Paul Morel's Second Home: The Role of the Factory Employees in Sons and Lovers
Rodden, John, Papers on Language & Literature
Paul Morel's great journey from his small Bestwood home to Mr. Jordan's Nottingham factory in D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (1913) is not the decisive break with home that either he fears or his mother Gertrude expects. Paul is terrified at the thought of becoming a "prisoner of industrialism" (127), and Gertrude imagines him "in the world," in one of "the great centres of industry" (127). The tensions between "the business world, with its regulated system of values, and its impersonality" (115) and Paul's home world--between factory and home, and by extension, town and country, dirtiness and purity, body and spirit--remain in a delicate state of precarious balance yet irresolution throughout the novel. (1) But the factory soon takes on a "homely feel" (141) for Paul. Much more than he realizes, it approaches a re-creation of his Bestwood home and his major childhood relationships.
Although they are sketched only briefly, Paul's co-workers are described in resonant language so similar to that used about the Morel parents and Miriam Leivers that the parallels are clear and noteworthy. With the factory serving as a virtual extension of Paul's home, Polly is comparable to Gertrude, and Fanny and Connie, taken together, comprise an analogue to Miriam. Even the men at the factory with whom Paul has contact--Mr. Pappleworth, Mr. Jordan, and Baxter Dawes--so strikingly represent different aspects of Walter Morel as to seem incarnations of distinctive sub-personalities of him. Lawrence may not have explicitly intended these parallels, and Paul is certainly unaware of the underlying implications of his "homely" factory and its connections to his past and future. Yet the comparisons arise from the novel's rich organic fabric nonetheless.
The less conspicuous strands of that fabric illuminate Lawrence's art as they reveal the nature of the identities between Paul's home and factory. The aim is not, however, simply to point out the relative continuity between Paul's childhood and early manhood. Rather, attention to these parallels casts light upon the progress of Paul's growth and the role of the factory women in that development. Gertrude, Miriam, and Clara Dawes are often viewed as "the three women" in Paul's life as son and lover, with little attention devoted to "Paul as Workman" and his relationships to the women at the factory. Alistair Niven's casual observation that a "trio of women [Gertrude, Miriam, and Clara] initiate Paul Morel into the mysteries and practicalities of life" is the typical critical view (55).
While Gertrude, Miriam, and Clara are undeniably the most fully developed and significant female characters, the tendency to study them and ignore the novel's other women as inconsequential (and thereby to de-emphasize Paul's view of himself and all men as absorbed in the work world) is unfortunate. Critics have pointed out that Annie, acting first as a mother-figure in Paul's childhood and finally as a co-conspirator in Mrs. Morel's euthanasia, is a prominent though usually unnoticed force in Paul's development; and the line of Paul's attachment can be traced from Annie to Gertrude to Miriam to Clara, with tensions and modulations throughout. (2) Paul's relationship, however, with the factory women--whom Paul meets before "Lad-and-Girl Love" with Miriam--represents a crucial, transitional moment in his maturation process. They form a significant, easily overlooked phase of his successive attachments, properly situated after Mrs. Morel and before Miriam. This location is appropriate, given that Polly, Fanny, and Connie mirror selected aspects of Mrs. Morel and Miriam, respectively.
To focus upon the resemblance of factory and home in Sons and Lovers also complicates the related thematic oppositions mentioned above, revealing them not as simple polarities but rather, like Paul's home and Jordan's factory, as images drawn in richly ambivalent terms. It is through Clara that Paul becomes aware of the complexities of work and life, and through her that he finally breaks his "bondage" to both home and factory and truly "launches into life." (3)
Fourteen-year-old Paul associates Jordan's Surgical Appliances factory with "dirtiness" and with the coal mines as he walks up the steps of the "queer, dark, cardboard factory" (118). He enters the factory courtyard and begins to ascend the factory steps; the journey, with its single ray of sunshine, resembles a miner's ascent from the pits, out of the "jaws of the dragon":
they [Mrs. Morel and Paul] ventured under the archway, as into the jaws of the dragon. They emerged into a wide yard, like a well. ... It was littered with straw and boxes. ... The sunshine actually caught one crate whose straw was streaming onto the yard like gold. (118)
The narrator says in the very next sentence, "Elsewhere the place was like a pit" (italics mine). Everything is dirty--a dirty courtyard door, dirty steps, and a dirty glass door at the staircase top. By this time, Paul is "so much stunned that he notices only the outside things" (119).
