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Sons and Lovers: Industrial Revolution through the lens of Literature

Lawrence’s ‘Sons and Lovers’, though excessively called out for being obscene and even pornographic in its early days, is now believed to be one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. Apart from themes of familial dynamics, autobiographical elements, and psychoanalysis, the novel dwells on a less discussed yet crucial theme: Industrialisation. In various instances, the novel presents a critique of the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution.

Credits: Medium

Lawrence had been an advocate for the importance of nature in human life. His desire to spend a life away from materialistic chaos inspired him to create a community called ‘Rananim‘. He believed that humans are an extension of nature and it brings them comfort and solace. In the novel as well, Mrs. Morel is shown to find solace in the moonlight when thrown out of her house.

Being the son of a coal miner and therefore facing the cruelties of the revolution first hand, Lawrence believed that the course had been harmful both to nature and its extensions. The revolution deemed mechanical development to be superior to human life. The value of beings became directly proportional to the need they cater to. The revolution brought a rise in capitalism and changed social arrangements. It gave birth to rapid classist outcomes.

In the novel, the characters have been directly or indirectly affected by the course of action. Mr. Morel is shown to be a victim of the unhealthy work ethic that emerged due to the revolution. The desire for development gave rise to a large number of workers working in dangerous environments. The revolution gave birth to greed for extracting resources, which brought up the need for mining and let the labourers work in unhealthy conditions. Humans seem to be equivalent to objects or even less than machines. Mr. Morel worked in similar conditions in a coal mine. He, along with other workers, was degraded because he belonged to the lower section of society. He is shown to be trapped in the clutches of a capitalistic society. He, along with his family, dwells in buttons.

Due to the endless working hours, he ends up losing his emotional elements. He is struck with chronic poverty and has no time to converse with his wife or children. The dull, gloomy coal pits have seemed to erase the lustre of emotional needs from his heart. This results in his torn marriage life. His wife, Mrs. Morel, is also a victim of the system. She belonged to “Hell Row,” where the upper class dwells. Though she marries a coal miner out of love, her marriage life stays in jeopardy due to the unseen issues created by the class divide. Mrs. Morel is shown to be a culturally affiliated woman, which is common for women in the upper class. Mr. Morel, a lower-class guy struck with chronic poverty, is unable to provide her with the intellectual companionship she desires. The shift in class makes her life suffer in the dark, gloomy localities adjoining the grey coal mines.

The dysfunctional family dynamic, later on, puts enormous pressure on the sons of the family to provide Mrs. Morel with her desired emotional and financial needs. This shows the tragic reality of lower-class children, who would spend their lives working tirelessly to shift from one class to another. William, the elder son of the Morels, dies in the city due to overworking. The younger son, Paul, spends his life untangling the threads of chaos intertwined due to the unsettling reality of his family, which has been strangling his happiness.

The novel has been an influential take on the degradation of humans at the hands of the tyrannical power of mechanical advancement. The readers get to witness the hidden conflicts that emerged as an outcome of the industrial revolution, which shook the pillars of familial bonds as well. It has managed to shed light on serious subjects including the alienation and objectification of humans, the messing up of moral values, the belittling of human worth, and the equalisation of lives with assets. The novel has definitely been an impactful effort in creating awareness about the tragedies that await a society where money becomes God.

Ashna Arif is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Ambrisha Zubeen

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Written by Ashna Arif

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