Places: Sons and Lovers

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1913

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Places DiscussedBestwood

Bestwood. Sons and LoversEnglish coal-mining town in Nottinghamshire in which the novel is primarily set. Dominated by mine buildings, machinery, and towering slag heaps, Bestwood depends for its existence on the local coal company, Carson, Waite and Company, and its residents are virtually owned by the company store.

D. H. Lawrence modeled Bestwood on the real Nottinghamshire mining town of Eastwood, in which he was born and spent his early years. There, he lived in circumstances very similar to those described in his novel. His father worked for Barber, Walker Coal Company, on which he modeled his fictional Carson, Waite and Company.

The Bottoms

The Bottoms. Bestwood neighborhood in which the Morel family lives. The neighborhood contains six blocks of miners’ homes, distributed “like dots on a blank-six domino,” with twelve houses to a block. Outwardly, the houses appear substantial and decent. They have pleasant little gardens in front, neat front windows, porches, privet hedges, and dormer windows. However, the insides of the houses tell a different story.

The main rooms of the houses are the kitchen, which is located at the back of each house, overlooking scrubby little back gardens and garbage dumps. Between the rows of houses and long lines of ash-pits are alleys in which children play, women gossip, and men smoke. Thus, the house that appears to be “so well built and that looked so nice, was quite unsavory because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that nasty alley of ash-pits.”

Willey Farm

Willey Farm. Home of Miriam Leivers, Paul Morel’s first lover. Located in the countryside outside Bestwood, Willey Farm stands in startling contrast to the Bottoms, where Paul lives, as it represents the natural world. There, Paul comes to know a family tied to the earth and to nature’s cycles–a strong contrast to the mining environment that brutalizes the land, the men who work in the tunnels, and their families. Willey Farm lives in accord with the rhythms and purpose of nature in its unspoiled state. Among its animals and crops, Paul begins to discover his own physical and emotional identity. As an antithesis to Bestwood, Willey Farm offers Paul a pastoral escape from the smothering presence of his domineering mother, his father’s drunken rages, and the drabness and dirt of the coal-mining town.

BibliographyBalbert, Peter, and Phillip L. Marcus, eds. D. H. Lawrence: A Centenary Consideration. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985. Eleven essays on D. H. Lawrence and his novels. Two are effective for research on Sons and Lovers: Mark Spilka’s “For Mark Schorer with Combative Love: The Sons and Lovers Manuscript,” and feminist critic Sandra M. Gilbert’s masterful “Potent Griselda: ‘The Ladybird’ and the Great Mother.”Gilbert, Sandra. D. H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers” and Other Works: “The Rainbow,” “Women in Love,” “The Plumed Serpent.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965. Provides introductory biography and information on people behind the fictional characters in this autobiographical novel. Includes Lawrence’s plan for the novel, Freudian influences, chapter-by-chapter summary with explication, character descriptions, and critical commentary. A gold mine for researchers.Kazin, Alfred. Introduction to Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence. New York: Modern Library, 1962. Provides pertinent background information on Sons and Lovers as autobiographical fiction; discusses crucial concerns of the content; analyzes style and the Freudian elements in the novel.Lawrence, D. H. Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence. Edited by Edward D. McDonald. New York: Viking, 1936. Presents bits and pieces of Lawrence’s extant writings; arranged by topic, they range from personal notes to philosophy. Sections 1 and 3, and the concluding autobiographical fragment, are of particular relevance to Sons and Lovers. Extensive index, introduction by the editor.Salgado, Gamini, ed. D. H. Lawrence, “Sons and Lovers”: A Casebook. Nashville, Tenn.: Aurora, 1970. An excellent collection of materials for researchers of the title novel. Includes the original foreword from the novel, original reviews, criticism, questions, bibliography, and index.
Categories: Places