Sons and Lovers

by

D. H. Lawrence

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Flowers Symbol Analysis

Flowers Symbol Icon

Flowers symbolize femininity and female sexuality in Sons and Lovers. Women are referred to as flowers or compared with flowers throughout the novel. When William describes his many female admirers to Paul, he describes them as different flowers that live “like cut blooms in his heart.” Although this may seem flattering to the women, it reflects the idea that William does not view these women as people, but instead views them as decorations, which offset his own appearance and stature. This attitude is confirmed during his relationship with Louisa Lily Denys Western, whom William views more as an accessory than a partner. Elsewhere in the novel, flowers signify female sexuality and incidents with flowers come to represent the different women in the novel and their attitudes towards sex. When Miriam shows Paul a rosebush she has found, and later a patch of daffodils, she treats the flowers reverently and with devotion, the same way she approaches her physical relationship with Paul. Clara, in contrast, views flowers as “dead things” during the time when she is celibate after she has left Baxter Dawes. Later, when her sexuality is reawakened with Paul, he gives her a flower to wear on her coat and this symbolizes the rejuvenation of her physical life. When the flower is “smashed to pieces,” when they lie together on the ground, this suggests that Paul has broken through Clara’s external, decorative façade and formed a real connection with her through sex. The shattered flower also has connotations of spoiled virginity and this suggests that, although Paul thinks he is kind to Miriam and Clara, he is really shallow and careless with them, just as William was with the women that he collected like flowers without taking their feelings into account. 

Flowers Quotes in Sons and Lovers

The Sons and Lovers quotes below all refer to the symbol of Flowers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Sons and Lovers published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Mrs. Morel leaned on the garden gate, looking out, and she lost herself awhile. She did not know what she thought. Except for a slight feeling of sickness, and her consciousness in the child, herself melted out like scent into the shiny, pale air. After a time, the child too melted with her in the mixing-pot of moonlight, and she rested with the hills and lilies and houses, all swum together in a kind of swoon.

Related Symbols: Flowers, The Moon
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Paul was treated to dazzling descriptions of all kinds of flower-like ladies, most of whom lived like cut blooms in William’s heart, for a brief fortnight.

Related Characters: William Morel, Paul Morel
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Then Paul fished out a little spray. He always brought her one spray, the best he could find. “Pretty!” she said, in a curious tone, of a woman accepting a love-token. The boy walked all day, went miles and miles, rather than own himself beaten, and come home to her empty-handed. She never realized this, whilst he was young. She was a woman who waited for her children to grow up. And William occupied her chiefly. But when William went to Nottingham, and was not so much at home, the mother made a companion of Paul. The latter was unconsciously jealous of his brother, and William was jealous of him. At the same time, they were good friends.

Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Mrs. Morel was one of those naturally exquisite people who can walk in mud without dirtying their shoes. But Paul had to clean them for her. They were kid boots at eight shillings a pair. He however, thought them the most dainty boots in the world, and he cleaned them with as much reverence as if they had been flowers.

Related Characters: Mrs. Gertrude Morel, Paul Morel
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

William opened his eyes and looked at her. In his gaze was a certain baffled look of misery and fierce appreciation. “Has he made a sight of me?” she asked, laughing down on her lover. “That he has!” said William, smiling. And as he lay he continued to look at her. His eyes never sought hers. He did not want to meet her eyes. He only wanted to look at her, not to come together with her in her gaze. And the fact that he wanted to avoid her was in his eyes like misery.

Related Characters: William Morel (speaker), Louisa Lily Denys Western (speaker), Paul Morel
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 158-159
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul was in bed for seven weeks. He got up white and fragile. His father had bought him a pot of scarlet and gold tulips. They used to flame in the window, in the March sunshine, as he sat on the sofa chattering to his mother. The two knitted together in perfect intimacy. Mrs. Morel’s life now rooted itself in Paul.

Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

She wanted to show him a certain wild-rose bush she had discovered. She knew it was wonderful. And yet, till he had seen it, she felt it had not come into her soul. Only he could make it her own, immortal … By the time they came to the pine-trees Miriam was getting very eager, and very tense. Her bush might be gone. She might not be able to find it. And she wanted it so much. Almost passionately, she wanted to be with him when she stood before the flowers. They were going to have a communion together, something that thrilled her, something holy.

Related Characters: Paul Morel, Miriam Leivers
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
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Flowers Symbol Timeline in Sons and Lovers

The timeline below shows where the symbol Flowers appears in Sons and Lovers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...out onto the street, look pretty and the gardens are neatly kept and full of flowers. The back doors, however, open onto a grimy alley facing the “ash pits.” The kitchens... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
 Death, Grief, and Self-Destruction  Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...feels the baby moving inside her and tries to soothe herself by walking among the flowers in her garden. In the light from the moon, she begins to feel calm as... (full context)
Chapter 3
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...socializes often at dances and billiard games. He has many girlfriends, whom he compares to flowers and describes to his younger brother Paul, whom he nicknames “Postle.” Mrs. Morel disapproves of... (full context)
Chapter 5
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
...Morel is delighted by the front piece of a florist’s shop and finds a beautiful flower that she would love to take home. She and Paul joke, however, that the delicate... (full context)
Chapter 6
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
...walk through beautiful countryside and the pair are not sure of the way. Paul picks flowers for Mrs. Morel and helps her to climb over stiles. When they arrive at the... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...day Paul goes out for a walk with the couple and Louisa lets him wind flowers through her hair. When William sees this, Paul notices that a strange look of pain... (full context)
Chapter 7
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
Miriam greets him and Paul remarks on some daffodils which are growing in the garden and which he thinks must be cold in the... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...She is breathless with excitement and seems to care passionately how Paul feels about the flowers. Paul thinks the roses are beautiful, but after he has seen them he hurries home;... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...they set out, Mrs. Morel calls Paul into the garden and delightedly shows him some flowers which have grown out of season, under a sheltering bush. The group set out together... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...last she spends at the Morels’ house, Paul takes her into the garden and pins flowers to her dress. Miriam is amused by this because she usually takes little care over... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...he is in a bitter, mean mood. She takes him outside to show him the daffodils which are springing up there. Paul watches as she kneels over the flowers and kisses... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
They stop to admire a beautiful field full of flowers and Paul tries to offer some that he has picked to Clara. Clara refuses and... (full context)
Chapter 10
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
At work, Paul teases and abuses Clara. When he sees her wearing a flower, he reminds her about her rule not to wear dead things. Clara is confused and... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...is sitting up with Mrs. Morel, he is drawn outside by the smell of the lilies drifting in on the breeze. Paul goes outside and looks at the moon. He finds... (full context)
Chapter 12
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
When Clara arrives, Paul buys her a red flower to wear in her coat. They catch a tram out towards the castle. Paul feels... (full context)
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...in the trees where the pair lie down together. When Clara gets up again, the flower on her coat has been shredded to pieces. Paul worries that Clara seems sad, but... (full context)
Family, Psychology, and the Oedipus Complex Theme Icon
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
...when the dishes are put away and she follows him outside. He shows her the flowers in the garden and, while they are flirting, Miriam arrives. (full context)
Chapter 13
 Death, Grief, and Self-Destruction  Theme Icon
 Nature and Industrialism Theme Icon
...will soon die. Still, she is happy to be home and pleased to see her sunflowers growing in the yard. (full context)
Chapter 14
Women’s Work and Women’s Rights Theme Icon
...and, although they are not friendly towards each other, she gives Baxter some money and flowers and wishes, in some sacrificial way, to make amends. She also likes that she feels... (full context)
Chapter 15
Christianity, Propriety, and Physicality Theme Icon
 Death, Grief, and Self-Destruction  Theme Icon
Miriam admires the flowers on Paul’s table, and he gives them to her. He accompanies her back to her... (full context)