Paul’s Relationship with His Mother and Its Effects on His Growth as Shown in Sons and Lovers
D. H. Lawrence explores the deep recesses of the human mind. In order to illuminate human behavior and therefore, his novels have psychological interests. In Sons and Lovers, Lawrence incorporated the stream of consciousness technique to dig out the unspeakable impulses in the mind of his characters. The Oedipal affinity between Mrs. Morel and Paul is the central theme of this novel. Mrs. Morel’s love for her son is excessively possessive and unconsciously she dominates over and controls his life to the most disastrous effect. Paul, on the other hand, has a similar excessive love for his mother. We know that filial love is quite normal and there is nothing unusual in their normal relationship. But Lawrence tends to suggest that both Mrs. Morel and Paul by their excessive concern for each other cross the boundary of normalcy and their relationship becomes colored by the psychological abnormality known as Oedipus complex. Paul’s ‘mother fixation’ remains even after he has become adult and this has a disastrous consequence on his emotional and sexual life.
According to Freudian theory of Oedipal-complex, a son loves his mother more than he loves his father. In fact, a son may even hate the father because he thinks his father to be rival in love. Likewise, a mother loves her son more than she loves a daughter. This excessive love of the son for his mother and of the mother for her son according to Freud is based on a natural attraction between the two opposite sexes. Of course, this kind of sexuality is a high sublimated passion and does not have this gross sensuality in it.Paul’s relationship with his mother is so close that in a sense, he becomes his mother’s emotional lover and takes the place of his father and becomes her husband substitute. Paul hated his father. He often prays, “Lord, let my father die.”
Mrs. Morel is dissatisfied with her husband and turns to her sons for emotional fulfillment. First of all, she takes on her eldest son William after casting off her husband. William fell in love with a girl named Gyp, but Mrs. Morel does not like her.
Mrs. Morel after the death of her eldest son turns her affection towards Paul. He loves her almost like a mother and despises his father. He hates the sounds of his father’s coming home drunk at night, possibly beating his mother and almost certainly quarrels with her. He painfully watches how his mother suffers when Mr. Morel does not come back home from work. As a young boy, his greatest joy is to please his mother. When he reaches for blackberries in chapter 4, he would rather die than disappoint her. This has been called, ‘mother fixation’. Their relationship is thus, “Mrs. Morel accepted from Paul a spray of wildflowers in the tone of a woman accepting a love token.”
From the mother’s point of view, Mrs. Morel’s sons are the partial fulfillment of her unfulfilled life. As her sons go out into the world, Gertrude Morel sees them as a reflection of herself. She wants for her children those things in life that she felt she had been denied. After Williams death, she shifts herself off from daily life and continues to brood for a long time. when Paul becomes seriously ill, she comes back again to her normal life and since then Paul becomes a favorite of his mother. The over-possessive mother exercises an unhealthy influence on the emotional development of the growing boy.
Paul’s love for his beloved Miriam is a desperate attempt to free himself from the existence attachment to his mother. But he fails to give Miriam all his love because half of his soul he has already given to his mother. Mrs. Morel becomes jealous of Miriam because she will suck all of Paul’s soul and lave nothing for her. Therefore, she does her best to break their relationship. It is the dark shadow of his mother image that comes between Paul’s relation with Miriam and spoils that relationship. Paul is conscious of the damaging influence of his mother and tells her bitterly, “I shall never meet the right woman as long as you are living.”
Mrs. Morel always prayed for her son’s happiness, but she does not know that she is the cause of much of his unhappiness. Se, with all the passion of her strong heart, begins to hate Miriam. Paul is aware of his need for both of them but can give himself wholly to neither of them. The result is intense heart-breaking suffering. This conflict in the latter part of the novel is replaced by the conflict between Miriam and Clara. But Paul’s relationship with Clara also becomes a failure, for the dark-image of mother fixation is also present there. Paul is incapable of developing any satisfactory relationship with any woman because of his mother. The Oedipus-Complex in him destroys him emotionally.
Paul is conscious of his mother’s domination and he struggles to be free in order to go forward in life. Mrs. Morel is wrong in being too possessive. Both Mrs. Morel and Miriam want to possess the soul of Paul.But satisfactory relationships result only when we recognize the ‘otherness’ of other individuals. Mrs. Morel failed to realize this truth and so ruined the life of Paul. The tragedy occurs from the damaging influence of a mother on her son. The illness of Mrs. Morel brings out the true parental love in Paul. The way he was nursing his mother is really moving. Even the mercy killing of the mother with an overdose of Morphine is a kind of sacrifice of a very dear thing of a beloved one.