May 30, 2012
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Evaluate the view that Sons and Lovers contends that it is not possible to overcome the legacies of childhood and adolescence.

In D H Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, the influence that one's childhood and adolescence have in determining the character of an individual is clearly evident. In the case of Paul Morel, the overbearing nature of his mother and the intense relationship between them impede his own romantic life, for he is unable to love another woman as much as he loves her. Moreover, his mother's initial lack of love for him, her own depression and the strained relationship between herself and Mr Morel have a negative impact on the child from a young age, permeating his adult life.  However, his spiritual friendship with Miriam Leivers, together with a passionate sexual awakening through his relationship with Clara Dawes, show Paul Morel's struggle for emancipation.  Although the novel does not see Paul succeed in fully overcoming such legacies, it nevertheless depicts his journey towards a sense of self- realisation and understanding. Unlike his elder brother William, who is defeated by the legacies of childhood and adolescence, Paul contests the constraints enforced upon him by his mother and begins to forge a life for himself. By the end of the novel, despite the anguish over his mother's death, Paul symbolically chooses to walk towards the “glowing town” rather than “to the darkness, to follow her”[1] indicating an attempt at abandonment of the legacies left by his early life. Although the impact of one's upbringing in shaping the character of an individual is unquestionably revealed, Sons and Lovers does not explicitly contend that is impossible to overcome the legacies of childhood and adolescence; rather it depicts the complexity of overcoming such obstacles which Paul embarks upon. The ambivalent ending of the novel suggests that Paul may be able to surmount the psychological effects of his past, but there is no definitive conclusion.

The autobiographical nature of Sons and Lovers which equates, though not directly, with D H Lawrence's own life, gives emphasis to the significance of the legacies of childhood and adolescence. In a letter written around the time that his mother's health was rapidly declining, Lawrence talks about his upbringing and the nature of his parents' relationship: "Their marriage life has been one carnal, bloody fight. I was born hating my father: as early as I can remember… This has been a kind of bond between me and my mother… We have been like one, so sensitive to each other that we never needed words. It has been rather terrible, and has made me, in some respects abnormal."[2] This is echoed through the portrayal of Paul Morel's life. However, to use this admission as proof that the novel asserts the impossibility of overcoming the legacies of childhood and adolescence would be presumptuous. For Lawrence himself reflected that: “one sheds one’s sickness in books- repeats and presents again one’s emotions, to be master of them.”[3] Lawrence recognises the possibility of surmounting such legacies through his art. It is therefore significant that Paul Morel, unlike his elder brother, is an artist. Paul Morel’s artistry aids his journey towards freedom, the narrative explains that: “He worked feverishly and mechanically, so that he could escape from himself.”[4] The autobiographical nature of Sons and Lovers gives assertion to the influence of one’s upbringing on an individual but as with the novel, Lawrence himself recognises the possibility of evading the legacies of childhood and adolescence; Sons and Lovers provides no firm answer.

The impact of one's childhood and adolescence is indeed depicted in the text. The strained relationship between Mr and Mrs Morel is used to strengthen the bond between mother and son and is also symbolically shown to have a lasting negative effect on Paul. The aftermath of Mr Morel’s domestic violence towards his wife is clearly indicative of this:...
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