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Sons and Lovers
D.H. Lawrence




In Sons and Lovers, only in Morel himself, brutalized and spiritually maimed as he is, does the germ of selfhood remain intact; and- this is the correlative proposition in Lawrence- in him only does the biological life force have simple, unequivocal assertion. Morel wants to live, by hook or crook, while his sons want to die. To live is to obey a rhythm involving more than conscious attitudes and involving more than human beings- involving all nature; a rhythm indifferent to the greediness of reason, indifferent to idiosyncrasies of culture and idealism. The image associated with Morel is that of the coalpits, where he descends daily and from which he ascends at night blackened and tired. It is a symbol of rhythmic descent and ascent, like a sexual rhythm, or like the rhythm of sleep and awaking or of death and life. True, the work in the coalpits reverses the natural use of the hours of light and dark and is an economic distortion...

Dorothy Van Ghent, "On Sons and Lovers," in The English Novel: Form and Function, 1953


As these thoughts indicate, flowers are the most important of the "vital forces" in Sons and Lovers. The novel is saturated with their presence, and Paul and his three sweethearts are judged, again and again, by their attitude toward them, or more accurately, by their relations with them. The "lad-and-girl" affair between Paul and Miriam, for example, is a virtual communion between the two lovers and the flowers they both admire.

Mark Spilka, "How to Pick Flowers," in The Love Ethic of D. H. Lawrence, 1955


One never catches Lawrence- this is one of his most remarkable qualities- "arranging." Words, scenes flow as fast and direct as if he merely traced them with a free rapid hand on sheet after sheet. Not a sentence seems thought about twice; not a word added for its effect on the architecture of the phrase. There is no arrangement that makes us say: "Look at this. This scene, this dialogue has the meaning of the book hidden in it." One of the curious qualities of Sons and Lovers is that one feels an unrest, a little quiver and shimmer in his page, as if it were composed of separate gleaming objects, by no means content to stand still and be looked at.

Virginia Woolf, "Notes on D. H. Lawrence," in The Moment and Other Essays, 1948

Sons and Lovers moves along a structural pattern determined by the nature of its human relationships. A wave-rhythm distinguishes, in beat and counterbeat, the major involvements of the characters: those of Walter and Gertrude Morel, Paul and his mother, Paul and Miriam, and Paul and Clara. In each of these relationships, separate episodes focus- in dramatically enacted dialogue, description, and action- aspects of each character-interconnection. Each event is a successive wave, and the movement of the relationship is the full tide which is its consummation. After that consummation, there are wavelike returns to the achieved tension in that relationship, but now each wave shows a diminishing strength and intensity. The reader of Sons and Lovers soon comes to anticipate the rhythmic returns and finds himself attuned to the Lawrencean mode. He doesn't ask for the conventional climactic development.

Seymour Betsky, "Rhythm and Theme: D. H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers,'" in The Achievement of D. H. Lawrence, 1953


To be born, with that genius, a miner's son at Eastwood in the eighteen-eighties- it is as if Destiny, having given him the genius, had arranged also that he should be enabled to develop it to the utmost and qualified to use it for the purposes for which it was meant. If he had not been born into the working-class he could not have known working-class life from the inside. As it was he enjoyed advantages that a writer middle-class born could not have had: the positive experience and a freedom both from illusions and from the debilitating sense of ignorance. On the other hand, gifted as he was, there was nothing to prevent his getting to know life at other social levels.

F. R. Leavis, "D. H. Lawrence and Human Existence," in Scrutiny, 1951

[Sons and Lovers Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[Sons and Lovers Contents]



Beal, Anthony. D. H. Lawrence. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1961. An analysis of the novels, with an excellent section on critical reception.

Callow, Philip. Son and Lover: The Young D. H. Lawrence. New York: Stein and Day, 1975. A biography with keen attention to the parallels between Lawrence's life and Sons and Lovers.

Draper, R. P. Profiles in Literature: D. H. Lawrence. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969. A particularly incisive guide to Lawrence's style, characters, and themes, using examples from the novels.

Farr, Judith, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "Sons and Lovers." Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970. Selected critical essays on Sons and Lovers, including Lawrence's unpublished preface and letters between himself and his colleagues.

Hough, Graham. The Dark Sun, A Study of D. H. Lawrence. New York: Macmillan, 1956. An analysis of the Miriam chapters as the center of Sons and Lovers.

Moore, Harry T. The Priest of Love: A Life of D. H. Lawrence. Carbondale, Ill: Souther Illinois Univ. Press, 1974. An excellent critical biography of Lawrence.

Spilka, Mark, ed. D. H. Lawrence, A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice- Hall, 1963. Includes Dorothy Van Ghent's essay on Sons and Lovers.

Tedlock, E. W., Jr., ed. D. H. Lawrence and "Sons and Lovers." New York: New York University Press, 1965. The finest series of documents on the making of Sons and Lovers. Also includes excellent critical essays by Frank O'Connor, Louis Frailberg, and Alfred Kazin.



    The White Peacock, 1911
    The Tresspasser, 1912
    The Rainbow, 1915
    Women in Love, 1920
    The Lost Girl, 1920
    Aaron's Rod, 1922
    Kangaroo, 1923
    The Boy in the Bush (with M. L. Skinner), 1924
    The Plumed Serpent, 1926
    Lady Chatterley's Lover, 1928


    The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, 1914
    England, My England and Other Stories, 1922
    The Ladybird, The Fox, The Captain's Doll, 1922
    St. Mawr, together with The Princess, 1925
    The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories, 1928
    The Man Who Died (published as The Escaped Cock, 1929), 1931
    The Virgin and the Gypsy, 1930
    Love among the Haystacks and Other Pieces, 1930
    The Lovely Lady and Other Stories, 1933
    A Modern Lover, 1934


    Twilight in Italy, 1916
    Sea and Sardinia, 1921
    Mornings in Mexico, 1927
    Etruscan Places, 1932


    Love Poems and Others, 1913
    Amores, 1916
    Look! We have come through, 1917
    New Poems, 1918
    Bay, a Book of Poems, 1919
    Birds, Beasts and Flowers, 1923
    The Collected Poems of D. H. Lawrence, 1928
    Pansies, 1929
    Nettles, 1930
    Last Poems, 1932


ECC [Sons and Lovers Contents] []

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