In the novel Sons and Lovers by D. H Lawrence, Walter Morel the Miner belongs to that class of common people who are devoid of intellectual content, full of physical life closely in touch with the earth and rejoice in the life of nature. In his simplicity and humble acceptance of life, he is spiritually akin to the rustics of Hardy. Though the disease of the flesh has not touched him; he is open and spontaneous in his responses to life, close to the primitive in his uninhibited delight: singing, dancing, and drinking. His tragedy is that he has married a woman of a middle-class family also loves ideas and looks down upon his instinctive, physical life.
In his youth, Walter Morel had been a vital man of action, sensuous, non-intellectual and living for the moment. He possessed a fascinating personality that cast a spell on Gertrude Morel when she met him at a Christmas party. He has a sturdy physique, ruddy cheeks, shiny black mustache and tumbling hair. His movements are full of animation betoken his zest for life. In one meeting with him, he gives the impression that there is nothing wrong with life, no complexity and that one has only to turn to life to feel its manifold joys. Therefore, when Gertrude sees this man at the Christmas party, she is at once aware of the fact that he is a different kind of person, a sort of person she has never known before.
Walter Morel’s marriage with Gertrude had been the unfortunate result of the romantic heat of the moment. Their natures are poles apart. Hence they have never been on good terms with each other.it is indeed a cruel stroke of luck that Morel marries a woman who is so much his opposite and who will deny his personality and his way of life. Morel hides his real condition from his wife. He manages to get furniture and other things on credit and pays rent for the house he lives in. But one day Mrs. Morel happens to discover the unpaid bills and also finds out the truth that the house they live in does not belong to Morel. This small incident shakes her faith in him. Their romantic attraction for each other begins to melt away.
Mrs. Morel’s unsympathetic attitude towards Mr. Morel has been responsible to a great extent for his alienation with the rest of the family. He has acted in an irresponsible manner but his offense is not so great as to cool Mrs. Morel’s tender feelings for him forever. Although we see the story entirely from Mrs. Morel’s point of view, it seems that Walter Morel is in fact, being harshly treated by his wife. There is some sympathy for him but Lawrence is biased in favor of Mrs. Morel. From then on, Mrs. Morel is generally seen in a bad light, although there are moments when the old cheerful moments emerge. In fact, he resents his wife’s attempt to reform him for he loves and likes this sort of life and sees nothing vital in an intellectually oriented approach to life. And trying to reform him his life destroys him.
His manners become increasingly gross and he meets his wife’s sarcasm with offensive vulgarity. When Gertrude is discussing religion and philosophy with the minister, apparently to slight the miner who cannot participate in their highly intellectual discussions, he gives one of the ugliest exhibitions of his vulgarity. He invites the minister to look at his dirty hands and asks him to examine his singlet smelling of sweat. All that the miner is trying to do by exhibiting his vulgarity is to make his wife realize that he works hard all day to earn his bread and that it does not discuss religion and philosophy and to think one superior for having had a discussion.
Walter Morel is not altogether an unkind father. He is kind and tender towards his children when he is in a good mood, but such occasions are rare. He is treated by them as a person to be feared and despised rather than loved. Walter Morel feels that he is being wronged, but he is himself responsible for the miserable situation he finds himself in. But Mrs. Morel is no less responsible. Her too much occupation with her children makes Walter jealous.
Walter Morel may not be seen as a good husband and good father, but he is not totally devoid of native goodness. He may be crude and unrefined in his manners, but he is essentially noble at heart. His repentance after he has shut his wife out on moonlight, or when he has hurt her by the drawer he has flung, is quite genuine. He has real love for his children, though they never respond to his feelings, as being under the influence of their mother. Long after William’s death, he finds it unbearable to pass by the cemetery in which he is buried or by the office where he worked.
Towards the end of the novel Morel is seen as a broken, dejected person, virtually effaced and completely ignored by his family. Nobody loves him. He no longer rules the house. After the funeral, he weeps before the relatives of Mrs. Morel, but one is doubtful of the sincerity of his grief. He proclaims without the slightest hesitation that he has always tried everything for her, that she had been such a good wife and that he could never find any fault with her. It is here that Morel loses our sympathy.