While in D. H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lovers the struggling relationship revolves around Paul Morel and his mother Mrs. Morel, in Women in Love the challenging relationship revolves around the four main characters Ursula, Gudrun, Rupert and Gerald. Through the writing in both of these novels it becomes possible for an audience of readers to make an overall conclusion in how unsatisfied and subconsciously angered these differing characters are in their lives. While each of the relationships differ to a certain extent, nevertheless both of these works exhibit similar yet varying notions about individuals agonizing struggles between inferiority, concealed anger and the incompetence to be self-fulfilled.
In the novel Sons and Lovers Gertrude Morel is surrounded by men in her life yet the one who should mean the most to her is the least fulfilling. In turn this causes Mrs. Morel to turn to her eldest sons in hope of finding self-fulfillment. It is after William’s death, that Mrs. Morel leans toward Paul for the support and love that she fails to receive from her husband. The relationship between Paul Morel and his mother immediately begins to provoke feelings of jealousy and the underlying destructive relationships that exist between men and women. While Mrs. Morel forcefully leans toward Paul for love she inadvertently causes resentment from him as well. On behalf of Mrs. Morel, it is her incompetence to let Paul experience life and find a love of his own that causes Paul great destruction in his life.
In contrast, in Lawrence’s Women in Love the troubling relationships begin to form between Ursula and Rupert, Gudrun and Gerald, as well as between the two sisters and the men themselves. In the beginning of the novel Ursula and Gudrun are conversing and contemplating the idea of love and the nature of marriage. While both of the Brangwen sisters are bit naïve toward the idea of love and the emotions that go along with it, they illustrate both positive and negative feelings toward their desires to experience it. However, it is through their experiences that the audience of readers can identify their ultra-sensitive emotions revolving around positions of inferiority and struggles to achieve self-fulfillment.
Although Paul Morel is becoming a man of his own in Sons and Lovers, he still remains under the strong influence of his overbearing mother. When Mr. Morel gets in an accident at work, Mrs. Morel’s feelings of negligence toward her husband are only beginning to grow. She feels comforted and loved through the support she receives from her son Paul, as he tries immensely hard to calm her down because she is acting rather flustered as she prepares to take the train to visit her husband in the hospital, “Paul watched her go up the road between the hedges, a little, quick-stepping figure, and his heart ached for her, that she was thrust forward again into pain and trouble. And she, tripping so quickly in her anxiety, felt at the back of her son’s heart waiting on her, felt him bearing what part of the burden he could, even supporting her” (Lawrence, 110). The vivid description of Paul’s heart aching for his mother begins to reveal the amount of compassion he has for Mrs. Morel as the main female figure in his life. The description of Mrs. Morel’s thoughts and her awareness that Paul was internalizing some of the burden reveals some of the relief she experiences knowing that he will stand beside her, as well as it reveals the power she may contain in order to manipulate him under her authority.
In parallel, the relationship revolving around Ursula and Rupert resemble the conflicting relationship with Paul and his mother. For Ursula has mixed emotions toward Rupert yet she is incompetent to understand why, “It stunned her and annihilated her, but she could not escape it. She could not escape this transfiguration of hatred that had come upon her” (Lawrence, 197). These feelings of unexplained hatred and anger she has toward him, seem to express feelings of uncertainty in the relationship and the anxiety she experiences when thinking of giving herself to him, for she then risks being hurt as well as an inferior being. Furthermore, when Ursula is engaged in conversation with Hermoine regarding Rupert’s marriage proposal she sternly expresses, “I don’t want to give the sort of submission he insists on. He wants me to give myself up—and I simply don’t feel that I can do it” (Lawrence, 294). While Ursula is actually quite eager to test out marriage, she is still unable to accept her role as the submissive partner. Thus she does not want Rupert to have any sort of advantage above her. Where as Rupert cannot seem to find the equilibrium where he will feel fulfilled either, “and he wanted to be with Ursula as free as with himself, single and clear and cool, yet balanced, polarised with her” (Lawrence, 199). Rupert’s revealed thoughts emphasize the amount of struggle he encounters as he tries to achieve some sort of fulfillment. While Lawrence illustrates Rupert’s fondness of Ursula, it is also a bit contradicted. For he believes that he desires her, yet his thoughts reveal that officially uniting together may also threaten other aspects in life that he rather enjoys.
