There can be no argument that D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers is a study of human relationships. Gertrude Morel, because of her turbulent and odd relationship with her husband, ends up developing deep emotional relations with her two eldest sons’. The second eldest in particular, Paul, is the receiver of most of this deep emotion.
Because of these feelings and the deeper-than-usual emotional bond between the two, Paul has difficulty being comfortable in his own relationships. Paul’s relationship with Miriam is plagued by his mother’s disapproval, jealousy, and Miriam’s own spirituality.
Paul’s relationship with Miriam is one where the love is not allowed to flourish. Although there is no doubt that there is love between the two, the forces around them create tension that suppresses it.
Miriam believes herself not nearly as beautiful as she really is. Because of this, she is always looking for things to love her. In the case of Paul, she believes that if Paul was to need her if she could take care of him, “if he could depend on her, if she could, as it were, have him in her arms, how she would love him.”(137)
However, this is never allowed to happen. Paul’s mother Gertrude already occupies this space in his life. Thus the relationship between the two is a struggle for an identity. The relationship is a struggle between Paul and his mother and Paul and Miriam.
The main conflicts between Paul and Miriam are between physical-spiritual differences and his mother. Miriam holds spirituality very close to her. The thing with Miriam is always on a very spiritual level.
Lawrence showed this sometimes with depictions of flowers. Paul has other needs that Miriam could never fulfill. “You make me feel spiritual and I don’t want to be spiritual.” (190) Eventually, Miriam introduces Paul to Clara to hopefully fulfill these needs. Paul’s mother is also a major conflict.
Paul’s relationship with his mother was very dominating. When Paul compared his two loves, it caused great tension between the two, he would begin to hate Miriam. This tension is similar to the tension that caused William to die. Whenever William brought his lover, Lilly, around his mother, it pained him.
He felt the need to belittle her constantly in comparison to his mother. He knew she did not completely approve of her. After William’s death, Paul became his mother’s chief emotional outlet, thus Miriam becomes subject to similar trials as Lilly. Because of these conflicts, Paul made Miriam suffer.
The main problem that Gertrude has with Miriam is her worth and her family status. When the eldest son, William, went out with Lilly Gertrude, she was not horribly adamant against her. Then, why should she be against Miriam? Lilly was not as intelligent as Gertrude, Lilly had no chance of breaking, or coming anywhere close to breaking that bond.
Also, William was already out in the business world. Gertrude wanted her sons to be more successful than she and William were well on his way. Although I’m sure Gertrude rather preferred William not married, she wasn’t totally against it. After William died, Paul was all she had left, Arthur being more like his father. Miriam is on the other hand, intelligent, spiritual, and willing to learn. Gertrude’s worry and disapproval caused Paul to be unhappy. Also, Gertrude’s goal of having her sons do better than her financially and marry into respectable families didn’t match up to Miriam’s farm life.
The relationship and Miriam’s love grew. There did seem to be a moment when Paul realized there were two female forces in life. The one of warmth and the one of inspiration. His mother of course is the one of inspiration. Paul’s mother continued to vent her dislike for Miriam. Dealing with that warmth, some of what Gertrude could not give him, Paul’s physical needs became apparent. Miriam, being as religious as she is, shudders at the thought of consummating the relationship.
This is where Miriam’s endless love shows through. Miriam introduces Paul to Clara. Miriam loves Paul so much she sacrifices herself to him. Even though Paul loves Miriam, upon comparing her with his mother, he hates her. Finally, giving in to his mother, he breaks it off with Miriam. We get the impression that Miriam waits for Paul forever. It concretely ends when his mother dies and he leaves to find himself.
Sons and Lovers is a study of human relationships. Paul is the receiver of most of his mother’s deep emotional feelings and has with her a bond tighter than normal. Because of this Paul has trouble handling and being comfortable with his own relationships. Paul’s relationship with Miriam was plagued by his mother’s disapproval. If it wasn’t for the selfishness of his mother, Paul would have most likely been happy with Miriam.