Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sons and Lovers - D H Lawrence

One more classic ticked off. Lawrence writes with such patience and detail and such deep understanding of human nature that I felt he was staring right into my soul and that I was fully tied in with his characters. 'Sons and Lovers' is a controversial book and among his best and brings out the complex relationship between mothers, sons and their lovers. It was a completely new experience to read writing like this and I can only marvel at D.H. Lawrence and his skill, his erudition and clarity.
Indialog, 381 p. Rs. 225
I was completely sucked into the world of Morel, the rugged miner and his harsh world. In comes his young bride from a much higher family who marries the vulnerable, tough miner with old world charming manners. Mrs. Morel keeps house admirably and rears children while handling a temperamental husband and his drinking, violent ways. Her love-hate relationship, fierce commitment to her man and her family shines through and holds the story together. The characters seep effortlessly under your skin and I feel like I know how much money there is at home, what there is to eat, how the kitchen smells, how the garden looks and how everyone feels.

Enter the first son William, then the others - Paul, Annie and Arthur. Clearly the house is peaceful when Morel is away. The mother and children side up on one side. William once stands up to his father and is ready to hit him even if he so much as touched his mother. When William goes away to work Mrs. Morel's life becomes lonely and in steps Paul, a sensitive soul who assumes responsibility for her happiness. The two share a special bond and Mrs. Morel finally finds a boy/man doing all the things one would want the man in their life to do. Paul takes care of her every need, addresses her with great tenderness, does many of her chores. When William is besotted with a fatuous girl, Paul is the one to hear Mrs. Morel's troubles.

Paul grows up and meets Miriam, someone whom he loves with great tenderness but Mrs. Morel does not approve of her. Consequently Paul cannot give himself fully to her. Similarly Paul gets into a relationship with Clara Baxter, a married woman who is separated from her husband, but cannot commit to her either. Somewhere deep down he realises that as long as his mother is alive he might not be able to commit to any woman. While in the passionate relationship with Clara, Paul drifts away from his mother, gets into a fight with Clara's ex-husband and finally dumps Clara.

William dies of an illness. Morel suffers injury but survives. Mrs. Morel is taken ill with cancer in the end and dies a slow death. Paul takes care of her with all his heart and soul. In the hospital he meets Baxter who is also ill and somehow becomes friends with him. It is these paradoxical aspects that D.H. Lawrence explores so easily - the way love and hate are so closely entwined, the way the two men in Clara's life get together and are bound by their love and hate for each other. In fact the number of times that the characters mention how they hate the people they love is an amazing insight. It contains  the opposite always - love will have hate of equal measure.

Some lines and thoughts are outstanding. At one place he describes the poor as those who have to depend on others for their income and what it does to their demeanour. His insights into human nature, the complexity of emotions, our own limitations and incapability to transcend beliefs are superb. It is written with great care and patience, with great stillness and concentration, as he separates each complex emotion from another carefully until we can see it clearly for what it is. There is no ambiguity in our understanding. The characters themselves are so full of life, so believable and full of contradictions. Paul's great ache after his mother passes away, his great desire to touch her and in the end how he finds the strength to walk away and find his own life leaves a great ache in our own heart for our ability or our inability to feel that way. If I had not read this book i would never have thought that human nature could be understood so well and its complex nature written about so easily.

The test perhaps is this - that someone so far removed from the world of Morel's - someone like me, can feel exactly the same emotion as Morel feels, Mrs. Morel feels, William feels, how Paul feels, how Baxter feels. As they say, if you know and can understand human nature (i.e. if you can understand yourself) you can certainly write stories that will appeal to people. Wonderful read.

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