Yet Mrs. Morel notices what Paul sees only weeks later: the fact that the interior is quite different. Inside the warehouse are creamy paper parcels, rays of subdued light in which the glossy letters "seemed luminous" (118), and beautiful dark brown wood counters. Mrs. Morel, in short, sees Jordan's factory as a home: "clerks, with their shirt-sleeves rolled back, were going about in an at-home sort of way. ... All was quiet and very homely" (118). It is as if Paul and Gertrude have climbed out of the mine pits into the idyllic Derbyshire countryside and Selby valley. The distinction between the dirty grittiness down below or outside and the cleanliness and homeliness above and inside is reinforced by the difference between the dungeon where the men eat and upstairs where they work:
At five o' clock all the men went down into the dungeon ... eating bread-and-butter on the bare, dirty boards, talking with the same kind of ugly haste and slovenliness with which they ate their meal. And yet upstairs the atmosphere among them was jolly and clear. The cellar and the trestles affected them. (136, italics mine)
The factory exerts the same influence on its men (especially laborers such as Baxter Dawes) as the coal mines do on Walter Morel. As Morel tells Mr. Heaton, the local minister, he works in "a black hole" (48).
Situating purity amid dirt implies an antiseptic cleanliness or sterility, as the name "surgical" factory suggests. Similar conditions prevail in the setting of the miners' Bestwood dwellings. Lawrence portrays the history of the countryside as a protracted struggle between the beauty of nature and the ugliness of the pits. (4) Though the earliest small mines "scarcely soiled" the country (3), the larger mines that followed them began to pollute the area. The notorious Hell Row homes in which the miners once lived, known as "The Bottoms," were clean, substantial homes; but because the kitchens were built in the rear, the conditions are dirty: "So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened onto the nasty alley of ash-pits" (8).
The paradox of a what could be called "soiled cleanness," in which the dirt lies not at the core but on the periphery, is also apparent in the Morel home itself. (5) Paul is the son of a miner, and the miner's life is a dirty and unrefined one. Mr. Morel tells Gertrude during their courtship that the mines turn some men into human moles of "moudiwarps." But he says he is "used to it" (15). (6) Yet on the day Paul is born, Morel comes home filthy and grimy, caring not about the baby or his young wife but, like an animal, only about his food:
[H]e began to eat. The fact that his wife was ill, that he had another boy, was nothing to him at that moment. He was too tired; he wanted his dinner; he wanted to sit with his arms lying on the board. ...
It was a struggle to face his wife at this moment, and he was tired. His face was black, and smeared with sweat. His singlet had dried again, soaking the dirt in. He had a dirty woolen scarf round his throat. So he stood at the foot of the bed. (45)
Gertrude embodies a temperamental as well as behavioral "purity" in the Morel home: "a puritan, like her father, high-minded and really stern" (18). She is a woman of the spirit, whereas Morel is a man of the earth with an almost pagan vitality, manifested in his love of dancing. Gertrude is from a proper Congregationalist family, but Morel is descended from a French refugee who married an English barmaid--"if it had been a marriage" (17). (7)
The history of the mines and the Morel couple's differences in temperament and background generate the dynamic, omnipresent tensions in Paul's home life, all of which pulsate in Paul himself. Religious, dutiful Gertrude and pagan, carefree Walter are much less complex characters than Paul; in him the tensions swirling between his parents' opposing worlds of flesh and spirit meet and collide. The novel is a chronicle of Paul's attempts to cope with the sustained conflicts he experiences between these worlds.
