What is Lawrence's philosophy regarding human relationships in Sons and Lovers?
In Sons and Lovers Lawrence draws deeply on the then fashionable ideas of Sigmund Freud, the famed Austrian psychoanalyst. One of the most famous—or most notorious, depending on how one looks at it—of Freud's ideas is that of the Oedipus complex. In a nutshell, this refers to a child's unconscious desire for the opposite sex parent and his or her corresponding hatred for the same sex parent. The Oedipus complex gets its name from the ancient Greek myth in which Oedipus unwittingly marries his mother and kills his own father.
In Sons and Lovers, the Oedipal theme is prominent. Paul's relationship with his mother has an almost romantic element to it; it certainly goes beyond the bounds of what would be considered a normal, healthy relationship between mother and son. There is no indication that Paul ever acts upon his unconscious incestuous desires. Instead, he transfers them toward Miriam and Clara. The picture of Paul's Oedipal complex is completed by his utter loathing for his father, whom he often fantasizes about murdering.
But Lawrence provides a twist on the Freudian theme by showing us that it is possible to transcend our deepest complexes and take control of our own destinies. In other words, psychoanalysis, though suggestive and illuminating in many respects, does not provide a comprehensive account of how humans actually behave; our complexes do not completely determine how human relationships develop. Paul demonstrates this clearly when he administers an overdose of morphine to his dying mother. In doing so, he breaks free from the stranglehold of his complexes. Instead of killing his father, this Oedipus ends up killing his mother.
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