'In Sons and Lovers, Paul is not really torn between Miriam and Clara but rather between his mother and his father.' Discuss.
Sons and Lovers is considered one of the greatest English novels of the twentieth century. Centred on the lives of an English rural family, the novel explores issues relating to marriage, family, industrialism, class and sexuality. While the first sections of the book focus on the early marriage of Mr and Mrs. Morel, it is their second son Paul who comes to dominate the work. Shy, clever, sensual, and in many ways mirroring D.H.Lawrence himself, Paul is an artist brought into the world as an unwanted burden and by the end of the novel left meaningless and derelict. It is the interim, the life of Paul, that makes up the bulk of the novel. One of the defining features of Paul is the very intimate relationship he has with his mother. Its influence is inescapable, especially when it comes to his affairs with women. As the novel progresses this influence takes its toll on Paul. He in some ways moves away from his mother, asserting for himself sexual relationships and contrary views such as those on class. Yet, the effect his mother has on him remains strong throughout and even lasts beyond the grave. Paul’s battling with this, the tie with his mother on one hand and his search for independent satisfaction on the other, is indicative of his divided character as a whole. This character division is most apparent in his affairs with women. This essay will look at two such affairs. First it will look at the division Paul feels for Miriam and Clara, both separate of and in comparison to each other. It will be shown that Paul is torn specifically by each due to the nature of his relationships with them and from this it will be deduced that Paul is torn in a more general way. Secondly, Paul’s division between mother and father and how and if this is related will be examined.
Paul is not really torn between Miriam and Clara. He ultimately does not want either. Miriam Leivers, the first of his love interests, offers him an intense, deep and soulful connection stemming out of and moving beyond friendship. The character Miriam is almost solely designed to represent this sort of relationship. She is intimacy personified. Everything about her reflects the deep platonic relationship her and Paul have. The first incident on meeting her demonstrates her restraint as a character. Unlike her playful brothers she is afraid of feeding a hen corn from her hands, she will not jump where Paul and Clara have no difficulty, and she refuses to allow Paul to push her high on the swing. The swing episode illustrates Miriam’s sexual restraint. Her fear of swinging high when Paul pushes her, and of the strength and inevitability of each ‘thrust’, suggests her fear of sexuality. Throughout, Miriam is removed from the physical human world. We are told that, “she could very rarely get into human relations with anyone” and so, “her lover was nature” (p.205). She is contrasted against her sister Agatha who “insisted on worldly values” (p.211). She is contrasted against her “naturally antagonistic” Brother Edgar who was a “rationalist” and “scientific” (p.195). Miriam also despised things trivial and was deeply religious. Her other worldliness and her removal from the physical world shown by her restraint towards sex, all correspond with the relationship of abstract, platonic, intimacy that Paul has with her. With her he is “always on the higher plane of abstraction” (214) and immobile towards physical connection.
For Paul this type of love is overbearing and insubstantial. “You make me so spiritual!’ he lamented. ‘And I don’t want to be spiritual’” (p.232). Instead of just the spirit Paul felt he needed more. “He felt she wanted the soul out of this body and not him” (p. 239). What Lawrence gives us next is the inverse of Miriam. While Miriam was of the soul and abstraction, Clara Dawes would be of the body and the physical....
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