Initially titled “Paul Morel,” Sons and Lovers, published in 1913, is D. H. Lawrence’s third novel. It was his first successful novel and arguably his most popular. Many of the details of the novel’s plot are based on Lawrence’s own life and, unlike his subsequent novels, this one is relatively straightforward in its descriptions and action. The story recounts the coming of age of Paul Morel, the second son of Gertrude Morel and her hard-drinking, workingclass husband, Walter Morel, who made his living as a miner. As Mrs. Morel tries to find meaning in her life and emotional fulfillment through her bond with Paul, Paul seeks to break free of his mother through developing relationships with other women. The novel was controversial when it was published because of its frank way of addressing sex and its obvious oedipal overtones. The novel was also heavily censored. Edward Garnett, a reader for Duckworth, Lawrence’s publisher, cut about 10 percent of the material from Lawrence’s draft. Garnett tightened the focus on Paul by deleting passages about his brother, William, and toning down the sexual content. In 1994, Cambridge University Press published a new edition with all of the cuts restored, including Lawrence’s idiosyncratic punctuation.
Sons and Lovers is also significant for the portrait it provides of working-class life in Nottinghamshire, England. Lawrence’s disgust with industrialization shows in his descriptions of the mining pits that dot the countryside and the hardships and humiliation that working families had to endure to survive.