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Lawrence’s Treatment of Nature in Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers has a great deal of description of the natural environment. Nature-pictures constitute one of the most conspicuous features of Sons and Lovers. Often, the weather and environment reflect the characters' emotions through the literary technique of pathetic fallacy. The description is frequently eroticized; both to indicate sexual energy and to slip pass the censors in Lawrence's repressive time. Lawrence's characters also experience moments of transcendence while alone in nature, much as the Romantics did. More frequently, characters bond deeply while in nature. Moreover, we have a sense in Sons and Lovers that modern industrial life perverts people. They're cut off from nature and their own instinctive sexuality. Industrialism and its rigid moral code enslave nature and discount the sensual and aesthetic needs of humans.

D.H. Lawrence gives evidence of a painter’s eye for detail in his descriptions of Natural scenes. His observation of Nature was always minute and accurate; and his descriptions of Nature are always graphic. His love for Nature shows a deep security, and his pictures of nature are always concrete and vivid. He may appropriately be called a poet in his attitude to Nature, and a painter in his technique in dealing with it. Romantic in nature, Lawrence saw a curious kinship of man with nature. The emotional life of his characters is much influenced by the active participation of Nature, and technically Nature represents human emotions. 

The Nature-descriptions in Sons and Lovers impart a rare freshness and charm to it. In the novel we find vivid pictures of individual objects of Nature such as the flowers, the birds, the beasts, the sky, the moon, the sun, the trees, the hedges, the creepers, the buds, the blossoms, the meadows, the grass, the thickets, the river and its flow. And all these pictures seem integral to the story.. Furthermore, nature is presented to us in all its hues, colours and tints. We have all the shades: luminous, bright, dim, dark and so on. It is also to be noted that Lawrence’s love of Nature is Keatsian in quality. His love for Nature is deep and sensuous like that of Keats.

In the novel we find beautiful pictures of Nature. When Paul started going to his office in Nottingham by an early morning train, Lawrence gives us a beautiful Nature-picture. Later, when Paul and his mother are going to Willey Farm, we have another brief Nature-picture.  Here we are told that mother and son soon found themselves in a broad green alley of the wood, with a new thicket of fir and pine on one hand, and an old oak glade dipping down on the other hand. Among the oaks, the bluebells stood in pools of azure, under the new green hazels, upon a pale fawn floor of oak-leaves. Paul found flowers to offer to his mother.

Lawrence tends mostly to trace and express human feelings in terms of natural objects. Many a time, it also affects the action, as we are told that Paul and Miriam’s common feeling for Nature was the starting point of their love-affair. We might recall the rose-bush episode where the two are walking together:

“There was a coolness in the wood, a scent of leaves, of honey
Suckle, and a twilight. The two walked in silence. Night came
Wonderfully there, among the throng of dark trunks.”

Often the objects of Nature are used as symbols in novel. The most important symbol is a huge ash-tree that grows outside the Morel residence. Producing shrieking sounds with the west wind, the tree is symbolic of the dark, mysterious forces of Nature which are the forebodes of tragedy in human life. It is a symbolic of the disharmony that exists between the husband and the wife in the Morel family. The tree becomes a symbol of the inner terror of children who shriek and moan inwardly. It also prophesies the future doom which is to beset the Morel family.

Generally Lawrence depicts Nature in its moods; but he is not blind to the grim and stormy aspects of Nature. He chiefly dwells upon the small, everyday objects of Nature and does not seek the unusual and the rare aspects of Nature. The fields around Willey Farm are peaceful and tranquil so as to harmonise with the idyllic life of the human beings there. The rapid and turbulent flow of the river Trent, on the other hand symbolises Paul’s passion for Clara who is with him when he is walking along the river bank. Still, the emphasis in the novel is on the peaceful objects of nature. Another noteworthy point is that Lawrence chiefly dwells upon the small; everyday objects of nature and does not seek the unusual and the rare aspects of Nature.

Lawrence revolted against industrialisation and machinery in his treatment of Nature. Nature symbolises the instinctive life, while machinery exercises a disruptive and dehumanising influence on human beings. He had the feeling that some power flowed into man from Nature, even by means of a contact of the foot of a man with metaphysical relationship between man and Nature. However, Lawrence does not go to find a Devine Spirit in the objects of Nature. He does not give any evidence of making a Pantheistic approach to Nature.

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