Paul's relationships to the men and women in Jordan's factory resemble his relationship to his father and mother. As if they form a collective family portrait, Mr. Pappleworth, Mr. Jordan, and Baxter Dawes appear like a composite Walter Morel. Paul likes his thirty-six-year-old supervisor Pappleworth, who
had a certain "saloon bar" flavour about him, was always natural, and treated him as if he were a comrade. Sometimes the "Spiral Boss" was irritable. ... Even then, however, he was not offensive, but one of those people who hurt themselves by their own irritability more than they hurt other people. (136)
Mr. Pappleworth has a red nose, and his movements are "quick" and "staccato" (129). Like Morel, he works particularly well with his hands, writing "the entry rapidly, in a beautiful flourishing hand" (130). Similarly, Morel dances "as if it were natural and joyous in him" (17). Morel also has a rich, ringing laugh and the "sensuous flame of life" (14); like Pappleworth's playful criticism of Paul's penmanship, Morel's humor is "soft, non-intellectual, warm, a kind of gamboling" (17). Like Pappleworth too, Morel always hurts himself more than others by his anger. After he flings the drawer that hits Gertrude on the forehead and causes her to bleed, he tries vainly to blame her for the incident:
He had hurt himself most; and he was the more damaged because he would never say a word to her, or express his sorrow. He tried to wriggle out of it. "It was her own fault," he said to himself. Nothing, however, could prevent his inner consciousness from inflicting on him the punishment which ate into his spirit like rust. ... [H]e insisted to himself it was her fault. And so he broke himself. (55-56)
Unlike the case with Pappleworth, Paul at first hates and resents Mr. Jordan. His early attitude toward Jordan is similar to his childhood view of Mr. Morel. Paul "hated the little man, who had made such a clod of him" in the interview and is "disgusted" with his mother for "not being prouder with this common little man" (120, 119). Paul repeatedly belittles Jordan as a commoner, a workman much like his father; the exchange between Mrs. Morel and Paul, in which Gertrude soothes Paul's fears of Jordan, echoes Paul's childhood terror of Walter:
"Never mind, my boy, I'm sure he'll be all right, and you won't see much of him. ..."
"But wasn't Mr. Jordan common, mother? Does he own it all?"
"I suppose he was a workman who has got on," she said. (122)
Although he later remarks that Jordan is "very decent" and defends him against Clara's criticism (319), Paul typically regards Jordan as insensitive and bull-headed. The wooden leg imprinted on company stationery, on which he receives his invitation for an interview, now outrages him. It seems "monstrous to him that a business could be run on wooden legs" (116). The reference recalls Walter's breaking his leg in a mining accident in the same chapter.
With Morel laid up in the Nottingham hospital, Paul has begun to consider himself "the man in the house now" and even to be a rival breadwinner-husband-father of the family (111). Indeed, Paul's hostility toward Jordan and his father partly arises from what Paul believes is their unmerited patriarchal authority. To Paul, Jordan "did not look like the boss and owner of the show, so he had to play the role of proprietor ..." (133). When Jordan holds Paul's application letter, it seemed "strange and different in the fat red hand of the man" (119). The letter in Jordan's hands seems "like a part of him gone astray. He resented the way the man held it" (120).
Indeed it is as if the letter in Jordan's possession--Paul's application statement for work--signifies the wayward Walter side of Paul Morel. Just as Paul associates the factory and its owner with dirtiness, "impersonality" (115), and alienation, young Paul associates his father with savagery and dehumanizing industrialism. Walter Morel becomes the destructive cog in a home that is otherwise a merrily humming, quite homey factory during Paul's boyhood. Just as Jordan's factory has a "homely feel," then, the Morel home has a busily welcome, buzzing, factory-like feel--that is, until Mr. Morel returns:
The children, alone with their mother, told her all about the day's happenings, everything. Nothing had really taken place in them until it was told to their mother. But as soon as the father came in, everything stopped. He was like the scotch in the smooth, happy machinery of the home. And he was always aware of this fall of silence on his entry, the shutting off of life. ... (80)
He ate his food in the most brutal manner possible, and, when he had done, he pushed all the pots in a heap away from him, to lay his arms on the table. Then he went to sleep.
Paul hated his father so. (79) (8)
A different sort of enmity exists between Paul and his colleague Baxter Dawes. The connections between Paul and Baxter have received occasional critical attention, (9) but they are further illuminated here by placing them in the larger context of the other factory men and their evocations of Walter Morel. As do Paul and Walter, Paul and Baxter compete as rivals for a woman's heart. Paul vies with his father for Gertrude's allegiance and with Baxter for Clara's love, in both cases challenging a husband who has horrified his wife. At times, a friendly rivalry--indeed a "sort of friendship" between Paul and Baxter--emerges, (10) "but they never mentioned the woman who was between them" (467). Like Walter, Baxter is a sensuous fellow who battles to control a cowed defiance, "perhaps because he really disapproved of himself," Paul thinks (228). Just as Morel ignored Paul on the very day he was born, Baxter "hated" Paul "from the first day" they met at Jordan's (230), even before Paul met Clara. One critic has argued persuasively that the fight between Paul and Baxter acts out the abortive battles that Walter repeatedly sought with William and Paul but that Gertrude prevented (Weiss 22).
