The brief thesis focuses on the narrative techniques employed by Lawrence in his novel.
Introduction: - Sons and Lovers is the most popular novel of D.H. Lawrence. One of the best modernist novels, it is also the first English psychological novel, after the publication of which in 1913 Lawrence became well established among the front rank novelists of England. Not only was it well received by the critics but it was also appreciated by the reading public. The first draft or version of this novel was written in 1910, titled Paul Morel. Later after certain changes the novel was renamed as "Sons and Lovers". The novel is largely autobiographical, presenting the Freudian Oedipus imbroglio in classic completeness.
Thesis statement: - [I intend to] critically analyse the various narrative techniques employed in the modernist novel "Sons and Lovers" by D.H. Lawrence. I will further elucidate my essay by supplementing examples from the text.
Narration is one of the most important aspects of this magnum opus. For illustrating the various narrative techniques, I have divided them into two forms: - Psycho analytic narration and linguistic based narration.
Psycho analytic narrative
Psycho analytic narrative is a special form of narration where the author manifests the psyche of the main character through an illustration of the emotional properties of the consciousness. Thus, the inner torments of the characters determine their dilemmas, which constitute the main theme of the novel. It centres on the emotional development of the main character (Paul Morel), from childhood to young maturity (buildungsroman) and then as an individual trapped in the modern civilization. There is a struggle between passion and intellect, plus the love for the mother, which makes decisions very hard to make.
Another aspect of psycho analytic narrative is the mode of storytelling. In the novel the story is told from the point of view of an omniscient all knowing narrator. While all the other characters were drawn as it were, in the third person, the hero is drawn in the first. The pronoun 'I' is indeed employed for him, but the author has lived so completely within his creation that the narrative reads like an autobiography. At times the narrator seems to step aside and allow the characters to speak for themselves in passages of dialogues. Sometimes he almost seems to take over the character, even if it is at odds with the character's personality. For instance, when Gertrude Morel is locked out of her house in Chapter One she seems mystically transported by her experience with the lilies.
Lawrence's portrayal of Paul Morel's conflict of mind after his mother's death is an example where modes of thought and speech have interacted in an interesting manner. Here speech presentation is used to represent thoughts, resulting in a mind of soliloquy in the narrative discourse. The intrusion of the narrative voice is an attempt to help the reader to grasp the reality of Paul's predicament more clearly and vividly. In the following example, the thoughts of Paul are in conflict and all of them are presented through direct thoughts and narrative representation of speech acts:
"What am I doing?"
And out of the semi-intoxicated trance came the answer.
"Destroying myself". Then a dull live feeling, gone in an instant, told him that it was wrong. After a while suddenly
came the question:
Again there was no answer, but a stroke of hot stubbornness inside his chest resisted his own annihilation.
There was a sound of heavy cart clanking down the road. Suddenly the electric light went out; there was a bruising
thud in the penny-in-the slot meter. He did not stir, but sat gazing in front of him. Only the mice had scuttled, and
the fire glowed red in the dark room.
Then, quite mechanically and more distinctly, the conversation began again inside him.
"She's dead. What was it all for--her struggle?"
That was his despair wanting to go after her.
"You're alive, she's not"
Suddenly he felt tired with the burden of it.
"You've got to keep alive for her sake," said his will in him. Something felt sulky as if it would not rouse "You've got to carry forward her living, and what she had done, go on with it." But he did not want to. He wanted to give up.
Here one could observe the interaction of three voices namely two conflicting voices of Paul's and the omniscient narrative voice. Paul has been shown as having undergone severe psychological pressure. Both his mind and soul are chaotic. He is undecided what to do. Every door seems to be closed to him. One voice of Paul puts the question: "What
am I doing?" The answer is "destroying myself". Then the narrative voice reports all the connecting links between the two voices. Through this question-answer mode we come to know about Paul, his state of mind and his predicament. He is oscillating between life and death. Such a conflict of mind is also observed toward the end of the novel after the
departure of Miriam. Thus, Lawrence employs different points of view to produce a dramatic effect in his narrative mode.
Linguistic based narrative techniques
Few writers in literature possess such a quality as Lawrence, who subtly conveys the feelings and emotions of his characters through brevity of language. Not only does Lawrence possess an impressive pool of vocabulary, he knows how to install his words to create a spell binding effect. In addition, Lawrence employs a vast array of metaphors, adjectives and meaningful symbolizations which further augments this enchanting effect. In the novel the succinct use of vocabulary and creative symbolizations forms the two major linguistic based narrative techniques, which are discussed below.