In addition to the troublesome relationship that exists between Ursula and Rupert, is the relationship between Rupert and Gerald. The two men are so intertwined together that it causes friction in their relationships with women, “of course he had been loving Gerald all along, and all along denying it” (Lawrence, 205). It is through Rupert’s expressions in his subconscious mind, that the audience of readers can identify his level of fondness for Gerald and contains a unique style of love for him. However, it is Rupert and Gerald’s compassion for one another, which in turn ultimately jeopardizes their ability to find satisfying fulfillment with Ursula and Gudrun. Thus resembling Paul and Mrs. Morel, for Paul is unable to be satisfied with Miriam due to his mother’s pessimistic influence. After an especially intimate encounter between the two men Rupert expresses, “We are mentally, spiritually intimate, therefore we should be more or less physically intimate too—it is more whole” (Lawrence, 272). Together the men seemingly want to maintain a certain degree of intimacy within their relationship, they desire it to remain strong and unbreakable. Therefore while Rupert and Gerald are quite intimate and devoted to one another, in turn it evokes feelings of jealousy when they are devoting attention to their women. For Gerald had a difficult time digesting the idea of Rupert and Ursula getting married, thus emphasizing his feelings of jealousy because of the risk of his friendship and amount of intimacy with Rupert could potentially be jeopardized.
In addition to Rupert and Gerald’s intimacy, is again the existing resemblance between Paul and Mrs. Morel’s relationship. While Paul begins to establish a developing relationship with another female companion Miriam, it begins to cause tension within his relationship with his mother. When Paul comes home late one evening after being with Miriam Mrs. Morel had taken the time to express her feelings about Miriam, “She is one of those who will want to suck a man’s soul out till he has none of his own left/She will never let him become a man, she never will” (Lawrence, 196). The audience of readers can almost feel Mrs. Morel’s anger impending directly through the context, we can feel her anger and her establishment of jealous feelings that are beginning to cultivate. Mrs. Morel begins to express her feelings concerning this female companion and the relationship between her and Paul, “she must be wonderfully fascinating, that you can’t get away from her, but must go trailing eight miles at this time of night” (Lawrence, 196). Mrs. Morel is becoming quite threatened by this relationship that is developing rather quickly and strongly between Miriam and Paul. By Mrs. Morel’s use of the word “fascinating” to describe Miriam, as the audience of readers we do not get the idea that she truly means this but rather she is implying sarcasm due to the fact that she is actually jealous of this inclining relationship.
Furthermore, we can begin to identify that Paul thinks his mother is acting a bit ridiculous yet he is unable to stand up to her and ultimately ends up feeling sorry for her, “he had meant not to say anything, to refuse to answer. But he could not harden his heart to ignore his mother” (Lawrence, 197). The descriptive imagery of Paul being unable to “harden his heart” to ignore Mrs. Morel emphasizes the amount of control Mrs. Morel has over Paul and that when it is seemingly becoming threatened he reluctantly becomes submissive again to her needs. Although he believes his mother is not acting rationally, and he expresses desire to be angry at her—he still remains incompetent to disagree with her. For after his experienced confrontation with his mother we learn, “he had forgotten Miriam; he only saw how his mother’s hair was lifted back from he warm, broad brow. And somehow she was hurt” (Lawrence, 197). The vivid description of Mrs. Morel’s physical appearance and visually looking “hurt” further emphasizes Paul’s compassion for his mother and his incompetence to find his own fulfillment through which he desires. For he had forgotten all about Miriam due to Mrs. Morel’s own lack of fulfillment and her powerful exertion of influence.