In light of these parallels between Dawes and Morel, it is also notable that Paul exerts strenuous effort toward the novel's close to repair the Dawes marriage. Paul fully realizes by the time he meets Clara that his parents' marriage is unrecoverable, whereupon he then redirects his energies toward reuniting Baxter and his wife, a couple still holding some prospect of reconciliation. When Baxter is stricken with typhoid, Paul visits him in a Sheffield hospital, and he suggests that Dawes go to the Seathorpe convalescent home where Walter lodged. Despite Dawes's hostility toward him, Paul persistently prods Clara to re-evaluate her marriage to Baxter and whether she has been fair to leave him; their reunion suggests the kind of rapprochement that Paul wished his parents could have made. In this light, Baxter is the benign paternal figure, a workman like his father, but one whom Paul still thought he could help. By contrast, at the novel's end, between Paul and his father "there was scarcely any bond ..." (497).
Throughout Sons and Lovers, and especially in the factory scenes, Paul is drawn to and influenced primarily by women rather than men. Although Paul likes Pappleworth and grows to view Jordan and Dawes as decent, "the men seemed common and rather dull" and "uninteresting" to him (138). That is not the case with the three factory women with whom Paul forges the closest ties. Although his interactions with them are merely sketched, the descriptions are sufficiently rich to establish clear parallels with Gertrude and Miriam.
More than anyone else at the factory, Polly provides Paul with a sense of the factory's "homely feel." Indeed Paul comes to feel he "belongs to Polly" (443), much as he feels possessed by his mother throughout the novel. Polly, "an erect little body of forty" who is "the downstairs overseer," behaves like "a proud little bantam" (132), recalling Gertrude's "proud and unyielding temper" (15). Polly sees Paul eating downstairs with the workmen in the dirty dungeon and offers to cook him something on her little stove in her "pleasant clean room" (138). Food is a significant motif in Sons and Lovers, especially between Paul and his mother and lovers. The kitchen is the most important room in the miners' dwellings, and Polly's homey "kitchen" eases considerably Paul's adjustment from Bestwood to Nottingham: "And very soon it grew to be an established custom that he should have his dinner with her. When he came in at eight in the morning he took his basket to her, and when he came down at one o' clock she had his dinner ready" (138).
Furthermore, when Pappleworth warns Polly not to "ruin" her "new boy" "as you did the last" (132), and Polly retorts that Pappleworth was the real cause of the boy's ruination, the exchange re-echoes later as a faint foreshadowing of William's death. Gertrude feels guilty about her eldest son's death and turns desperately to Paul when he himself is stricken with pneumonia. "She could only brood on her dead son; he had been let to die so cruelly" (174).
Fanny and Connie reflect not only Miriam's intensity and extreme sensitivity, but also her essentially masochistic willingness to submit herself as a ritual sacrifice to Paul's passion. Fanny is "morbidly sensitive" and is "always imagining insults" because she is a hunchback (139). Miriam is "a shy, wild, quiveringly sensitive thing" at the age of sixteen (178). Similarly, Miriam also has good reason to "imagine" insults because, more often than not, they are real. (11) Annie and "all her friends" snub her (221); Clara and Gertrude belittle her; and not just Paul but "Every one of Paul's friends delighted in taking sides against her" (250). Thus, like the battle for Paul between Gertrude and Miriam that forms the central conflict of Sons and Lovers, Polly's and Fanny's factory departments--the downstairs weavers and the finishing-off room, respectively--are "forever at war" (146). Paul often finds Fanny in tears and has "to plead her cause with Polly" (138), much as he stands as the sole defender of Miriam before his mother and his friends: "Miriam had no friends of her own, only Paul" (221).
