My current run of classics continues with Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence. It is England in the nineteenth century and the Morels are making ends meet in their little town. Mr. Morel is a typical coal miner of the day, given to drink and fits of rage towards his wife and kids. His wife is made of sterner stuff and knows what she has to do to get her kids to achieve success. And what is success? She defines it as the ability for her to hold her head high when her sons are mentioned in society. The only way her sons can continue on the path she’s chosen for them is to deny them any sort of independence, emotionally and psychologically. While they can do as they please and even court women, she is implicit in her disapproval of all the women her sons woo.
If this was just another novel about an overly domineering mother who rules every aspect of her sons’ lives, this book would have passed into obscurity like millions of others. But it is the quality of the prose that sets this book apart. Lawrence is adept at reading and describing the mental states of people in situations that we’ve all been in. You know the sinking feeling you get when you realize that you’ve been manipulated for someone else’s ends and nothing will ever satisfy them. There is enough material in here to lend credibility to the most Oedipal of interpretations, but essentially this book captures the essence of matriarchal power, wielded with an iron fist.