Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Walter Morel, an English collier in many ways typical of the literary image of the lower-class workingman. He is not interested in the arts, in matters of the intellect, or even greatly in his work, which for him is merely a source of income. He is a creature who lives for whatever pleasures he can find in eating, drinking, and his bed. At first a warmly vital man, he later becomes rough and brutal to his family and fights with them verbally and physically. His wife, after the first glow of marriage fades, means little to him because of her puritanical attitudes and regard for culture, and he becomes alienated from his children. His one creative joy is mending odd bits of household equipment and his work clothing. He has been a coal miner since boyhood, and a coal miner he is content to be.
Gertrude Morel, Walter Morel’s wife, who married beneath her class and who soon regrets her action. She is quickly disillusioned by her husband, and the glamour of their courtship soon fades. She discovers that her husband has debts, which he tells her he has paid, and that he constantly lies about the little money he brings home. He always keeps aside some money for his drinking, regardless of how little he earns at the mine. In her disillusionment, Mrs. Morel turns to her children for understanding and affection, as well to protect them from their father’s brutality when drunk. As the sons and...
(The entire section is 1139 words.)
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Sons and Lovers is rich in character portrayals, but its focus is Paul Morel. All other characters are portrayed in their relationship to him: his mother, his lovers — Miriam Leivers and Clara Dawes — and Clara's husband Baxter. In the early chapters Paul's older brother William is the central focus. William dies, in part because he cannot break the Oedipal bond with his mother; his death foreshadows the relationship between his mother and Paul. The other two children, Annie and Arthur, are foils, incidental to the plot. Paul's father serves to introduce the male-female struggle through an account of the deterioration of his marriage with Gertrude Morel; he is also a study in well-meaning but clumsy brute vitality, a victim of society but also a type that Lawrence came into sympathy with in later years.
Paul cannot mature into manhood until he has freed himself from his mother. He loves her almost incestuously, however, and can barely face the fact that she is an older woman. In the climax of the book she gets cancer and Paul (with his sister Annie's collusion) finally administers an overdose of morphine because he can no longer stand her suffering. In the book's last chapter he is overcome by a yearning to join her in death — the darkness which until now his father the coal miner has represented — but chooses the life principle, almost by a sheer act of will.
Paul is vitally in touch with the life force throughout the book, at...
(The entire section is 530 words.)
Baxter Dawes is thirty-two years old and a big handsome man. He is Clara Dawes’s estranged husband. He is a smith at the same factory as Paul, with whom he fights when Paul begins to spend time with Clara. Dawes is moody, argumentative, and defiant and is fired from his job after fighting with his boss, Thomas Jordan. Later, Dawes falls ill with typhoid fever. Paul visits Dawes in the convalescence home, and the two become friends. Later, Paul tells Dawes that Clara has always loved him, and he helps Baxter and Clara reconcile.
Clara Dawes, the estranged wife of Baxter Dawes, is a childless, full-figured, blonde-haired, and sensuous woman, and a friend of Miriam Leivers. She is proud and haughty, a supporter of women’s rights, and is attracted to Paul’s animality. Clara and Paul have a passionate love affair, but she eventually returns to her husband, nursing him back to health after he falls sick with typhoid fever. Although she was deeply attracted to Paul, she never felt truly connected to him.
Mr. Heaton is the Congregational clergyman who visits with Gertrude Morel after Paul is born. He is Paul’s godfather and tutor.
Thomas Jordan owns the factory where Paul and Clara and Baxter Dawes work. A strong-willed capitalist, he fires Baxter Dawes after fighting with him. He eventually takes Paul under his wing and introduces...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)