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The characters in Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence and the
characters in What Maisie Knew each have a special meaning. They all seem
to be interwoven with one another portraying a new cycle in another
characters life. For instance, in What Maisie Knew Mrs. Wix was introduced,
in my opinion, at a time when Maisie needed a mother figure. Also, Sir
Claude is introduced when she seems to need a father figure. On the other
hand, in Sons and Lovers there are not very many new characters introduced.
However, the ones that are introduced seem to want to try and break the
bond that Paul and his mother have. Thus, James and Lawrence seem to be
using similar themes with different surroundings and events. Although the
circumstances are different, Henry James and D. H. Lawrence characterize
the children as being Impoverished.
Henry James in his novel What Maisie Knew, portrays the main
character, Maisie, as being impoverished emotionally. The emotional
poverty that Maisie experiences in her life exist because of her parents
extremely vicious hatred for each other. They use Maisie as a "vessel for
bitterness" (13). To Beale and Ida, Maisie was just a tool that they used
to hurt the other person. Eventually, Maisie figured out that they were
using her to be the bearer of brutily hateful messages. Consequently, she
learned not to deliver such messages. This made her parents very angry and
they decided that she had "grown incredably dull". Thus, Maisie realized "
They had wanted her not for any good they could do her, but for harm they
could, with her unconscious aid, do each other." Unfortunately, Maisie's
emotions were of no concern to either parent. As a result, Maisie seldom
experienced any meaningful affection from either of her parents.
Furthermore, on the rare occasions when Maisie's mother embraced her it was
performed without any affection, or it is so convulsive that it makes her
feel as though "she had suddenly been thrust, with a smash of glass, into a
jeweller's shop-front..." (112 Lawrence). Likewise, Maisie's father
subjects her to emotional neglect by reminding her that everything had "
changed on her account, everything ordered to enable him to give himself up
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to her." (17). This, in my opinion, was Beales way of telling Maisie that
she was a bother to him, thus, she is unconsciously informed that she is
not wanted. The emotional poverty that Maisie lives with makes her feel
that her parents made "it hurt more than usual" (17). Consequently,
Maisie's fate is sealed. Unconsciously she knows what is about to happen
and she will have to live with the pain of knowing that her parents did not
want her, thus, allowing others to raise the child. Similarly, D. H.
Lawrence, in his novel Sons and Lovers, portrays the main character, Paul,
as being emotionally poor. Emotionally, Paul is impoverished because of
his feelings for his mother. The passion they feel for each other is, in
my opinion, an emotional incest. They act more as lovers than they do
mother and son. For instance, when they were out together his mother felt
like "she was gay, like a sweetheart", and, Paul felt his "heart contract
with pain of love for her" (Lawrence ). Because of this passion Paul does
not allow himself to leave his mother. Eventually, when Mrs. Morel tells
Paul that she "never really had a husband...", Paul starts assuming the
mental role of the husband. Consequently, this mental action of being a
husband to his mother, destroys any emotional relationships Paul tries to
have with other women. For example, He is in love with Miriam, but, in my
opinion , he feels that she cannot fufill him like his mother does.Also, he
trys to have a relationship with Mrs. Dawes, however it seems to be more
sexual and he helps her get back together with her husband. As a result,
He feels that no woman can match up to his mother. Therefore, he has
decided that he is unable to meet the right woman as long as she is alive.
As a result, Paul promises never to leave his mother. Therefore, like
Maisie, Paul's fate is sealed. He will be destin to live a life of
emotional poverty until his mother dies. When she dies Paul will then be
able to take on a normal relationship with a female.
In conclusion, The characters are in an emotional poverty caused by
their parents inability to recognize that what they are doing is hurting
their children emotionally. Lawrence and James choose to write this way so
that it reflects the moral sense as well as the fate of the moral sense in
a corrupt and sinister world. The moral sense is the conscious which is
reflected through Maisie and Paul. The characters that represent the
consciousness seem to be full of unconditional love. For instance, when
Maisie's parents abandon her, she seems to get angry, however, she also
seems to be happy. Also Paul seems to get angry at his mother for having
such control over him, and, at the same time he feels a deep passionate
love for her. James and Lawrence, in my opinion, are trying to get the
readers drawn into the book and their own conscious mind. Thus, making
them more aware of their thoughts and surroundings.
DeMott, Benjamin. Introduction. Sons and Lovers. By D.H. Lawrence. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.
James, Henry. What Maisie Knew. London: Penguin, 1985.
Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.