Fanny's connection with Miriam and her relationship with Paul also invites comparison between her physical defect and their emotional handicaps. Fanny is a hunchback; Paul feels that he and Miriam suffer an emotional crippling. (12) Paul sees Miriam as "negative," plagued by a "shortage" of love. Likewise, Paul declares to Fanny, "You aren't positive, you're negative. You absorb, absorb, absorb, as if you must fill yourself up with love, because you've got a shortage somewhere" (268). Speaking with Miriam in the same chapter, Paul bemoans his own inadequacy to return love: "I can only give friendship--it's a flaw in my makeup. The thing overbalances to one side ..." (271). Even after Paul's passionate love encounter with Clara, he confides to his mother, "You know, mother, I think there must be something the matter with me, that I can't love" (426, italics original).
Both Fanny and Connie also figure prominently in Paul's artistic pursuits. On his twenty-third birthday, Fanny gives Paul a packet of paint tubes to which all the girls have contributed except the "Queen of Sheba," Clara. (13) Fanny at this moment feels "very close" to Paul and "kisse[s] him vehemently" (333), exhibiting the same kind of passionate intensity toward him on a physical level that Miriam expresses on a spiritual plane. Fanny is "lavishly tender" and "hysterical" (332) with joy that she is alone for a few moments with Paul, who tells her that she is "just as good" as him or better. Although she, like Clara, cannot appreciate the intellectual aspects of Paul's art, her gift of the paint tubes represents her limited contribution to it, indeed a counterpart to what Miriam does so well: ennoble Paul's art. Miriam does not lavish affection like Fanny. But when "a sketch was finished, [Paul] always wanted to take it to Miriam. Then he was stimulated into knowledge of the work he produced unconsciously. In contact with Miriam he gained insight; his vision went deeper" (196).
Unlike Fanny, Connie is a beautiful young factory girl. Paul's attraction to her is not sensual; she "appealed to [Paul's] romantic side" (139). With her, Paul creates not a physical romance but an artistic one. Connie's lovely locks of red hair, her appleblossom face, and her murmuring voice poeticize her in Paul's artistic imagination; she becomes an enchanting maiden who evokes Elaine in Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Later, Paul makes a "prized" sketch of Connie sitting on her spinning-wheel stool, "her red mouth shut and serious, running the scarlet thread off the hank and onto the reel" (138). Paul idealizes and transforms Connie into an artistic icon, a metamorphosis that bears affinities with the intellectualized romance that he carries on with Miriam, with whom Paul "was always on the high plane of abstraction, when his natural fire of love was transmuted into the fine stream of thought" (214).
The fact that Paul associates Connie with Elaine in Idylls of the King is particularly notable because it sharpens the parallelism between her and Miriam--and indeed between Paul and Lancelot. Whereas Connie bears a physical likeness to Elaine, Miriam strikingly resembles Elaine in disposition and behavior; and Paul in turn behaves much like Lancelot toward Miriam. Elaine, the "lily maid of Astolat," exemplifies feminine purity. In Tennyson's poem, the innocent, sacrificing love of Elaine is contrasted with the jealous, possessive love of Queen Guinevere, whom Lancelot loves even though Guinevere is the wife of his friend Arthur (272-73). As Lancelot tells Guinevere, he cannot love Elaine:
"Queen, she would not be content Save that I wedded her, which could not be. Then might she follow me thro' the world, she ask'd; It could not be. I told her that her love Was but the flash of youth, would darken down To rise hereafter in a stiller flame Toward one more worthy of her. ... More than this, I could not; This she would not, and she died."
These resemblances between the Idylls and Sons and Lovers are revealing. But the contrasts that emerge at the novel's close are equally significant: Miriam says she cannot be Paul's partner except in marriage and will not travel with him abroad. Moreover, Guinevere--whose temperament resembles that of Gertrude in Sons and Lovers--admits to Lancelot in the section "Lancelot and Elaine" that "mine was jealousy in love." Lancelot answers, "That is love's curse; pass on, my Queen, forgiven" (274). No such exchange ever occurs between Paul and Gertrude.
