sons and lovers

Title: sons and lovers
More Cliffsnotes

BARRON'S BOOK NOTES D. H. LAWRENCE'S SONS AND LOVERS ^^^^^^^^^^D. H. LAWRENCE: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES "It is morning again, and she is still here..." wrote D. H. Lawrence of his mortally ill mother to a friend in 1913. "I look at my mother and think 'O Heaven--is this what life brings us to?' You see mother has had a devilish married life, for nearly forty years--and this is the conclusion--no relief." At the time, Lawrence was in the painful process of writing about his mother's life and his own. The book was not a biography but a novel that would be published as Sons and Lovers. In that book Lawrence would be named Paul Morel and his mother, Gertrude Morel. There are so many parallels between Sons and Lovers and Lawrence's own life as the son of an illiterate coal miner and his educated, socially aspiring wife, that the novel can well be called autobiographical. In an autobiographical novel, the events in the story are closely based on the author's life. Certain events are changed, minimized, or exaggerated, but the core of the novel is based on the author's own experiences. All the major themes, conflicts, and characters of Sons and Lovers have their real-life counterparts in Lawrence's own difficult childhood and adolescence. David Herbert (D. H.) Lawrence was born in 1885 in the poor, coal-mining town of Eastwood, on which the Bestwood of Sons and Lovers is modeled. Eastwood is near the industrial city of Nottingham in the central part of England known as the Midlands. This part of England is still rich in coal and is heavily industrialized. When Lawrence was growing up, few members of the working-class in Great Britain had much chance of lifting themselves out of poverty. Many were literate and were treated by the upper classes as little more than beasts of burden. (Such was the case with Lawrence's father, Arthur, the prototype for Walter Morel in Sons and Lovers. He was a coal miner who could barely read.) One of the only ways to better yourself was to be bright and ambitious enough to earn scholarships to high school and university, as Lawrence himself did. You could easily tell what class an individual belonged to by his speech. You'll notice in Sons and Lovers that Walter Morel speaks in a local dialect, whereas his wife Gertrude speaks a crisp, refined English. The working class had suffered humiliation and subhuman living conditions for years. Finally, some workers began to rebel. They started unions to improve their status, and socialism, a system calling for public ownership of industry and land, became increasingly popular. Rebelling against the male superiority that pervaded English society, women known as suffragists or suffragettes demanded political equality with men. Clara Dawes in Sons and Lovers is one of the "new women" who demand voting rights, equal pay, and sexual freedom. The relationship between Lawrence's parents, Lydia and Arthur, like that between Gertrude and Walter Morel, reveals the gulf separating the lower and middle classes. Arthur, like most miners (called colliers in England), worked a twelve-hour day underground, exposed to grave dangers and unhealthy working conditions. Miners' lives revolved around the mine (colliery) and the tavern, where after an exhausting day's work the men could forget their troubles with a pint or more of ale. Alcoholism was a serious problem in the mining community. Arthur Lawrence drank heavily, and the tragic effect of an alcoholic father on his family is painstakingly depicted in Sons and Lovers. Lawrence's mother, Lydia, differed markedly from her uneducated, easygoing husband. She came from a lower-middle-class family that had suffered an economic decline. Lydia's father was humiliated by their fall in social status, and this shame was transferred to his daughter, who vowed that her own sons would succeed. Lydia made sure her children were devout churchgoers and tireless students. One of the mainstays of respectability in the mining community in Lawrence's time was the Congregationalist Church. This popular Protestant sect believed people were essentially evil and therefore should spend their lives striving for improvement. Working hard and climbing the social ladder were considered divine missions. Being proud of one's individuality was also a part of the creed. From this religious background and from his mother, Lawrence learned the virtue of hard work (he was an indefatigable writer) and perceived his role as writer as a personal messianic mission. While Lawrence was to reject organized faith as an adult, he always had deeply religious feelings which led him to see nature and human beings in a mystical and reverential way. To many, it was Lawrence's strong reaction against the sexually inhibiting and overmateralistic tenets of Congregationalism that led him to an equally strong belief in nature, instinct, and sexuality as man's path to salvation. Like Paul Morel, young Lawrence appeared to hate his father and worship his mother. In fact, most readers see Sons and Lovers as an extended eulogy to the beloved Lydia Lawrence. Later in life, Lawrence felt he had treated his father too harshly in this novel. In his later novels, Lawrence depicted men like his father as heroic figures. He made them symbols of the dark, instinctual, but potent side of life that opposes the dry intellectualism and industrial mechanization of modern life. Lawrence hated the industrialism and technology that he felt were responsible for the destruction caused in World War I. He also despised the ugliness of the industrial environment and the workers' surroundings. Like earlier British writers and artists, Lawrence believed that industrialism doomed the worker to a life of dehumanizing ugliness and servility. Through his art, he wanted to bring beauty into the workers' lives. But he didn't believe that art should deal only with the beautiful. He felt that art must have a social and spiritual purpose. He saw his work as a way to criticize, evaluate, and enlighten his times. Lawrence was also an admirer of the Romantic poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats and the treatises of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher