Department of Comparative Literature, Languages

& Linguistics (CLL188, Psychoanalysis and Literature)



In D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913) and Neil Jordan’s The Miracle (1991), the Oedipal Complex is introduced in the compelling framework of a coming of age novel of a boy’s relationship to his mother; and in a coming of age film about a young man’s infatuation with a mysterious woman he feels a deep connection to, who unbeknown to him happens to be his long-lost mother returning to reconnect with her unknown son. In both works, the Oedipal Complex is manifested in a variety of ways, both in terms of the competition with the father and the longing for the mother.

Analyze and compare excerpts from the novel, Sons and Lovers and scenes from the film, The Miracle, in terms of how author and director/author portray the Oedipal complex and its impact on the relationship between parents and children, parents themselves, and love interests outside of the family. What are some characteristics that both stories and characters have in common?


Focus on the excerpt and what you remember from the film, but feel free to bring in Freud to help with your interpretation of the text and film.

Support what you say with specific references to the text excerpts included from Sons and Lovers and scenes you recall from The Miracle.


“All alone?” she said.


As if at home, she took off her tam-o’-shanter and her long coat, hanging them up. It gave him a thrill. This might be their own house, his and hers. Then she came back and peered over his work.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Still design, for decorating stuffs, and for embroidery.”

She bent short-sightedly over the drawings.

It irritated him that she peered so into everything that was his, searching him out. He went into the parlour and returned with a bundle of brownish linen. Carefully unfolding it, he spread it on the floor. It proved to be a curtain or portiere, beautifully stencilled with a design on roses.

“Ah, how beautiful!” she cried.

The spread cloth, with its wonderful reddish roses and dark green stems, all so simple, and somehow so wicked-looking, lay at her feet. She went on her knees before it, her dark curls dropping. He saw her crouched voluptuously before his work, and his heart beat quickly. Suddenly she looked up at him.

And what will you do with it?” she asked.

“Send it to Liberty’s. I did it for my mother, but I think she’d rather have the money.”

“Yes,” said Miriam. He had spoken with a touch of bitterness, and Miriam sympathised. Money would have been nothing to HER.

He took the cloth back into the parlour. When he returned he threw to Miriam a smaller piece. It was a cushion-cover with the same design.

“I did that for you,” he said.

She fingered the work with trembling hands, and did not speak. He became embarrassed.

“By Jove, the bread!” he cried.

He took the top loaves out, tapped them vigorously. They were done. He put them on the hearth to cool. Then he went to the scullery, wetted his hands, scooped the last white dough out of the punchion, and dropped it in a baking-tin. Miriam was still bent over her painted cloth. He stood rubbing the bits of dough from his hands.

“You do like it?” he asked.

She looked up at him, with her dark eyes one flame of love. He laughed uncomfortably. Then he began to talk about the design. There was for him the most intense pleasure in talking about his work to Miriam. All his passion, all his wild blood, went into this intercourse with her, when he talked and conceived his work. She brought forth to him his imaginations. She did not understand, any more than a woman understands when she conceives a child in her womb. But this was life for her and for him.


“I should have thought,” said Mrs. Morel bitterly, “that she wouldn’t have occupied you so entirely as to burn a whole ovenful of bread.”


It was his mother’s custom to bring him some trifle for supper on Friday night, the night of luxury for the colliers. He was too angry to go and find it in the pantry this night. This insulted her.……………………………………………………………………………….. I do like her,” he said, “but–”

“LIKE her!” said Mrs. Morel, in the same biting tones. “It seems to me you like nothing and nobody else. There’s neither Annie, nor me, nor anyone now for you.”

“What nonsense, mother–you know I don’t love her–I–I tell you I DON’T love her–she doesn’t even walk with my arm, because I don’t want her to.”

“Then why do you fly to her so often?”

“I DO like to talk to her–I never said I didn’t. But I DON’T love her.”

“Is there nobody else to talk to?”

“Not about the things we talk of. There’s a lot of things that you’re not interested in, that-”

“What things?”

Mrs. Morel was so intense that Paul began to pant.

“Why–painting–and books. YOU don’t care about Herbert Spencer.”

“No,” was the sad reply. “And YOU won’t at my age.”

“Well, but I do now–and Miriam does–”

“And how do you know,” Mrs. Morel flashed defiantly, “that I shouldn’t. Do you ever try me!”

“But you don’t, mother, you know you don’t care whether a picture’s decorative or not; you don’t care what MANNER it is in.”

