Critical Essay on Sons and Lovers

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Author: Chris Semansky
Editor: David A. Galens
Date: 2003
From: Novels for Students(Vol. 18. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,435 words

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Sons and Lovers is an example of a Bildungsroman, an autobiographical novel about the early years of a character's life, and that character's emotional and spiritual development. The term derives from German novels of education, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, which details the experiences of an innocent young man who discovers his purpose and passion in life through a series of adventures and misadventures. Lawrence offers up a rendering of his own first twenty-five years of life in more or less chronological order, showing how Paul Morel must negotiate the pull of family and culture to cultivate his individuality. Without his mother's sour but demanding presence and her daily disillusionment with the world, Paul might not have developed his love for painting or his desire to transcend his provincial roots.

By writing a novel that is predominantly based on people and times from his own life, Lawrence implicitly invites readers to treat the work as nonfiction. This has often led to confusion, however, as some of the events in Sons and Lovers have no factual basis in Lawrence's life but rather are symbolic dramatizations of his key emotional struggles. The character in the book that has occasioned the most controversy is Miriam Leivers, whom Lawrence based on Jessie Chambers, a friend from his youth. Chambers encouraged Lawrence to rewrite the novel after he had sent her a draft. She was disappointed in the revision as well, because she felt it did not accurately portray their relationship. Chambers attempted to tell the "real" story of her relationship with Lawrence in her own memoir, D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record.

The relationship between Paul and Miriam that Lawrence describes fulfills the conventional criteria of the Bildungsroman, which often includes a detailing of the protagonist's love affairs. Critic Brian Finney is even more specific in his description of the genre's criteria in his examination of the novel D. H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers when he writes, "Normally, there are at least two love affairs, one demeaning, and one exalting." In this scheme, Miriam, of course, represents the "demeaning" relationship. Although she gives herself to Paul sexually,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420050253