Lastly, both of these literary works conclude the novels while illustrating the death of an important character that aided in the struggles of power, anger and the difficult amount of measures it takes to successfully reach a satisfying life. As the audience of readers we become able to identify that Gudrun is completely unsatisfied with her and Gerald’s relationship. This ultimately causes Gerald to attempt to murder Gudrun; “he took the throat of Gudrun between his hands, that were hard and indomitably powerful. And her throat was beautifully, so beautifully soft, save that, within, he could feel the slippery chords of her life” (Lawrence, 474). The vivid imagery of her throat in his strong hands and the disturbing description of his ability to “feel the slippery chords of her life” thus reveals part of his characters concealed anger that was more passive through the novel, yet it took the form of rejection from his female companion to reveal his subconscious outbursts of his underlying anger. After Gerald’s failed attempt in murdering Gudrun he eventually falls to his own death, “but he wandered unconsciously, till he slipped and fell down, and as he fell something broke in his soul, and immediately he went to sleep” (Lawrence, 477).
Therefore, as the audience of readers we can ultimately identify the amount of impact Gerald’s death exerts on Rupert. For he feels he has lost a friend and a lover all in one, all the while Ursula attempts to comfort him yet he purposely resists her support and remains distant, “aren’t I enough for you? She asked” (Lawrence, 484). Rupert informs Ursula that she is not enough for him, “Having you, I can live all my life without anybody else, any other sheer intimacy. But to make it complete, really happy, I wanted eternal union with a man too: another kind of love” (Lawrence, 484). It is directly revealed in this ending of the novel that Rupert is still unable to have reached equilibrium of satisfaction in his life. Although he may have truly loved Ursula, he was not completely satisfied unless he could have Gerald too. The loss of Gerald illustrates the loss of an intimate yet complicated relationship in Rupert’s life and thus his inability to find true fulfillment without his most intimate male friend at his side.
In comparison, Paul Morel also experiences and attempts to manipulate the desire to achieve fulfillment. With his mother now gone, Paul feels even less in control. It was because of Mrs. Morel’s intense amount of control she exerted over Paul, that he is unable to decide where to go with his life. For she controlled and manipulated him and he fell prey to it, now without her by his side he feels even more alone, “she was the only thing that held him up, himself, amid all this/he wanted her to touch him, have him alongside with her” (Lawrence, 464). Although Mrs. Morel may have also wanted the best for Paul she had a difficult time doing so because of her own feelings of jealousy and own lack of fulfillment. The feelings Paul expresses after he has lost his ultimate female companion are similar to Gerald’s in which he contemplates taking his own life in order to be near her. However, although Paul illustrates uneasy feelings and is lost for what to do since the loss of his most influential figure, we quickly learn that he chooses life as he ultimately, “walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly” (Lawrence, 464). While Paul reveals emotions of physical and emotional distress during the loss of his mother, he more importantly reveals his ambition to choose life rather then give up, which we did not see in all the other characters.
The depiction of difficulties that exist between male and female relationships corresponds to a great extent between the two novels Sons and Lovers and Women in Love, especially during Lawrence’s time period. As the audience of readers we can identify that Ursula and Gudrun strived for a more powerful position and therefore questioned and argued with their lovers Rupert and Gerald. However, because of Ursula and Gudrun’s ambitious desire to be anything but an inferior women in society caused them a great deal of struggle in achieving self fulfillment. For even if Ursula truly wanted to marry Rupert right from the start, she was unwilling to express those emotions immediately because she wanted to prove that men do not always have the final decision, just as Gudrun was willing to reject Gerald’s desires. Although Mrs. Morel did not take much time to fight with her husband and instead became negligent toward him, she similarly exercised her ability to control by exerting tremendous influence on her son Paul. In turn both of these novels and characters try to reach equilibrium in life by experiencing agonizing grief as well as physical and emotional abuse. While it remains uncertain, this may have been Lawrence’s most efficient way to relieve him of the struggles he experienced in his own life. We have learned in class that Lawrence had a difficult relationship with his mother and had a range of difficulties with women in his personal love affairs, therefore I believe this was his way to express to the world the amount of pain and agony he endured, possibly for public sympathy and/or to rid himself of life’s disappointments before he succumbed to his own death.