“How do you know I don’t care? Do you ever try me? Do you ever talk to me about these things, to try?”

“But it’s not that that matters to you, mother, you know t’s not.”

“What is it, then–what is it, then, that matters to me?” she flashed. He knitted his brows with pain.

“You’re old, mother, and we’re young.”

He only meant that the interests of HER age were not the interests of his. But he realised the moment he had spoken that he had said the wrong thing.

“Yes, I know it well–I am old. And therefore I may stand aside; I have nothing more to do with you. You only want me to wait on you–the rest is for Miriam.”

He could not bear it. Instinctively he realised that he was life to her. And, after all, she was the chief thing to him, the only supreme thing.

“You know it isn’t, mother, you know it isn’t!”

She was moved to pity by his cry.

“It looks a great deal like it,” she said, half putting aside her despair.

“No, mother–I really DON’T love her. I talk to her, but I want to come home to you.”

He had taken off his collar and tie, and rose, bare-throated, to go to bed. As he stooped to kiss his mother, she threw her arms round his neck, hid her face on his shoulder, and cried, in a whimpering voice, so unlike her own that he writhed in agony:

“I can’t bear it. I could let another woman–but not her. She’d leave me no room, not a bit of room–”

And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.

“And I’ve never–you know, Paul–I’ve never had a husband–not really–”

He stroked his mother’s hair, and his mouth was on her throat.

“And she exults so in taking you from me–she’s not like ordinary girls.”

“Well, I don’t love her, mother,” he murmured, bowing his head and hiding his eyes on her shoulder in misery. His mother kissed him a long, fervent kiss.

“My boy!” she said, in a voice trembling with passionate love.

Without knowing, he gently stroked her face.

“There,” said his mother, “now go to bed. You’ll be so tired in the morning.” As she was speaking she heard her husband coming. “There’s your father–now go.” Suddenly she looked at him almost as if in fear. “Perhaps I’m selfish. If you want her, take her, my boy.”

His mother looked so strange, Paul kissed her, trembling.

“Ha–mother!” he said softly.

Morel came in, walking unevenly. His hat was over one corner of his eye. He balanced in the doorway.

“At your mischief again?” he said venomously.

Mrs. Morel’s emotion turned into sudden hate of the drunkard who had come in thus upon her.

“At any rate, it is sober,” she said.

“H’m–h’m! h’m–h’m!” he sneered. He went into the passage, hung up his hat and coat. Then they heard him go down three steps to the pantry. He returned with a piece of pork-pie in his fist. It was what Mrs. Morel had bought for her son.

“Nor was that bought for you. If you can give me no more than twenty-five shillings, I’m sure I’m not going to buy you pork-pie to stuff, after you’ve swilled a bellyful of beer.”

“Wha-at–wha-at!” snarled Morel, toppling in his balance. “Wha-at–not for me?” He looked at the piece of meat and crust, and suddenly, in a vicious spurt of temper, flung it into the fire.

Paul started to his feet.

“Waste your own stuff!” he cried.

“What–what!” suddenly shouted Morel, jumping up and clenching his fist. “I’ll show yer, yer young jockey!”

“All right!” said Paul viciously, putting his head on one side. “Show me!”

He would at that moment dearly have loved to have a smack at something. Morel was half crouching, fists up, ready to spring. The young man stood, smiling with his lips.

“Ussha!” hissed the father, swiping round with a great stroke just past his son’s face. He dared not, even though so close, really touch the young man, but swerved an inch away.

“Right!” said Paul, his eyes upon the side of his father’s mouth, where in another instant his fist would have hit. He ached for that stroke. But he heard a faint moan from behind. His mother was deadly pale and dark at the mouth. Morel was dancing up to deliver another blow.

“Father!” said Paul, so that the word rang.

Morel started, and stood at attention.

“Mother!” moaned the boy. “Mother!”

She began to struggle with herself. Her open eyes watched him, although she could not move. Gradually she was coming to herself. He laid her down on the sofa, and ran upstairs for a little whisky, which at last she could sip. The tears were hopping down his face. As he kneeled in front of her he did not cry, but the tears ran down his face quickly. Morel, on the opposite side of the room, sat with his elbows on his knees glaring across.

“What’s a-matter with ‘er?” he asked.

“Faint!” replied Paul.


The elderly man began to unlace his boots. He stumbled off to bed. His last fight was fought in that home.

Paul kneeled there, stroking his mother’s hand.

“Don’t be poorly, mother–don’t be poorly!” he said time after time.