Nevertheless, the Gertrude/Miriam parallels with Elaine are also suggestive. Mrs. Morel's love is extremely possessive; she simply does not want Paul to have any woman in his life but her. Just as Elaine sacrifices herself for Lancelot and dies for unrequited love, so too does Miriam submit to Paul like a "tool" in lovemaking and feel herself a "sacrifice to [his] love" (265). When Miriam suggests in the final chapter that she and Paul marry, and Paul demurs, Miriam feels "her sacrifice was ... useless" (515), and Paul believes, "In leaving her, he was defrauding her of life" (508). Just as Lancelot cannot love Elaine and be loyal to his Queen, Paul cannot love Miriam and be faithful to his mother: "She bore him, loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could never be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman" (420).
We are now in a position to appreciate fully the role of the factory men and women in Paul's development. Just as sustained attention to his relationships with the factory men discloses Paul's ambivalence toward his father and illuminates his new life as an office worker, so too does our close reading of the factory cast light on the novel's larger design.
As we have seen, Paul's relationship to Connie spotlights the triangle between Paul, Miriam, and Gertrude. Connie's symbolic status, along with Polly's and Fanny's roles that serve to deepen the artistry of the conflict, establishes the centrality of the factory women in Paul's adolescence and young manhood. As a fourteen-year-old, Paul can only see the factory men and women in terms of his childhood relationships; but his factory relationships, especially with the women, function as a transition between his innocent boyhood home life (dominated by Miriam and his mother) and the wider world that opens before him (through his sexual experience with Clara). Clara represents Paul's decisive break with the past. And yet, the Nottingham factory women prepare that break. They loosen the Bestwood bond, enabling Paul to see beyond his little valley. For fourteen of his seventeen waking hours each day, young Paul is at or traveling to the factory: it becomes his whole life, and he finds himself "belonging" to Polly and thoroughly preoccupied with the factory girls. Encountering them at a critical stage in his maturation, they in effect prepare him for the approaching moment when Clara will stimulate him to move beyond Bestwood, mother, Miriam, and home itself and go fully toward Nottingham, sexual union, and life in the larger world.
Concomitant with Paul's growth in understanding is his formation of a philosophy on the distinctive place of work in the lives of men and women, a view developed from his days at the factory. During his first few weeks at Jordan's, Paul muses on the young male clerks and working girls. He ponders to himself: "The man was the work and the work was the man, one thing, for the time being. It was different with girls. The real woman never seemed to be there at the task, but as if left out, waiting" (141). Paul senses the bond between a man and his work as almost a sexual union, or even perhaps the "soul communion" that Miriam seeks between Paul and herself (342). Paul honors what he regards as the primacy of work in man's life and explains this conviction to both his lovers: "I don't want anything to do with love when I'm at work," he tells Clara angrily when she tries to kiss him at Jordan's (432). To Miriam he maintains that "work can be nearly everything to a man" (511) but not to a woman:
"... a woman only works with a part of herself. The real and vital part is covered up."
"But a man can give all of himself to work?" she asked. "Yes, practically." "And a woman only the unimportant part of herself?" "That's it." (505)
The essence of Paul's philosophy of labor is that the subordination of love to work is man's nature. Although Paul nowhere says it and probably does not consciously realize it, his philosophy effectively rationalizes his inability to love Miriam or Clara or perhaps any woman (as he tells his mother). Time and again, he denigrates passionate love as mechanical, like the wheels spinning in a factory. He concludes that his attempts at love fail not because of his all-engulfing relationship as an ersatz boy-husband (both son and unconsummated lover) to Gertrude, but rather because his (transparently Lawrentian) gender theory mandates it: men can give all of themselves to work but only part of themselves to love; work, not love, consumes the real man. In Paul's eyes, women by contrast give only the insignificant parts of themselves to work and all of themselves to love. Thus men and women are doomed to interact in a state of perpetual imbalance. Paul draws on his own experience to validate his theory: the imbalance is evident at the start of Paul's relationship with Miriam and after only a few months with Clara. In fact, with Miriam, Paul suspects that it is his work, not himself, that she is interested in. When she asks him about his future at the novel's close, he "felt again her interest in his work. Or was it for himself? Why was it she always was more interested in him as he appeared in his work?" (511). Miriam may indeed be representative of the modern woman whom Lawrence castigates in his essay "Men Must Work and Woman as Well": "She loves him, she loves, even, being faithful to him. ... [But] What she really loves is the thought of him, the idea of him, the distant communion with him ..." (633).
