Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

Oedipus Complex in Sons and Lovers

Category Oedipus
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Sigmund Freud introduced two theories, one is Oedipus complex and other is Electra complex. Sigmund Freud's theory, the Oedipus complex takes its name from the Greek play Oedipus Rex. In the play Oedipus is prophesied to murder his father, marry his mother and have sex with her and he does this unwittingly. The strong attraction of a child to the parent of the opposite sex and envy or jealous feelings toward the parent of the same sex that may be a source of adult personality disorder when unresolved. This attraction in a boy for mother is called Oedipus complex and The female version is called the Electra complex.

D. H Lawrence was well aware of Freud's theory. In Sons and Lovers, D. H Lawrence uses the Oedipus complex as its base for exploring Paul's relationship with his mother. Paul is too much attracted to his mother and their love often borders on romantic desire. D. H Lawrence writes many times in the novel about their relation and they go beyond the bounds of conventional mother son love. Paul hates his father and often fantasizes about his death and loves her mother and in this way he completes the Oedipus equation in the novel. D. H.

Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers is the most reliable and remarkable example of Freud’s Oedipus complex in modern literature. Hu Junjie, a Freudian psychologist writes that Lawrence is one of the most original, realist and controversial English writers of the modern literature and twentieth century. The main theme of his writing was relationship between man and woman. His work Lady Chatterley’s Lover was rejected by his contemporary English society and it was based on theme if pornographic nature. However, in D. H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers Oedipus complex is the dominant theme.

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The complex here chiefly moves around protagonist Paul and his mother’s dealings or relation. The Oedipus complex begins to appear in William and Paul is examplified in the relationship between their parents. The boys witness an unsuccessful & abusive marriage in which Walter Morel often comes home drunk after wasting the family’s income on gambling. He does not like meals in the presence of family. He abuses his Mrs. Boys notice all this and they begin to hate their father and be sympathetic and protective towards their mother. The children see their mother good and pure.

She keeps her sons all to herself and sheltered from their father. In this way Gertrude Morel is unconsciously molding her sons into her desires, so with the passage of time they can take the place of her husband. No doubt their marriage was their own choice but now she is clearly unhappy in her marriage and now she tries to live vicariously through her sons. This is the basic motivation that allows the oedipal attachment to form in the two boys. William is the oldest and the mother’s favorite son. He does everything for her mother’s pleasure. He buys two egg cups from the fair for his mother.

Sibling rivalry exists in the two brothers, William and Paul, as they compete for their mother’s love. Mrs. Morel does not like his female companions and becomes jealous and he finally moves to London. William’s this action of moving to London was his unconscious way of trying to break free from the oedipal attachment to his mother. In London, Mr. William meets a beautiful girl named Lily. They become closer friends but Mr. William is not happy and he has a misogynistic attitude towards her. It is very clear that Lily does not have the good qualities he sees in his mother and it angers and frustrates him.

William shows classic symptoms of dissatisfaction. When Mr. William voices his dissatisfaction with Lily and his mother asks him to reconsider marrying her. He replies, ”Oh well, I’ve gone too far to break it off now”. All these conflicted moments and feelings that William is experiencing are a sign of his apparent struggle to get rid himself of the oedipal complex then William eventually gets sick and dies. After William’s death, Paul takes his place and becomes mother’s favorite. This action compels to think a person that she may thought of him as a suitor.

This is proved when she accepts a bottle of perfume from him. She said “Pretty! ” in an odd tone or in a curios way, Lawrence says, “Of a woman accepting a love-token”. When Paul reaches at the age of sixteen to twenty (adulthood), it is clear the Oedipus complex has taken him over (chapter 3). His relationship with his father is deformed and he becomes jealous of him. He hates his father too much and He even asks his mother not to sleep with the father anymore. Young Paul meets Miriam Leivers, he likes her and he is repeating the same misogynistic behavior like his brother William did with Lily.

He thinks that he would be betraying his mother by loving her. But the idea that Paul is interested in someone other than his mother shows an attempt to break the oedipal complex he has. But the mother foils this attempt by making him feel guilty for wanting to be with miss Miriam. She says, “I cannot bear it, I could let another woman, but not her. She’d leave me no room, not a bit of room. And I’ve never you know Paul, I’ve never had a husband, not really. ” The mother exhibited the same behavior with William by being jealous of his female companions and is now being imposed on Paul.

Gertrude Morel reinforces the Oedipus complex within Paul by suffocating him and in a elusive way asking him to replace her husband. Paul and Mariam’s relation now reduced to friendship. Paul has to repress his romantic feelings that he might have for her, so she will not replace his mother’s place. Later in the novel we come across that Paul does become physically intimate with Miriam but it is short-lived because Paul will not marry her. It also shows that Paul suffers from a fear of closeness and affair as he continues to remain emotionally detached from Miriam.

Paul, once again gives in to the oedipal attachment for his mother. Paul does have an affair with a married but separated woman named of Clara Dawes. In relation to Clara Paul allows himself to have this relationship because he is well aware that realistically this relationship can never go anywhere. Clara would never be divorced her husband. That’s why Clara is not a threat to Paul’s oedipal complex to his mother. There is no threat of her taking his mother’s place. Gertrude morel now becomes ill, she feels pain and Paul gives her morphine.

But in the end he intentionally overdoses of morphine to her, which leads to her death and reduced her sufferings. This is a case of euthanasia, this action of killing his mother was a conscious way to reduce her sufferings but unconsciously he releases himself Oedipus complex once and for all. Paul, after her mother’s death, is devastated and alone. Much time has passed and Miriam still wants to be with Paul but he refuses. It means that even after his mother’s death he is still not free from his attachment to her mother because he chooses to be alone.

The unpleasant relationship with his mother is still present in Paul’s life. Conclusion: No doubt in the history of psychology a large number of thinkers are influenced by Freud’s view of sexuality. to some extend Some of his followers seem to create their work behind the establishment of Freudian sex theories. But these theories have been losing their appeal along with modernization of psychology. Joseph Jastrow a follower of Freud says that Freud’s Oedipus complex is an indecent and inadequate concept. It’s impossible to find any origin or root of this claim.

After constant study we are able merely to know that it is nothing but a consequence of Freud’s imaginative psychoanalysis based on his personal supposition that lacks evidence. But we cannot put it aside that it is a biographical novel. D. H Lawrence loves her mother but not his father. If we come to the conclusion of Paul’s case, we find that his Oedipus complex and its causes are already clear to us. Paul grows in a bitter environment and he has not become a normal adult by getting over some problems. That is not only because of his mother’s abnormal maternity.

There are many other reason; some problems with the parents, some with himself, some with his brothers, even some from the society and the mechanical civilization, all these lead to the family tragedy and distortion of personality and devastate people’s healthy development on spirits. Now we can realize and recognize that Paul’ relation with mother is the outcome of many unusual and abnormal causes which are partial, exceptional and individual rather than universal. We can say that it is not usual or natural for the people living in a healthy family and environment to have such anomalous and complex emotional problems.

Oedipus Complex in Sons and Lovers essay

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