of Romanticism. These writers prized nature, instinct, and emotion over rationality and sophistication. After World War I, Lawrence fled England and embarked on a lifelong quest for cultures still in touch with their natural origins. When Lawrence was in his teens, he became acquainted with the Chambers family, which is represented as the Leiverses in Sons and Lovers. Their nearby farm, called the Haggs, came to be the Willey Farm of the novel. Lawrence found the Chambers homestead a pastoral haven. There he could escape the drab, dirty tenements of Eastwood, the violence of his drunken father, perhaps even the overprotectiveness of his domineering mother. The Chambers treated Lawrence like one of the family. He roughhoused with their boys and grew close to their daughter Jessie. Like her fictional counterpart Miriam, Jessie loved Lawrence and spent hours walking through the sparkling green countryside with him, where they often stopped to read to one another either poetry or the latest novel by the French author and social critic Emile Zola. Few British authors wrote as frankly as Zola of the horrific conditions of the modern working classes. From Zola, Lawrence may have also gotten the courage to write more explicitly about sex, something that few "respectable" British novelists dared to do. Sons and Lovers was one of the first British novels to deal explicitly with sexual matters. One of the first "Freudian" novels, it deals with the so-called Oedipus complex, or the sexual childhood attraction of a young boy for his mother. At the time Lawrence was developing as a writer, Sigmund Freud, a Viennese neurologist and the father of psychiatry, was revolutionizing the way the world looked at sexuality. Freud believed that children naturally have sexual drives, and the first focus of these feelings is the parent of the opposite sex. In Sons and Lovers some readers find an abnormally passionate attachment between Mrs. Morel and her sons. Lawrence was familiar with Freud's theories, and they probably influenced his writing of Sons and Lovers. Since the novel's publication, many critics and psychologists have considered it a penetrating study of the sexual dynamics of son/mother love and the way this love might destroy the man who cannot transfer such feelings to a mate. Because Lawrence's later novels, such as The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley's Lover, dealt even more explicitly with adult sexual behavior than Sons and Lovers, his work was considered pornographic by many, and these later novels were for a time banned in the United States. When Lawrence was working on Sons and Lovers (1910-1912), Jessie Chambers contributed many specific details, since the novel was so closely based on their own difficult, intimate relationship. Lawrence completed the novel in 1913, while mourning his mother's death and under yet another female influence, that of the independent and sensuous Frieda von Richthofen Weekley, his future wife. Much of Frieda's personality can be seen in the passionate Clara Dawes, Paul Morel's other love. Jessie felt that her portrayal as Miriam was unflattering. She broke off all ties with Lawrence and even wrote her own version of the relationship in order to vindicate herself. Sons and Lovers became a popular and critical success for several reasons. Many readers praised its accurate and moving depiction of working-class conditions. They saw in its realistic detail the evidence for needed social change. Others welcomed its erotic frankness and saw it as a revolutionary fictional partner of the pioneering work of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Still others praised the book's personal sides, its sensitive description of a young artist's development. Others were not so enthusiastic. They were disgusted by its explicit attention to sexual matters. Some thought the author too carried away by mystical ideas and overheated language. They also disliked the character of Paul, who has few of the self-sacrificing, noble traits associated with a hero. You may have some of the same reactions, both positive and negative, to Sons and Lovers. You may also think the social and sexual problems of Paul and Clara and Miriam belong to a world long gone. But you may also feel that Paul's struggle to grow up is familiar to all young people. You may experience this familiarity as you identify with Lawrence's (and Paul Morel's) own search for truth and meaning in life. The search is still not ended as Paul heads for the city at the book's end. It's doubtful that D. H. Lawrence ever ended his search. He died of tuberculosis in the south of France in 1930. Although only forty-four years old, he'd written thirteen novels and numerous stories, poems, and critical and travel essays. Both in his work and in his restless travels, Lawrence seems to have fulfilled the promise of his mother's ambitions for him and made up for her drab years with his own exuberance and productivity. At the same time, his friends and colleagues were all struck by this physically fragile man's amazing gusto for life, which he communicated in person as well as in his voluminous writings. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: THE PLOT In the rolling hills and coal-pitted fields of central England, known as the British Midlands, live the Morels, a poor mining family. The family has just moved down in the world from the nearby village of Bestwood to the Bottoms, a complex of working-class row houses. Gertrude Morel is a small, stern woman, pregnant with her third child, Paul, the protagonist of this novel. The Morels' other children are William and Annie. But unlike his siblings, Paul is not wanted by his mother. The poverty-stricken household cannot easily handle another hungry mouth to feed. Walter Morel, Paul's father, is a hard-working coal miner with a lively spirit and a severe drinking problem. Mr. and Mrs. Morel were initially attracted to each other because they were so different. He is working-class, sensual, nonintellectual, and fairly irresponsible. His wife is middle-class, pious, intellectual, and eminently reliable. The passion that held them together in the first glowing months of their marriage cannot survive their social and moral differences. When