by D.H. Lawrence

1. Outline the course of the conversation between Mrs Morel and her son. Limit yourself to the main topics.

2. Analyse the mother-son relationship and the means the author employs to illustrate it.
Concentrate on the narrative perspective and the choice of words.

3. Explain the different attitudes towards class, life and happiness as expressed by Paul and his mother.

4. "So long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not.' (ll. 41/42)
a) Compare Paul's view of life to that of Stevens in The Remains of the Day.
b) Taking their attitudes into account, point out what you personally consider a "full life".

The Morels are a poor mining family living in the British Midlands at the turn of the century (19th/20th ). Paul, the shy and oversensitive third child, proves to be a good and interested learner and later gets an office job at a factory. His adult life is also characterized by growing spirituality and creativity. He becomes a successful landscape painter and has long emotional discussions with his girlfriend Miriam, a farmer's daughter, and his mother. Though unwanted at first he has become his mother's favourite after his elder brother's death.

... Paul and his mother now had long discussions about life. Religion was fading into the background. He had shovelled away all the beliefs that would hamper him, had cleared the ground, and come more or less to the bedrock of belief that one should feel inside oneself for right and wrong, and should have the patience to gradually realize one's God. Now life interested him more.
'You know,' he said to his mother, 'l don't want to belong to the well-to-do middle class. I like my common people best. I belong to the common people.'
'But if anyone else said so, my son, wouldn't you be in a tear. You know you consider yourself equal to any gentleman.'
'In myself,' he answered, 'not in my class or my education or my manners. But in myself I am.'
'Very well, then. Then why talk about the common people?'
'Because - the difference between people isn't in their class, but in themselves. Only from the middle classes one gets ideas, and from the common people - life itself, warmth. You feel their hates and loves.'
'It's all very well, my boy. But, then, why don't you go and talk to your father's pals?'
'But they're rather different.'
'Not at all. They're the common people. After all, whom do you mix with now - among the common people? Those that exchange ideas, like the middle classes. The rest don't interest you.'
'But - there's the life - -'
I don't believe there's a lot more life from Miriam than you could get from any educated girl - say Miss Moreton. lt is you who are snobbish about class.'
She frankly wanted him to climb into the middle class, a thing not very difficult, she knew. And she wanted him in the end to marry a lady.
Now she began to combat him in his restless fretting. He still kept up his connexion with Miriam, could neither break free nor go the whole length of engagement. And this indecision seemed to bleed him of his energy. Moreover, his mother suspected him of an unrecognized leaning towards Clara, and, since the latter was a married woman, she wished he would fall in love with one of the girls in a better station of life. But he was stupid, and would refuse to love or even to admire a girl much, just because she was his social superior.
'My boy,' said his mother to him, 'all your cleverness, your breaking away from old things, and taking life in your hands, doesn't seem to bring you much happiness.'
'What is happiness!' he cried. 'lt's nothing to me! How am I to be happy?'
The plump question disturbed her.
'That's for you to judge, my lad. But if you could meet some good woman who would make you happy - and you began to think of settling your life - when you have the means - so that you could work without all this fretting - it would be much better for you.'
He frowned. His mother caught him on the raw of his wound of Miriam. He pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead, his eyes full of pain and fire.
'You mean easy, mother,' he cried. 'That's a woman's whole doctrine for life - ease of soul and physical comfort, and I do despise it.'
'Oh, do you!' replied his mother. 'And do you call yours a divine discontent?' 'Yes. I don't care about its divinity. But damn your happiness! So long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not. I'm afraid your happiness would bore me.'
'You never give it a chance,' she said. Then suddenly all her passion of grief over him broke out.
'But it does matter!' she cried. 'And you ought to be happy, you ought to try to be happy, to live to be happy. How could I bear to think your life wouldn't be a happy one!'
'Your own's been bad enough, mater, but it hasn't left you so much worse off than the folk who've been happier. I reckon you've done well. And I am the same. Aren't I well enough off?'
'You're not, my son. Battle - battle - and suffer. It's about all you do, as far as I can see.'
'But why not, my dear? I tell you it's the best - -'
'It isn't. And one ought to be happy, one ought.'
By this time Mrs Morel was trembling violently. Struggles of this kind often took place between her and her son, when she seemed to fight for his very life against his own will to die. He took her in his arms. She was ill and pitiful.
'Never mind, Little,' he murmured. 'So long as you don't feel life's paltry and a miserable business, the rest doesn't matter, happiness or unhappiness.'
She pressed him to her.
'But I want you to be happy,' she said pathetically.
'Eh, my dear - say rather you want me to live.'
Mrs Morel felt as if her heart would break for him. At this rate she knew he would not live. He had that poignant carelessness about himself, his own suffering, his own life, which is a form of slow suicide. lt almost broke her heart. With all the passion of her strong nature she hated Miriam for having in this subtle way undermined his joy. lt did not matter to her that Miriam could not help it. Miriam did it, and she hated her.
She wished so much he would fall in love with a girl equal to be his mate - educated and strong.
But he would not look at anybody above him in station.

Source: D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers (1969), Penguin, pp. 313-316.


    to realize one's God - to find one's religious convictions
    in a tear - in a dilemma
    Miss Moreton - a girl from a middle-class family
    fretting - worrying
    Clara - a married woman Paul feels attracted to
    station - (dated) social position
    to settle one's life - here: to begin to live a meaningful and comfortable life
    mater - (old-fashioned) mother, mum
    paltry - worthless

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