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Sons and Lovers Setting and Theme

The novel that won recognition first D.H. Lawrence ,  as a modern novelist,  is Sons and Lovers,  published in 1913,  when he was only twenty-eight.  It is a conventional autobiographical novel of its date, but marks well the distinctive traits of Lawrence,  as a modern novelist.

The novel is autobiographical in its setting and story as also in its reflections of the author's personal temper and outlook. The story is set in the coal-mining village of Bestwood in  Nottinghamshire. Lawrence, whose father was a Nottinghamshire miner, passed his early days there , and had the Personal experience of the coal-mining environment and life.

The story of the novels runs parallel to Lawrence's own life and experience-his working class background,  his obsession with sexual passion, his irresolute living and so on. It contains a suggestive account of his own family and association. His father's low culture and dissolute habits, his mother's unhappy conjugal life,  craving for a better and cultural living and possessive attachment to her sons and the tension of the family situation are all represented autobiographically  in the novel.  His own sexual passion and interest in books and painting are also found recorded here.

The story of the novel centres round the family of a coal-miner,  Morel,  whose wife is thoroughly disgusted with his way of life.  Mrs. Morel is drawn to her first two sons - William and Paul - and wants to satisfy her want in husband in them. After the death of her husband and William, all her attention is fixed to Paul. Paul develops some weakness for two girls, but his mother's overpowering influence prevents his satisfactory relationship with either of them. Mrs. Morel dies of cancer and Paul, though deeply distressed, turns towards a free, happy life. 

Sons and Lovers is not merely rich in autobiographical interests. It is also an impressive psychological novel.  The novelist turns to the deeper psychology of the mother and her son and their instinctive attachment to each other.  Mrs. Morel's affectionate domination over her son is psychologically most intricate and fascinating. D.H. Lawrence has not,  of course, adopted here the technique of stream of consciousness,  Like Joyce and Mrs. Woolf.

There is one more interesting feature of the novel. This is the representation of the working class life. Sons and Lovers is ,  perhaps, the first English novel with a truly working-class background. Here it is much more advanced than Mrs. Gaskell's Mary Burton, supposed to be the first novel on the working class.                                                         



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