A psychological novel is one in which the writer explores the minds of the characters, focusing on their motivations and inner conflicts. Before D. H. Lawrence 's generation, the psychological novel was not well established in England, as it was in France or Russia. However, a few novelists, such as...
A psychological novel is one in which the writer explores the minds of the characters, focusing on their motivations and inner conflicts. Before D. H. Lawrence's generation, the psychological novel was not well established in England, as it was in France or Russia. However, a few novelists, such as Richardson, George Eliot, and even Trollope, regularly give the reader an insight into the mental landscapes and processes of their characters, as Lawrence does in Sons and Lovers.
Perhaps the greatest of all psychological novelists was Dostoevsky, for whom Lawrence always expressed a strong dislike. However, recent critics have noticed a strong affinity between the two. In Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900–1930, Peter Kaye writes,
Lawrence traveled a distinctively Dostoevskian path after the publication of Sons and Lovers, which moved him away from the English tradition of the novel as biography, the story of individual lives largely immune from metaphysical debate and cultural crisis.
This "Dostoevskian path" is particularly evident in the presentation of Paul's inner conflict in his relationships with Miriam, Clara, and his mother. For instance, Lawrence describes how Paul reacts to physical contact with Miriam when she links arms with him as they walk together.
With Miriam he was always on the high plane of abstraction, when his natural fire of love was transmitted into the fine stream of thought. She would have it so. If he were jolly and, as she put it, flippant, she waited till he came back to her, till the change had taken place in him again, and he was wrestling with his own soul, frowning, passionate in his desire for understanding. And in this passion for understanding her soul lay close to his; she had him all to herself. But he must be made abstract first.
Such passages as this are similar to, if not actually influenced by, the works of Dostoevsky and other explicitly psychological European writers. Paul is not presented as a likeable young hero in the tradition of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English novel, but as something far closer to the intense, complex protagonist characteristic of Russian fiction.