Paul is the protagonist of the novel, and we follow his life from infancy to his early twenties. He is sensitive, temperamental, artistic (a painter), and unceasingly devoted to his mother. They are inseparable; he confides everything in her, works and paints to please her, and nurses her as she dies. Paul has ultimately unsuccessful romances with Miriam Leiver and Clara Dawes, always alternating between great love and hatred for each of them. His relationship fails with Miriam because she is too sacrificial and virginal to claim him as hers, whereas it fails with Clara because, it seems, she has never given up on her estranged husband. However, the major reason behind Paul's break-ups is the long shadow of his mother; no woman can ever equal her in his eyes, and he can never free himself from her possession.
Mrs. Morel is unhappily married to Walter Morel, and she redirects her attention to her children, her only passion in life. She is first obsessed with William, but his death leaves her empty and redirects her energies toward Paul. She bitterly disapproves of all the women these two sons encounter, masking her jealousy with other excuses. A natural intellectual, she also feels society has limited her opportunities as a woman, another reason she lives through Paul.
Miriam is a virginal, religious girl who lives on a farm near the Morels, and she is Paul's first love. However, their relationship takes ages to move beyond the Platonic and into the romantic. She loves Paul deeply, but he never wants to marry her and "belong" to her, in his words. Rather, he sees her more as a sacrificial, spiritual soul mate and less as a sensual, romantic lover. Mrs. Morel, who feels threatened by Miriam's intellectuality, always reinforces his disdain for Miriam.
Clara is an older women estranged from her husband, Baxter Dawes. Unlike the intellectual Miriam, Clara seems to represent the body. Her sensuality attracts Paul, as does her elusiveness and mysteriousness. However, she loses this elusiveness as their affair continues, and Paul feels she has always "belonged" to her husband.
Morel, the coal-mining head of the family, was once a humorous, lively man, but over time he has become a cruel, selfish alcoholic. His family, especially Mrs. Morel, despises him, and Paul frequently entertains fantasies of his father's dying.
William, Mrs. Morel's "knight," is her favorite son. But when he moves away, she disapproves of his new lifestyle and new girlfriends, especially Lily. His death plunges Mrs. Morel into grief.
Dawes, a burly, handsome man, is estranged from his wife, Clara Dawes, because of his infidelity. He resents Paul for taking Clara, but over time the men become friends.
Annie is the Morel's only daughter. She is a schoolteacher who leaves home fairly early.
Arthur, the youngest Morel son, is exceptionally handsome, but also immature. He rashly enters the military, and it takes a while until he gets out. He marries Beatrice.
Louisa Lily Denys Western
Lily, William's girlfriend, is materialistic and vain. Her condescending behavior around the Morels irritates William, and she soon forgets about him after his death.
The Leivers own a nearby farm that Paul and Mrs. Morel visit. They have three sonsEdgar being the eldestand two daughters, including Miriam.
The eldest Leiver son, Edgar and Paul become friends.
The elder sister of Miriam, Agatha is a school-teacher who fights with Miriam for Paul's attention.
A friend of the Morel's who stops by and insults Miriam and flirts with Paul. She eventually marries Arthur.
Clara's mother, with whom she lives. Clara is embarrassed by her.
A curt, old man, Jordan employs Paul at his warehouse of surgical appliances.
Paul's supervisor at Jordan's.
A lively hunchback who works at Jordan's.
Worker at Jordan's whom Paul regularly has dinner with.
An attractive, redheaded worker at Jordan's.
Facetious worker at Jordan's.
Old, condescending worker at Jordan's.
Clergyman who visits Mrs. Morel and becomes Paul's godfather.
Mrs. Morel's doctor.
Friend of Morel's.
Childhood friend of Mrs. Morel's.
Sons and Lovers Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Sons and Lovers is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
D.H. Lawrence was aware of Freud's theory, and Sons and Lovers famously uses the Oedipus complex as its base for exploring Paul's relationship with his mother. Paul is hopelessly devoted to his mother, and that love often borders on romantic...