It is only through Paul's final breakup with Clara that he leaves the factory and business world and completely severs his last connections with home. The factory has indeed functioned as an extension of his home world, but he tells Miriam that he plans to pursue teaching and perhaps venture abroad. The factory could have made him its "prisoner," as the mines imprisoned his father, if Clara had not enabled him to see beyond the simple dichotomies of his childhood. A still-childlike Paul naively believes that he can woo Miriam's friend without hurting Miriam: "He saw none of the anomaly of his position. Miriam was his old friend, lover, and she belonged to Bestwood, home and his youth. Clara was a newer friend, and she belonged to Nottingham, to life, to the world. It seemed to him quite plain" (338). Yet in the same chapter Paul experiences an epiphany at the Castle with Clara that exemplifies the intellectual and emotional growth he has attained by the final chapters. He suddenly views "the factory, the girls, his mother, the large, uplifted church, the thicket of the town merged into one atmosphere--dark, brooding and sorrowful, every bit" (333).
Paul's growth beyond home and factory consists in this deepened understanding of the "merger" of the novel's major thematic tensions between town and country, dirt and purity (in love as in habitat), body and spirit. (14) The insight at the Castle is therefore not so much ultimately a revelation of life's dark, sorrowful quality as it is of its complexity and intricate interrelationships.
So Paul's movement toward the "faintly humming, glowing town, quickly" in the closing lines of Sons and Lovers is not Paul's polarized judgment of the town as "positive" and Mrs. Morel as "dark" and "negative." Rather, the ending represents Paul's heightened awareness of the dualities of the town, including its diverse oppositions and their relation to him and to life itself. Life is a series of emerging, merging, and re-emerging events; the town is part of the great flux and fusion of life.
Lawrence, D.H. "Men Must Work and Women As Well." The Portable D.H. Lawrence. New York: Viking Press, 1954. 623-36. Print.
--. Sons and Lovers. London: Penguin Books, 1966. Print.
New, William. "Character as Symbol: Annie's Role in Sons and Lovers." D.H. Lawrence Review 1 (1968): 31-43. Print.
Niven, Alistair. D.H. Lawrence: The Novels. New York: Cambridge UP, 1978. Print.
Schwarz, Daniel R. "Speaking of Paul Morel: Voice, Unity, and Meaning in Sons and Lovers." Studies in the Novel 8 (1976): 255-78. Print.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. "Lancelot and Elaine." The Idylls of the King. London: Macmillan, 1908. 221-77. Print.
Weiss, Daniel. Oedipus in Nottingham: D.H. Lawrence. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1962. Print.
Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford UP, 1973. Print.
(1) In The Country and the City, Raymond Williams observes about Lawrence and Sons and Lovers:
Lawrence lived on a border which was more than that between farms and mines. In his own development, he was on a cultural border. The choice was not only between mine and farm but between both and the opening world of education and art. ... In Sons and Lovers, the two landscapes, the two kinds of work, the two ways of life, are directly evoked, but within them the conflict is internal and subjective. ... What Lawrence concentrated on in his work was that unresolved complex of impulses and attachments of which, in the twentieth century, the relation of country and city, and states of mind and feeling, was the most evidently available form. (264, 268)
(2) William New makes the following distinction between Paul's love for Mrs. Morel and Fanny: "In his mother he could in time find, not exactly the love he has petitioned from her, but a security he was reluctant to surrender. In a reverse situation with Fanny, he finds himself the object of a love he cannot return. Pity and gratitude he can supply, but these are hardly adequate substitutes" (35).
(3) In "Paul Morel's Discontinuous Self: Towards a Deconstructive Reading of Sons and Lovers," Samir Elburbary's post-structuralist interpretation of these ambivalences and ambiguities draws different conclusions about Paul's evolution (or devolution) (Postscript: A Journal of Graduate School Criticism and Theory 3.1 : 31-47). By contrast, Daniel R. Schwarz, in his "Speaking of Paul Morel: Voice, Unity, and Meaning in Sons and Lovers," supports my own interpretation of Paul's emotional maturation through his Oedipal love relationships (Studies in the Novel 8.3 : 255-78).
(4) It is also interesting to note that two Stuart kings, Charles II and Charles I, are associated in the novel with the mines and factory, respectively. The small mines "had begun in the time of Charles II" (7), and Paul "followed his mother up the dirty factory steps to his interview with Mr. Jordan with even a heavier heart than Charles I approached the scaffold at which he was to be beheaded" (118).