“It’s nothing, my boy,” she murmured.

At last he rose, fetched in a large piece of coal, and raked the fire. Then he cleared the room, put everything straight, laid the things for breakfast, and brought his mother’s candle.

“Can you go to bed, mother?”

“Yes, I’ll come.”

“Sleep with Annie, mother, not with him.”

“No. I’ll sleep in my own bed.”

“Don’t sleep with him, mother.”

“I’ll sleep in my own bed.”

She rose, and he turned out the gas, then followed her closely upstairs, carrying her candle. On the landing he kissed her close.

“Good-night, mother.”

“Good-night!” she said..


She thought his sarcasms were unnecessary. They went forward in silence. Round the wild, tussocky lawn at the back of the house was a thorn hedge, under which daffodils were craning forward from among their sheaves of grey-green blades. The cheeks of the flowers were greenish with cold. But still some had burst, and their gold ruffled and glowed. Miriam went on her knees before one cluster, took a wild-looking daffodil between her hands, turned up its face of gold to her, and bowed down, caressing it with her mouth and cheeks and brow. He stood aside, with his hands in his pockets, watching her. One after another she turned up to him the faces of the yellow, bursten flowers appealingly, fondling them lavishly all the while.

“Aren’t they magnificent?” she murmured.

“Magnificent! It’s a bit thick–they’re pretty!”

She bowed again to her flowers at his censure of her praise. He watched her crouching, sipping the flowers with fervid kisses.

“Why must you always be fondling things?” he said irritably.

“But I love to touch them,” she replied, hurt.

“Can you never like things without clutching them as if you wanted to pull the heart out of them? Why don’t you have a bit more restraint, or reserve, or something?”

She looked up at him full of pain, then continued slowly to stroke her lips against a ruffled flower. Their scent, as she smelled it, was so much kinder than he; it almost made her cry.

“You wheedle the soul out of things,” he said. “I would never wheedle–at any rate, I’d go straight.”

He scarcely knew what he was saying. These things came from him mechanically. She looked at him. His body seemed one weapon, firm and hard against her.

“You’re always begging things to love you,” he said, “as if you were a beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn on them–”

Rhythmically, Miriam was swaying and stroking the flower with her mouth, inhaling the scent which ever after made her shudder as it came to her nostrils.

“You don’t want to love–your eternal and abnormal craving is to be loved. You aren’t positive, you’re negative. You absorb, absorb, as if you must fill yourself up with love, because you’ve got a shortage somewhere.”

She was stunned by his cruelty, and did not hear. He had not the faintest notion of what he was saying. It was as if his fretted, tortured soul, run hot by thwarted passion, jetted off these sayings like sparks from electricity. She did not grasp anything he said. She only sat crouched beneath his cruelty and his hatred of her. She never realised in a flash. Over everything she brooded and brooded.

After tea he stayed with Edgar and the brothers, taking no notice of Miriam. She, extremely unhappy on this looked-for holiday, waited for him. And at last he yielded and came to her. She was determined to track this mood of his to its origin. She counted it not much more than a mood.

“Shall we go through the wood a little way?” she asked him, knowing he never refused a direct request.

They went down to the warren. On the middle path they passed a trap, a narrow horseshoe hedge of small fir-boughs, baited with the guts of a rabbit. Paul glanced at it frowning. She caught his eye.

“Isn’t it dreadful?” she asked.

“I don’t know! Is it worse than a weasel with its teeth in a rabbit’s throat? One weasel or many rabbits? One or the other must go!”

He was taking the bitterness of life badly. She was rather sorry for him.

“We will go back to the house,” he said. “I don’t want to walk out.”

They went past the lilac-tree, whose bronze leaf-buds were coming unfastened. Just a fragment remained of the haystack, a monument squared and brown, like a pillar of stone. There was a little bed of hay from the last cutting.

“Let us sit here a minute,” said Miriam.

He sat down against his will, resting his back against the hard wall of hay. They faced the amphitheatre of round hills that glowed with sunset, tiny white farms standing out, the meadows golden, the woods dark and yet luminous, tree-tops folded over tree-tops, distinct in the distance. The evening had cleared, and the east was tender with a magenta flush under which the land lay still and rich.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she pleaded.

But he only scowled. He would rather have had it ugly just then.

At that moment a big bull-terrier came rushing up, open-mouthed, pranced his two paws on the youth’s shoulders, licking his face. Paul drew back, laughing. Bill was a great relief to him. He pushed the dog aside, but it came leaping back.