Extensive use of vocabulary
Lawrence makes a subtle and effective use of a complex range of vocabulary. His passages are very often dominated by long polysyllabic words when the educated middleclass characters discuss complex issues relating to spirituality, emotional crisis and abstract concepts. The elevated and sublime subjects demand a lofty style and hence Lawrence has used words such as blood, cold, nature and darkness and their associated variants to bring out his central ideas and vision effectively. He also brings out the relational opposites into contrast and balance: darkness vs. light, love vs. hate, freedom vs. bondage, elemental things of nature vs. industrial aspects of society. Through them and by establishing aesthetic effects, he suggests the crisis of the human soul in a modern, mechanized, and demoniacal society.
The following conversation takes place in the opening chapter of the novel when William
feels very miserable, because he had left his mother alone, talks to his mother.
"Has my dad been?' he asked.
"No," said the mother.
"He's helping to wait at the Moon and Stars, I see him through that black
tin stuff with' holes in on the window, with' his sleeves rolled up.'
His mother on being told that her husband was out drinking is not very surprised and retorts:
"Ha!" exclaimed the mother shortly. He's got no money. An he'l be satisfied if he gets his 'allowance whether
they give him more or not."
The use of the monosyllabic words indicated in Italics shows that both mother and son are talking very casually about the person who is not so very important in their life. Mrs. Morel dismisses him with very casually uttered words, which show that she does not really respect her husband much.
In yet another conversation, after Paul confronted his father for having abused his mother and after he was on the verge of hitting him, he tells his mother:
"Can you go to bed mother?'
"Yes, I'll come."
"Sleep with Annie, mother, not with him."
"I'll sleep in my own bed".
The preponderance of short, terse monosyllabic words very effectively conveys the feelings and emotion of both the mother and the son; the stress and pain felt by the former and the anger and frustration felt by the latter. This routine casual conversation enables them to mask their feelings and regain some control over their feelings so that both are not upset by the event preceding the conversation. This casual conversation helps them to bring some semblance of normalcy to their life.
In the novel innumerable symbolisms have been used. Symbols such as light symbolizes rational, daily, routine life and is most strikingly associated with Mrs. Morel. Darkness symbolizes the wonder and mystery of existence as well as the human subconscious and brute instinct. This quality is exemplified in Walter Morel who descends down everyday into the mines. To Lawrence, light and dark like life and death, opened naturally into each other and were essential to one another. Darkness has a special symbolic potency. It adds tragic dignity to various scenes and symbolizes the darkness of death. When Williams' body is brought back home, the Morels solemnly guide the long, heavy casket out of the dark night and into the candle lit parlor. At the end of the novel Paul walks away from the dark, uninhabited country fields - towards the bright city lights. This may be interpreted as Paul's walking away from death, towards life.
Blood is another important symbol having great significance. Anger, passion, and sexual desire are illustrated in different characters. There are several instances where the word blood and its variants have been used. Some of them are: blood shot eyes; full of blood; sensuous flame of life; Morel's blood was up; even the blood; a wave of hot blood went over to the infant; blood battling; roused his blood; her heart melted like a drop of fire; etc. The following example illustrates this:-
"The whole of his blood seemed to burst in to flames and he could scarcely breathe... his blood was concentrated like a flame in his chest. There were flashed in his blood".
These lines refer to the passion felt for Miriam by Paul as they walked side by side. He wants to make love to Miriam but she shrinks away from it and from Paul. Blood also makes its presence felt when Mr. Morel throws an object with violence at Gertrude and some blood shedding takes place. This again is symbolic. Mrs. Morel is hurt on her brow and the blood
flows and drops on the baby's white shawl. Later a drop also dropped on the baby's golden hair. The imagery is vivid, and it is also very symbolic.
Nature is yet another powerful symbol in the novel. Flowers have a role in revealing the psychological traits of the characters, and even the skies very symbolically change color according to the characters' moods. Thus it turns red when Mrs. Morel is upset and angry and it turns black when there is a foreshadowing of death and sorrow. It appears to be a sparkling and shining blue when Paul is out in the countryside with the women he loves. Mrs. Morel's experience with the lilies when she puts her head deep inside the flower and when her face is smeared with pollen golden in color has been described in very explicit and figurative language. Mrs. Morel is influenced by the overpowering perfume, the streaming white light of the full moon and the whiteness of all the flowers.
The analysis reveals that narrative techniques form an integral part of the novel. As I stated above, two types of narrative techniques have been used; psycho analytic narration and linguistic based narration. The former focuses on highlighting the psyche of the protagonist through emotional buildup and omniscient third person narrator whereas the latter is based on using language as a narrative technique to aesthete the plot. This is mainly done using extensive use of vocabulary and employing creative symbolizations which I have already discussed.
Primary Literature: - Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
1. A stylish analysis of D.H. Lawrence 's 'Sons and Lovers' by Nozar Niazi