Study Guide

Sons and Lovers Pride

By David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence


[The house] was small, but convenient enough, and quite nicely furnished, with solid, worthy stuff that suited her honest soul. The women, her neighbours, were rather foreign to her, and Morel's mother and sisters were apt to sneer at her ladylike ways. But she could live perfectly well by herself, so long as she had her husband close. (1.107)

When she first moves into her new neighborhood, people think Mrs. Morel is totally stuck up. But she isn't going to change her ways just because nobody likes her. Everything will be fine as long as she has her husband… oh, wait. Walter becomes an abusive alcoholic faster than you can say, "I do." Interestingly enough, Mrs. Morel actually seems to get haughtier whenever the world tries to humble her. Her resulting lack of friends is definitely one reason why she lavishes too much attention on her children—girl doesn't have anything better to do, you know?

Her father, George Coppard, was an engineer—a large handsome, haughty man, proud of his fair skin and blue eyes, but more proud still of his integrity. Gertrude resembled her mother in her small build. But her temper, proud and unyielding, she had from the Coppards. (1.62)

We guess haughtiness is in Mrs. Morel's genes. It goes a long way back in her family, and even though she has no money, she comes from a family that was once rich. Chew on this: money can leave a family much more quickly than pride can.

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. (10.72)

For the first time, the book tells us exactly what Mrs. Morel wishes Paul would do with his love life. She wants him to fall in love with an upper-class woman who will elevate him to a higher social status. Paul, however, has this annoying tendency to fall for farmers' daughters and married women. This desire on Mrs. Morel's part is no doubt connected to her obsession with social class and with acting better than other people.

"What would you prefer to do?" he asked.

She laughed at him indulgently, as she said:

"There is so little likelihood of my ever being given a choice, that I haven't wasted time considering."

"Pah!" he said, contemptuous on his side now. "You can only say that because you're too proud to own up what you want and can't get." (10.200-10.203)

When Paul asks Clara what she'd like to do with her life, she deflects the question by saying that society will never give her the chance to decide. Paul doesn't buy the act, however, and accuses Clara of being defensive. She won't admit to wanting anything because she's afraid she might not get it, and she's way too proud to let something like that happen. We think they both have a point here.

After all, she had failed to make Morel really love her. She was morally frightened. She wanted to do penance. So she kneeled to Dawes, and it gave him a subtle pleasure […] She liked to feel she was serving him across an insuperable distance. She was proud now. (14.118)

Just like Miriam, Clara Dawes loves to sacrifice herself for a man. Lawrence is being a little sketchy on his gender politics here, but we think he's trying to say that women are usually very vain. And they indulge their vanity by sacrificing themselves for their men. Sigh.

But she began to spare her hands. They, too, were work-gnarled now […] She regretted what they had been—so small and exquisite. And when Annie insisted on her having more stylish blouses to suit her age, she submitted. […] Then she sniffed in her sarcastic manner, and was sure she looked a sight. But she looked a lady, Paul declared, as much as Mrs. Major Moreton, and far, far nicer. (10.59)

Mrs. Morel is sad to see how gnarled her hands have become after years of housework. Had her grandfather not gone broke, she would never have had to do any household chores. Everything would've been done by servants. In this scene, she sniffs sarcastically to hide just how badly she's always wanted to be part of the upper crust. We see straight through you, Gertie.

But she felt a proud woman. When she met well-dressed ladies going home to the Park, she thought to herself:

"Yes, you look very well—but I wonder if your son has two first prizes in the Castle." (8.102-8.103)

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Mrs. Morel invests her sense of pride in the success of Paul's paintings. For her, Paul's expertise in a culture is the great leveler; it makes her just as good as any of the women she passes on the street. (Right.)

Miriam seemed as in some dreamy tale, a maiden in bondage, her spirit dreaming in a land far away and magical. And her discoloured, old blue frock and her broken boots seemed only like the romantic rags of Kin Cophuetua's beggar-maid. (7.28)

Miriam has never really gotten used to the fact that she lives on a farm and spends her days milking cows. The books she's read have gone to her head, and she likes to think of herself as a princess who's being kept in slavery. She's just toiling away, waiting for a white knight to discover who she really is. Get a grip, girl. Paul ain't no knight in shining armor, that's for sure.

She could not be princess by wealth or standing. So she was mad to have learning wereon to pride herself. For she was different from other folk, and must not be scooped up among the common fry. (7.3)

Miriam realizes that she might never be rich. But one way she can make herself appear more princess-like is to read books and get all cultured. What she fears most is being average. She's willing to do almost anything to avoid this terrible, horrible fate. In that way, she's like most angsty teenagers, really.

"I'd rather be called sentimental than frozen meat," Fanny blurted. Paul knew she referred to Clara, and he smiled.

"Do you say such nasty things about me?" he laughed.

"No, my duck," the hunchback woman answered, lavishly tender. She was thirty-nine. "No, my duck, because you don't think yourself a fine figure in marble and us nothing but dirt. I'm as good as you, aren't I, Paul?" and the question delighted her. (10.270-10.272)

No one seems to have it in for haughty women more than other women. Even though Paul is every bit as proud as Clara, he loves to pretend like he's very humble. We think that Paul's actually at his proudest when he's trying to convince others that he's not. It's mind-bending, we know.