DH Lawrence who died at the age of 44 has left us novels that grow in complexity and sensuousness the longer we ponder them; they are especially a wonder to contemplate in old age. He died so young! And yet he realized the gradations and ascents and descents of the arch of life, and did them justice. I began by re-reading The Rainbow (mind blowing, really) and went on to Sons and Lovers, his first novel. Americans, and surprisingly, American-Africans, will find much of our history’s indelible markings in these books. I had not recalled from reading Lawrence as a student the grimy blackness of the colliers (coal miners) that is despised even though it was coal mining, primarily by pick and shovel, that kept miners and their families alive. The workers grossly exploited, family life suffered all the afflictions – drunkenness, wife beating, worship of whiteness – that would trail emigrants to the American South (especially) and which these emigrants imposed on the black enslaved and eventually (at least symbolically) liberated of color population.
Here also is the love of gardening! Which keeps anxious wives from going insane as they worry their male kin will be crushed to death or otherwise mangled in the frequent calamities that occur in the mines.
While The Rainbow is excellent as an exploration of how men and women have found their way in personal intimate relationships under a system that relied almost completely on the dictates of the church, Sons and Lovers takes us into the very heart of relationships between parents and their children, as they inhabit an England in which the working class isn’t considered by the upper class to be human. Or I should say: not as they themselves are. Whatever that was and is.
From this distance of more freedom for humans to express their true natures, I can understand why Sons and Lovers falters toward the end. The protagonist, Paul, dearly cares for Miriam, as she cares for him. But for years he has no physical desire for her; for her part she escapes into a mysticism that allows her to acknowledge deep love that has no physical expression. One suspects these two were, as were so many in earlier centuries, afflicted by “the love that had no name.” At least during this period of development. But maybe not! As Paul eventually falls head over heels for a suffragette, who scandalizes society because she has left her husband and devotes herself to women’s liberation.
Throughout the novel there is the minutest attention to Paul’s relationship with his mother. The bond is intense; at times edifying, at times choking, but always leaving an impression of mother and son being of one soul. Every potential partner is scrutinized as if by the same mind. ~aw
Original post 2022-11-27 – Other Peoples Everything, Etc.