(5) It is a soiling that is not just in Paul's physical environment but extends also to his sexual life. The paradox manifests itself explicitly in one of Paul's arguments with Miriam: "Don't you think we have been too fierce in our pursuit of what they call purity? Don't you think that to be so much afraid and averse is a sort of dirtiness?" (243).
(6) Adding to the resonant language of the purity-dirtiness motif is the fact that Mr. Morel hails from the "Erewash Valley" (16).
(7) On this point, see M.L. Pandit's "The Family Relationship in Sons and Lovers: Gertrude and Walter Morel" (Essays on D.H. Lawrence. Ed. T.R. Sharma. Meerut, India: Shalabh Book House, 1987. 89-94).
(8) For a different reading of Paul's feelings of domination by his father (and, of course, by Gertrude), see Thomas Jeffers's "'We Children Were the In-Betweens': Character (De)Formation in Sons and Lovers" (Texas Studies in Literature and Language 42.3 : 290-313).
(9) See, for instance, Daniel Weiss's Oedipus in Nottingham: D. H. Lawrence, 22. Another excellent study on the Oedipal aspects of the novel is Evelyn Hinz's "Sons and Lovers: The Archetypal Dimensions of Lawrence's Oedipal Tragedy" (D. H. Lawrence Review 5.1 : 26-54).
(10) Paul's reaction to Baxter in the pub after the argument over Clara resembles closely his ambivalent feeling toward his father: "Paul had a curious sensation of pity, almost of affection, mingled with a violent hate, for the man" (418).
(11) On how Lawrence's depiction of Miriam contributes to the aesthetic unity of the novel, see Louis L. Martz's "Portrait of Miriam: A Study in the Design of Sons and Lovers" (Imagined Worlds: Essays on Some English Novels and Novelists in Honor of John Butt. Ed. Maynard Mack and Ian Gregor. New York: Methuen, 1968. 343-69).
(12) In the face of Miriam's fervent, religious love for him, Paul pleads with her:
"I love you an awful lot--then there's something short."
"Where?" she answered, looking at him.
"Oh, in me! It is I who ought to be ashamed--like a spiritual cripple. And I am ashamed. It is misery. Why is it?" (243)
(13) The choice of a queen's name each for both Miriam and Clara is appropriate in the context of the novel's action. For instance, Miriam pictures herself as Mary, Queen of Scots (also a Stuart like Charles I and II). Like Charles I, Mary was also beheaded. Paul feels, in the end, that "in leaving [Miriam], he [is] defrauding her of life." Miriam believes that without her Paul will "destroy himself like a perverse child. Well, then, he would!" (509).
By contrast, Clara is associated with the Queen of Sheba, who comes to test Solomon "with difficult questions and [who] opened her mind freely to him." The queen presents Solomon with lavish gifts: "No such wealth of spices ever came again as those given to King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba." Then she goes home with her servants "to her own country." See 1 Kings 10 in The Jerusalem Bible (New York: Doubleday Books, 1968). Through her emotional and physical contact, Clara likewise bestows on Paul a greater self-awareness and self-understanding, and thereafter she returns to her "home" with Baxter.
(14) Phil Joffe explores this idea in his "Sons and Lovers: The Growth of Paul Morel" (CRUX: A Journal on the Teaching of English 20.3 : 49-62). On his intellectual and sexual maturation, see Bernard Lewis's "A Confederacy of Sons and Lovers: Similarities between A Confederacy of Dunces and Sons and Lovers" (Notes on Contemporary Literature 37.2 : 11-12).
The factory had a homely feel.
-- Lawrence, Sons and Lovers
JOHN RODDEN is completing a study tentatively titled Consciousness, Society, and Narratology in the British Psychological Novel. Among his recently published interpretations of British fiction are essays on Tobias Smollett's Roderick Random, William Godwin's Caleb Williams. Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Wyndham Lewis's Tarr, and D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love.…
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Publication information: Article title: Paul Morel's Second Home: The Role of the Factory Employees in Sons and Lovers. Contributors: Rodden, John - Author. Journal title: Papers on Language & Literature. Volume: 47. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2011. Page number: 26+. © 1999 Southern Illinois University. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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