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Color Symbolism In Sons And Lovers

1316 words - 5 pages

Color Symbolism in Sons and Lovers

Throughout Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence uses colors to suggest the underlying implications of the events taking place. Three colors in particular - red, black, and white - seem to carry some sort of subtle connotation which reveals more about the characters, their actions, and their motives for those actions, than the plot or the setting alone. Tied to the color images are material images which carry the same connotative meaning: the color red is associated with fire, black with darkness and dirt, and white with cold. Also, Lawrence tends to use such color images at times when an emotional response arises from one of the characters or from the reader. Especially in the first chapter, Lawrence tends to associate certain people and actions with colors. In the two instances when Walter and Gertrude Morel begin fighting, conflicts arise in colors, which echo the conflicts confronting the characters. The three colors and their associated images relate to the emotional states of the characters, and explain the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind their actions.

Industrialized England as portrayed in Sons and Lovers corrupts and demeans its citizens under the oppressive burden of hard labor and meager wages. Lawrence uses blackness, darkness, and dirt as symbols of the moral and physical corruption brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Walter Morel, caught up in the melee of industry, is often associated with black images. At the time of his introduction to Gertrude, "he had wavy black hair that shone again, and a vigorous black beard that had never been shaved" (8). Lawrence's use of "vigorous" here hints at the instinctive, animalistic tendencies that Walter reveals. During the second violent altercation between Walter and Gertrude, "she could just see [from outside], under the blind, her husband's arms spread out on the table, and his black head on the board" (23). By making Walter's head appear black, Lawrence suggests that Walter's mind is fully altered or corrupted. Afterwards, when Gertrude meets him in the bedroom, "he was already dead asleep. His narrow black eyebrows were drawn up in a sort of peevish misery into his forehead" (24). When he comes home from the mines surly and furious, he is always covered in his pit-dirt, further pressing the point that industry (as Walter is exposed to it) is detrimental to man. At one point, Gertrude screams at Walter, "The house is filthy with you!" (21). On the surface, Gertrude is merely insulting Walter, saying that he makes the house dirty. It could also mean, however, that with his presence and his actions, the house is made filthy "with him", or at the same time and in the same way as him. The corruption that Walter brings seeps into the house, which is obvious, since the normally levelheaded Gertrude has been reduced to just as feral and impotent a fury as her husband often is. Lawrence, therefore, uses black and darkness to emphasize the corruption...

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