Paul Morel is the main character in DH Lawrence’s novel ‘Sons and Lovers’. The story charts his early life from when his parents married and the subsequent birth of four children, through childhood and early adulthood to the death of his mother. During this time three women have a major impact on his life, his mother, Miriam and Clara. Each has the most influence at different times in his life and can be attributed to his childhood, being a young man and early adulthood respectively; but each woman’s influence carries on to shape Paul into the man he becomes. From the very beginning there is a connection between Paul and his mother in that he looks like her with his dark hair and blue eyes. As a child ‘he seemed old for his years’, grave and serious like Mrs Morel. He is a quiet boy but spirited much like his mother and this increases with age as his other’s influence becomes more apparent. ‘When she fretted he understood, and could have no peace. His soul seemed always attentive to her’ is the way their attachment is described; their bond is very strong and very deep. As Paul grew older she never suffered alone for her husband’s faults and what she lacked in life because ‘her children suffered with her’. ‘It hurt the boy keenly, this feeling about her, that she had never had her life’s fulfilment’ so much so that it became his ‘childish aim’ to provide it. When he began to work ‘it was almost as if it were her own life’. ‘Paul almost hated his mother’ for this suffering when his father did not come home from work. He felt she should not waste herself on a man like his father when she could rely on her son. This stems from the jealousy Paul feels of his father because of his place in the household, in his mother’s affections and efforts, all of which he disregards.
Paul never had a strong constitution as he was subject to bouts of bronchitis. Described as ‘delicate’, this accounted for his mother’s ‘difference in feeling for him’ compared with her other children. She treated him more tenderly and felt he was of a better mettle than her other children but physically weaker so ‘she always felt a mixture of anguish in her love for him’. Further to this Paul could never go home ‘empty to his mother’ not even when collecting blackberries and because he never did so she did not expect to be disappointed by him. ‘That he felt he would disappoint her he would have died rather’ which is a major reason why he broke it off with Miriam - his mother did not like her, she felt Miriam did not make Paul happy, nor would she make a good wife. Paul could do better. Mrs morel was also jealous of Miriam and felt that if they should become heavily involved and marry ‘she’d leave me no room - not a bit of room-’.
Paul was also jealous of William, his older brother, whom his mother had a more passionate relationship with. After his death when Mrs Morel could not pull herself out of her grief and barely spoke to Paul, he became ill and lost the will to live until she woke from her grief-stricken stupor. Paul was more of a companion to his mother, particularly after William’s departure to London and his eventual death; ‘Mrs Morel’s life now rooted itself in Paul’. She told him all her troubles and ‘he took it in as best he could’ as a child and a man.
Although the book depicts Paul as being more himself when he is with Miriam it is necessary for him to have his mother to soothe him. ‘His ridiculous hyper-sensitiveness made her heart ache’ and it made him miserable so he found relief in the company of his mother. However, Miriam cultivated this...