It’d not be an exaggeration if I say that the author D. H. Lawrence was a psychologist too. Well, that might be a limited sphere scenario as our beloved Lawrence took most of his time to explore the sexual side of human psyche. That’s why we see what we see in his novels – distinguished characters, (un)usual themes, misguided explorations, unwilling journeys and a chaotic confusion at times. His novel Sons and Lovers is a strong display of ‘Oedipus Complex’. In simple terms, Oedipus complex is a phrase which means excessive affection of a child for the parent of the opposite sex to him or herself. Coined by the late 19th and early 20th-century psychologist, Sigmund Freud, Lawrence used this concept in Sons and Lovers very successfully only to attract severe criticism for him and his work at that time.
In a nutshell, what happens in the novel storywise is like the following. Mrs. Gertrude Morel was married to a coal miner and had an unhappy married life. She had two sons William and Paul, but she was more attached to the elder son. She used to shower all her affection on him and had high hopes for him. Her elder son was also deeply attached to her. Even when he gets a good job in London with a decent salary he used to send love letters to her. She was highly disappointed when he fell in love with a girl there and settled with her in London itself. After the death of William, she shifted her attention to Paul, her younger son. But Paul was involved in a love relation with Miriam, a highly possessive girl. Mrs. Morel is unable to accept Miriam. There are times when Paul has a tough time pacifying her mother that he loves her and not Miriam. Actually speaking more than sons its the mother who is possessive about her sons, be it William or Paul. She doesn’t allow them to settle down with anyone. She feels that with someone else in their life they will neglect their mother. There is a kind of unseen emotional prison which does not let Paul break free from the affection of his mother. He feels a sense of guilt after the sexual acts either with Miriam of Clara. And in the classic chaotic confusion, he is left alone by either of them and turns back to her dying mother. And when at the end Mrs. Morel dies, Paul is devastated and left all alone!
The plot of the novel is simple and the narrative, as a typical early 20th-century novel, is a little boring. The theme which was too complex for the readers that time is well settled with the modern readers and the novel Sons and Lovers becomes enjoyable in the terms of its theme. What a reader might not like is the over-writing. Some chapters are unnecessarily prolonged and it can be said for the entire novel too. Too much description when things might be told in a little becomes the pain for the readers of the day and this is where the contemporary reader falls back to modern authors for ‘quick and straight’ tales.
To conclude, yes you may go for Sons and Lovers. This is undoubtedly a classic without being extravagant. However, be ready to get bored at times and also psychologically ready to sacrifice some of the chapters which are entirely useless in the terms of plot development. At the end, you will be served with the uncertainty – what Paul would do! What you will enjoy is surely the reading progress and a sense of satisfaction of having read one of the D. H. Lawrence’s novels… happy reading!