Sons and Lovers
Since Lawrence published his first work, his novels have been censored early and often. Sons and Lovers was banned immediately upon publication and frequently thereafter for sex, and lots of it, with frequent nods to Freud and Oedipus. This novel currently sits at #64 on the American Library Association's list of the most challenged books of the 20th century.
The Modern Library recently placed ‘Sons and Lovers’ ninth on their list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.
While the novel initially incited a lukewarm critical reception, along with allegations of obscenity, it is today regarded as a masterpiece by many critics and is often regarded as Lawrence’s finest achievement.
The autobiographical novel, published in 1913, tells the story of Paul Morel, sensitive and talented son of an English coal miner in Nottinghamshire. His mother, Gertrude, the educated daughter of Puritanical middle-class parents, has married the miner in the heat of physical attraction. The marriage soon disintegrates; Walter Morel takes to drink and beats his wife and children, and Mrs. Morel pours all her possessive love upon her sons, especially Paul.
The novel is concerned with Paul’s painful introduction to the commercial world, his discovery of books and art, his growing discontent with his background of poverty and gloom, and his developing talent for painting. It records his lover affairs with Miriam and with Clara Dawes. Because of the strong bond of love between him and his mother, he is never able to give his affection wholly to either of the women.
‘Sons and Lovers,’ which was attacked on its publication because of its frankness in dealing with sexual matters, is more naturalistic than Lawrence’s later work. It is remarkable for its portrayal of English mining life, its vivid characterizations, and its poetic descriptions of nature.