Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers is Autobiographical Novel- Discussion on how Autobiography has Shaped the Growth of the Theme of the Novel and how Lawrence’s Personal Experiences have Shaped the Mode and Material

Eminent critics including Middleton Murry and Albert hold a consensus of opinions with regard to the fact that the label, ‘autobiographical’ can safely be attributed to this superb specimen of fiction, bearing the mark of Lawrence’s genius. The most salient characteristic of the characters portrayed by Lawrence is according to Albert, “the resemblance they bear to their creator. In fact, Sons and Lovers is one of the most autobiographical of English novels. D.H. Lawrence is one of those great artists who write because of internal compulsion, and in this way seek relief for their inner problems by externalizing them in fiction. He had to endure great emotion stresses in youth and face many urgent personal problems. He was a tortured soul for full forty five years of himself and his writings are an expression of his inner suffering, frustrations and emotional complexes. They are all in the nature of personal revelations, some more, some less, but the autobiographical note runs through them all. The most striking feature of Lawrence’s characters is that they are projections of the novelist’s personalities, Paul morel in Sons and Lovers, is clearly a projection of him. In his other characters, too there are many similarities. They shark him darkness and bitterness of spirit and like him they live passionately and fully.
It is a story of Midland miner’s son, Paul Morel, who is Lawrence himself, Walter morel and Mrs. Morel are the father and mother of Paul, Lawrence’s alter ego. The father is an unrefined miner and the mother with refinement and culture, “a superior woman.” The conflict between Mr. and Mrs. Morel and the reactions of children are all transcripts from life. Miriam is Jessie Chambers whom Lawrence met early in life, where he loved but with whom he failed to establish satisfactory relations, owing largely to the influence of his mother on him. His mother, too died of cancer like Mrs. Morel, the mother of Paul Morel, and his brother Earnest Lawrence, too died early in life as William in the story.

However, facts of life-reality has undergone a press of imaginative selection and ordering and the whole experience has been reorganized and shaped for the purpose of art. And that is what Lawrence has done in his most autobiographical of his novels. It was for this reason that Jessie Chambers was shocked when Sons and Lovers were published in its final form. She complained that justice had not been done to her, that the whole Paul-Miriam affair presented her in an unfavorable light and that the laurels of victory had been given to Mrs. Morel. She gave her own version of the whole affair. She might be factually true, but she was certainly mistaken in taking the novel to be an autobiography. Lawrence had created a work of art and he as well within this rights to organize and interpret the facts in accordance with the requirements of art. Besides this, he has departed from reality in other respects too. While Lawrence married Frieda Weekly, the other woman, after the death of his mother and lived with her subsequently became a great writer, Paul fails to reach a satisfactory adjustment even with Clare the other woman in the novel and does not marry her.

However, through often false as to actual fact, Lawrence is undeviating true to emotional reality. Lawrence was never able to make a happy emotional adjustment with other woman. The novelist was a tortured soul through out the full forty five years of his life, and what he suffered, and what he through and served under the stimulus of suffering can very well be guessed from a study of Sons and Lover. The novel faithful presents all his passions and frustrations. Owing to the mother fixation which was acute, the novelist could not make an agreeable and happy emotional adjustment with the other specimens of the fair sex. The soul-corroding experience has been transmuted into the novel. His intense suffering, his passions and emotions, his deprivations have found an artist and vivifying expression in the novel. The Oedipus complex with which was affected with in his private life in manifested in the novel also. The mother image or mother substitute marred his own life. Although he married Frieda Weekly after the demise of his mother, Lawrence was never happy, failed to derive a real complacency and satisfaction in his married life. Paul Morel, his prototype also suffered from similar emotional complexes. His relationship with both Miriam and Clara is inadequate.

Sons and Lovers is thus an imaginative representation of the facts of Lawrence’s life. E. Baker has observed that the novel “is of cardinal importance as a key to his intricate and often paradoxical nature.”   

Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert
      2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
      3. Microsoft Students’ Encarta
      4. Wikipedia

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