“Get out,” said the lad, “or I’ll dot thee one.”

But the dog was not to be pushed away. So Paul had a little battle with the creature, pitching poor Bill away from him, who, however, only floundered tumultuously back again, wild with joy. The two fought together, the man laughing grudgingly, the dog grinning all over. Miriam watched them. There was something pathetic about the man. He wanted so badly to love, to be tender. The rough way he bowled the dog over was really loving. Bill got up, panting with happiness, his brown eyes rolling in his white face, and lumbered back again. He adored Paul. The lad frowned.

“Bill, I’ve had enough o’ thee,” he said.

But the dog only stood with two heavy paws, that quivered with love, upon his thigh, and flickered a red tongue at him. He drew back.

“No,” he said–“no–I’ve had enough.”

And in a minute the dog trotted off happily, to vary the fun.

He remained staring miserably across at the hills, whose still beauty he begrudged. He wanted to go and cycle with Edgar. Yet he had not the courage to leave Miriam.

“Why are you sad?” she asked humbly.

“I’m not sad; why should I be,” he answered. “I’m only normal.”

She wondered why he always claimed to be normal when he was disagreeable.

“But what is the matter?” she pleaded, coaxing him soothingly.


“Nay!” she murmured.

He picked up a stick and began to stab the earth with it.

“You’d far better not talk,” he said.

“But I wish to know–” she replied.

He laughed resentfully.

“You always do,” he said.

“It’s not fair to me,” she murmured.

He thrust, thrust, thrust at the ground with the pointed stick, digging up little clods of earth as if he were in a fever of irritation. She gently and firmly laid her band on his wrist.

“Don’t!” she said. “Put it away.”

He flung the stick into the currant-bushes, and leaned back. Now he was bottled up.

“What is it?” she pleaded softly.

He lay perfectly still, only his eyes alive, and they full of torment.

“You know,” he said at length, rather wearily–“you know–we’d better break off.”

It was what she dreaded. Swiftly everything seemed to darken before her eyes.

“Why!” she murmured. “What has happened?”

“Nothing has happened. We only realise where we are. It’s no good–”

She waited in silence, sadly, patiently. It was no good being impatient with him. At any rate, he would tell her now what ailed him.

“We agreed on friendship,” he went on in a dull, monotonous voice. “How often HAVE we agreed for friendship! And yet–it neither stops there, nor gets anywhere else.”

He was silent again. She brooded. What did he mean? He was so wearying. There was something he would not yield. Yet she must be patient with him.

“I can only give friendship–it’s all I’m capable of–it’s a flaw in my make-up. The thing overbalances to one side–I hate a toppling balance. Let us have done.”

There was warmth of fury in his last phrases. He meant she loved him more than he her. Perhaps he could not love her. Perhaps she had not in herself that which he wanted. It was the deepest motive of her soul, this self-mistrust. It was so deep she dared neither realise nor acknowledge. Perhaps she was deficient. Like an infinitely subtle shame, it kept her always back. If it were so, she would do without him. She would never let herself want him. She would merely see.

“But what has happened?” she said.

“Nothing–it’s all in myself–it only comes out just now. We’re always like this towards Easter-time.”

He grovelled so helplessly, she pitied him. At least she never floundered in such a pitiable way. After all, it was he who was chiefly humiliated.

“What do you want?” she asked him.

“Why–I mustn’t come often–that’s all. Why should I monopolise you when I’m not–You see, I’m deficient in something with regard to you–”

He was telling her he did not love her, and so ought to leave her a chance with another man. How foolish and blind and shamefully clumsy he was! What were other men to her! What were men to her at all! But he, ah! she loved his soul. Was HE deficient in something? Perhaps he was.

“But I don’t understand,” she said huskily. “Yesterday–”

The night was turning jangled and hateful to him as the twilight faded. And she bowed under her suffering.

“I know,” he cried, “you never will! You’ll never believe that I can’t–can’t physically, any more than I can fly up like a skylark–”

“What?” she murmured. Now she dreaded.

“Love you.”

He hated her bitterly at that moment because he made her suffer. Love her! She knew he loved her. He really belonged to her. This about not loving her, physically, bodily, was a mere perversity on his part, because he knew she loved him. He was stupid like a child. He belonged to her. His soul wanted her. She guessed somebody had been influencing him. She felt upon him the hardness, the foreignness of another influence.

“What have they been saying at home?” she asked.

“It’s not that,” he answered.