What are are some symbols in Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sons and Lovers is replete with symbolism. Lawrence uses symbols for a number of reasons, such as probing the consciousness of each individual character, or making a statement about the relations between the classes, or showing us the dark depths of human nature. The ash-tree, for example, is used by Lawrence to show us the more sinister aspects of life, the dark mysterious forces of nature which find their way into the fractured domestic life of the Morels. It further highlights the intimate relationship in Lawrence's work between humans and the natural environment they inhabit.

This theme is further developed by another symbol in Sons and Lovers, that of the coal-pits. The story is set against the backdrop of the Nottinghamshire coal country. The mines form the economic backbone of the community, providing daily life with a kind of natural rhythm, of sleep and awakening, life and death. This rhythm allies closely with Walter's irrational stance towards life with its brute naturalism and lack of refinement. The life of the pits, though harsh and unforgiving, still retains a certain rugged honesty, in marked contrast to the faux sophistication of Gertrude's family.

The swing at Willey Farm can be said to symbolize the tempestuous relationship between Paul and Miriam. The swing goes up and down, back and forth, just as their relationship does, veering wildly between love and hate. It's also notable that Miriam can't achieve the same heights on the swing as Paul, symbolizing the gaping chasm between their respective sex-drives.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us remember that a symbol is any object, action or character that stands for both itself and for something larger, such as an abstract concept or emotion. If we have a look at the beginning of this novel, we can see that there are plenty of symbols that we can see. Firstly, consider the egg cups that William wins at the fair and then gives to his mother. The egg cups are clearly a symbol of William's love and affection for his mother, and they show the very close bond that lies between these two characters.

In the same way, when her husband returns from the bar later on that day, the gingerbread he has brought for the children is a symbol of his love for his family, although he struggles to express it through his actions and words so often. Hopefully these two symbols will give you an idea of how to find more in this compelling novel. So, my advice is, having read this response, go back over the novel and see if you can identify any more symbols. Good luck!