The Psychology of a Book: Part Two

Yesterday I told you all about my connection to D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow. Today I’m telling you about another one of his works and why I saw myself deeply locked inside the head of a male character.

I can’t quite figure out why I keep connecting to the men in D.H. Lawrence’s books, but I do. While I didn’t connect as deeply with Paul Morel, as I did Tom Brangwen, from The Rainbow, I think I understood him. The book that I’m talking about today is Sons and Lovers.  This book has an interesting look at the psychology of relationships. From everything I have read about the story behind the book it is said that it is a fictionalized almost autobiography of D.H. Lawrence’s life and his relationship with his mother. Now whether or not Lawrence meant for the reader to analyze his works or not, I can’t tell you for sure. I can only say that I was a psychology major, and I went into that profession because I liked understanding the why of things, delving past face value and really getting to the heart of an action.

In Sons and Lovers you have a man who seems to be centering everything in his life around his mother; trying to please her, or live his life the way she decides it should be lived. Now, some might say there’s nothing wrong with that, but when that type of obsession to please is so strong that you forget your own needs, your own wants and desires, and you live your life for somebody else without ever truly allowing yourself to be happy, there’s a problem.

Now, our lead guy in this book finds it hard to love another woman in any capacity because he seemed to see it as a betrayal of the one woman in his life—his mother. What I don’t think the character realizes is that the love he had for his mother and the love that he would have for a lover/wife are completely different and having love for one would in no way diminish the validity of his love for another. I’ll admit that his mother isn’t helpful in pushing the man away from the nest. Now keep in my mind this is my interpretation of the character due to my reading the book years ago. You might see something completely different. If you do, tell me about it because I’d love to know what somebody else thinks of the psychology of this character. But until then…I’m going to continue with my take on this novel.

Why do I relate to this male character? I think it’s because I see a little bit of myself in his character. I could understand him because I understood the need to please everybody (in his case, one somebody) above all else. I understood the action of putting everybody else, or somebody else in particular, above one’s self…their desires meant more, their goals meant more, their approval meant more. And I think that maybe I pulled from his character the things I saw happening in my own life. Sort of a transference, so to speak, of my issues onto the character.

I think this is one of the reasons I like D.H. Lawrence’s works. I think that reading the writings about him, as a person, and then reading his books, I guess I kind of think he was working through something of his own and he used his writings to help him work through it. I see a lot of that psychological healing in my own work—particularly my earlier work more than my work today. I can go back and read something I penned in fourth grade and I can tell you exactly what I was going through, what I was trying to figure out, and I can tell you because it’s very close to what my lead character was going through.  With the first full length novel I wrote (in first person POV) my friend, at that time, read it and she could pick herself out without me even telling her that the character was based on her. She could pick out all the other characters and she could tell exactly what I was trying to work through when I wrote the book. That was kind of my slap in the face wakeup call that I really needed to save the self analysis for my poetry and not my fiction stories. So I tend to try to keep my heart and my head out of my characters, but sometimes I look back on a story and I can see myself in my lead (male or female sometimes). I’m working on not doing that, but I don’t think it’s fully possible.

I remember a conversation I had with one of my favorite English Composition and Literature professors—Paul Licata. I was no longer in any of his classes because I had moved on to the last leg of my college undergrad experience, but I was sitting in his office and I told him that I had wrote a novel and it was “totally not about me,” and he looked at me, with that same knowing look he always seemed to have, and he said, “are you sure about that?” And I knew that he knew, that I knew, there was a lot of me in that book.

I think my inability to completely hide myself from my writings is why I always felt nervous when I had a psychology paper due in one of Doctor David Baker’s classes. We weren’t allowed to make stuff up. We had to write the truth and analyze ourselves right there on paper. He seemed to know if a person was lying too; like he was psychic or something. But I think why I was so nervous was because it was like I was sharing a piece of my soul with a perfect stranger, a part of me that I had never shared with anybody else, and I think I was a little uncomfortable with that because it made me face a part of my life that maybe I was trying to hide from, or burry.

I could be wrong. D.H. Lawrence may have not been trying to work through anything. Maybe the man just wanted to write a novel and he figured it was better to write what he knew. But I think I connect to the man and to his writings because I connect to what I perceive to be his quest to find himself, understand himself and get other people, through his writings, to hear the words that he wasn’t able to utter aloud. Maybe I’m reading more into a fictional piece of work than the author ever intended to be there…but you know, sometimes I think I find my greatest joys in reading when I walk away from a book and it makes me think about the characters, about the psychology of it, and even about why I connected so deeply to their quest. I think if, as a writer, a musician, and even an artist, if you can leave just one person from your audience walking away thinking about your work deeply, then you are an artistic genius in my book. I have so much respect for your talent, your skill, and your ability to create something that impacts the world, even if it’s only the world of one.

I guess that’s all the  intel I’m giving you all on my psychological and analytical experience with some of my reading adventures. You all tell me, if you want to, are there any books that you have walked away with more of a connection to then you expected you would ever have? It doesn’t just have to be a book. Maybe it’s a movie, or music, or a piece of art…whatever. You can come closer and tell me; I promise I don’t bite.


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