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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.