D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers as a Psychological Novel

Sons and Lovers belongs to the category of psychological fiction. The remarkable development of psychological novel is a notable phenomenon of the twentieth century literary scene. The psychology of the characters and the typical problems, emanating from a particular psychological pattern form the staple of a psychological novel. This psychological novel has been ushered in by Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. Read More Novel The psycho-analytical novel, as the very name implies, lays stress on psycho-analysis. The novelist becomes a psychoanalyst and he brings into focus, the subtle and intricate psychological cross currents. The analysis of the psychology of the characters is what constitutes the motif of a psychoanalytical fiction. The novelist goes deeper and deeper into the innermost crevice of the psychology of his characters and he brings out or externalizes the subtle psychological framework of the characters. 

It was undoubtedly the great creative fecundity of D. H. Lawrence, which was responsible for the intention of psychological novel. Hence it can be asserted without any fear of refutation that Lawrence is the pioneer of psychological fiction. The psychological theories and concepts enunciated and disseminated by Freud and Jung revolutionized the world of conventional human thought. Read More Novel They, of course, exerted a great formative influence on Lawrence. According to these eminent thinkers and stalwarts of psychology, the human thought is operative at three levels conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious. The mass of human thought lies dormant in the subconscious and the unconscious minds; but it sometimes comes out into the surface. Lawrence as a psychological novelist has sought to externalize the recondite thoughts which lie hidden in the inner recesses of the sub-conscious and unconscious minds. As a corollary to this change in the novelist’s aim and objective a shift is to be noticed in the theme of the modern novel. 

Instead of portraying the life and activities of an Augustan hero in a vast and Aeschylean scale, the psychological novelist concentrates on the subtle shades of the psyche of his characters. Read More Novel Hence, Lawrence was preoccupied with the inner life of his characters. He set himself to the task of portraying the psyche or ‘the shimmeriness’ and not the hard facts. Robert Humphrey has appositely stated that the modern psychological novel is ‘a type of fiction in which the basic emphasis is placed on exploration of the pre-speech levels of consciousness for the purposes primarily of revealing the psychic being of the characters’. M.I. Muller also subscribes to the view that in the modern psychological novel, as that of Lawrence, we notice ‘a withdrawal from external phenomena in the flickering half-shades of the author’s private world’.

The modern novelists including Lawrence take the readers straight into the psychological plane of the characters and in so  doing they allow the readers to discern the incessant flow of sensations and impressions which rise up in the minds of the characters. The psychological novelists including D. H Lawrence have resorted to a new technical device has rendered immense help to the novelists in their bid to lay bare the psyche or the soul of the characters. This ‘stream of consciousness’ technique has made it possible for the novelists of experimenting on time and place. Read More Novel The plot is rescued from the bondage of time. The action does not proceed forward chronologically. The novelist very often flouts the norm and propriety with regard to the logical consistency of time. But this resultant incoherence or inconsistency of structure has been more than compensated by the exquisite delineation of subtle psychology of the characters. In order to suit the artistic purpose, the novelists make the action move forward and backward. In this context, the pertinent observation of David Daichess merited:

  “The stream of consciousness technique is a means of escape from the tyranny of the time dimension. It is not only in distinct memories that the past impinges on the present, but also in much vaguer and more subtle ways, our mind floating off down some channel superficially irrelevant, but really having a definite starting off place from the initial situation, so that in presenting the characters’ reactions to events, the author will show us states of mind being modified by associations and recollections deriving from the present situation, but referring to a constantly shifting series of events in the past”.

Lawrence’s bold originality is exemplified by his style, which is impressionistic. His style is more poetic than the prosaic style of others. He has used plants of vivid images and symbols for giving expressions to the complex thought process of psyche of his characters. Long before the efflorescence of ‘the stream of consciousness novels’, Lawrence foreshadowed the style of consciousness novels’, Lawrence foreshadowed these style of is type novels. Later on James Joyce and Virginia Woolf perfected it with their mature artistry.

The ‘Oedipus Complex’ constitutes a psychological problem and this forms the nucleus of the novels, Sons and Lovers. The possessive character of Mrs. Morel was great stumbling block in the life of Paul, the hero of the piece. She was terribly dissatisfied with her married life and then subsequently. Read More Novel She exerted her influence on the life of Paul who could not liberate himself from the mother-fixation. Mother’s influence was so preponderant and so overweening assertive that Paul could not get a balanced emotional life. He failed to establish a becoming relationship both with Miriam and Clara. The mother-image was deterrent to the emotional life of Paul who himself was also a highly sensitive person and in his attachment with mother we notice the warmth and passion of a lover. This complex psychological problem has been treated or delineated by Lawrence with the consummate art of a poet and an unfailing observation and insight of a true psychologist.  

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