Paul is born, Mrs. Morel is determined to make him feel loved, to compensate for his unwanted conception. Paul is a feeble, oversensitive child, who seems to be living proof of the shattered love of his mismatched parents. William, the eldest son, is the favorite of the family. He's a great athlete, student, worker, and companion. He lands a good job in London and gets caught up in the exciting urban life. He becomes engaged to Louisa Lily Denys Western ("Gyp"), a young woman who is beautiful but not bright. Meanwhile, Paul gets an office job at Jordan's artificial limb factory in Nottingham. The shop girls, particularly the hunchbacked Fanny, adore this shy, sweet boy who offers them encouragement and kindness. He has also become serious about landscape painting. On a holiday visit to the farm of family friends, Paul meets his first sweetheart, Miriam Leivers. At first, Miriam means far less to Paul than do the other members of the Leivers family, whom he visits frequently. In the city, William works endlessly to support his fiancee's extravagant whims. He resents Gyp's frivolity and stupidity but is sexually enthralled by her. She satisfies his passion, without loosening his mother's hold on his heart and mind. The conflict between William's attraction to Gyp and his devotion to Mrs. Morel eventually undermines his health. He dies of pneumonia in his cold, lonely London flat (apartment). Now all Mrs. Morel's passions and aspirations pour into Paul. As he becomes the center of his mother's universe, he truly begins to live. The Leivers become like a second family to Paul. Soon, the daughter Miriam grows closest to the sensitive, artistic youth. The two share long, idyllic walks through the countryside, talking and reading to each other. Paul helps Miriam overcome her many physical fears, such as climbing fences and letting the barnyard chickens eat out of her hand. He teaches her French and algebra, opening up a new, exciting world. Miriam appeals to Paul's own growing mysticism and creativity and loves nurturing Paul's artistic growth. They experience an intense relationship but don't know how to express it physically. As Paul grows into manhood, he finds his abstract, spiritual relationship with Miriam unsatisfactory. Mrs. Morel, however, is jealous of Miriam's influence over Paul. She fears Miriam will suck the life and energy out of him with her dreamy mysticism. Paul, in turn, becomes frustrated by Miriam's otherworldliness. He eventually realizes he wants to have a sexual relationship with her, but can't get up the courage to make a pass at her. He knows how much she fears sex. Confused and frustrated, Paul starts to hate Miriam and treat her cruelly. At the Leivers farm, Paul meets Clara Dawes, a political and social activist who has left her unfaithful husband. As the relationship between Miriam and Paul becomes more hopeless, his affinity for the older, sensuous Clara develops. Clara suggests to Paul that Miriam might actually want him as a man and helps him find the courage to approach Miriam as a lover. Finally Paul and Miriam make love. The act dissatisfies both of them. Miriam acts as if making love is an unenjoyable sacrifice she endures for Paul's benefit only. Paul can't stand feeling that his wanting Miriam as a woman hurts her. He finally follows his mother's advice and ends his affair with Miriam. In hope of finding an outlet for his intense sexual passions, he turns to Clara. Paul and Clara have an affair. She satisfies his sensuality without breaking his attachment to his mother. But Clara, like Miriam, wants to make their relationship permanent, or at least stable. This is impossible because of Paul's devotion to Mrs. Morel. Paul comes to befriend Clara's husband, Baxter, who has not hidden his hatred for Paul and even thrashed him for having an affair with his wife. While Baxter is in the hospital, Paul visits him, then helps place the broken man in a convalescent home. Meanwhile, Paul's mother is dying of stomach cancer. Neither Paul nor his sister Annie can bear to see their mother in pain. Paul finally gives her an overdose of morphine to end her suffering. After his mother's death, Paul feels that life isn't worth living. His relationship with Clara has disintegrated, and he decides to renounce her. Clara, believing she will never get close to Paul, goes back to Baxter. Paul remains in deep despair over his mother's death. He can't do anything but mourn and think about dying. Eventually, his will to live wins out. Paul heads toward the blazing lights of Nottingham and a new life. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: PAUL MOREL Paul Morel, the protagonist of Sons and Lovers, is based on the youthful D. H. Lawrence. Paul is a young man in the painful process of growing up. He's also gradually discovering that he's a gifted artist. Most important to the story, Paul is torn between his passion for two young women, the mystical Miriam and the sensual Clara, and his unyielding devotion to a possessive mother. You may see Paul merely as a fellow under the thumb of a dominating mother. Some readers feel that his feeling for her is more passionate and that his difficulties with Miriam and Clara stem from this unresolved passion. Only her death frees him at the end. Another view of Paul is that he derives great strength from his mother and is inspired rather than crippled by his relationship to her. The failure of his relationship with Miriam, according to this view, is caused more by her horror of physical intimacy, than by Gertrude Morel's superior place in Paul's affections. How you interpret Paul's relationship with his mother will have much to do with your view of her character. Another of Paul's conflicts centers on his apparent hatred for his father. You can see Paul's abhorrence of Walter Morel's vulgarity and alcoholism, but you can also see his imitation of Walter's carefree spirit and lust for life. Isn't some of Paul's own brutality to Miriam derived from his father's behavior? In some people's eyes, masculine virility is only another version of brutality. Many readers see Paul's inner conflicts as a reflection of his parents' very different personalities and class backgrounds. He combines his father's working-class simplicity, spontaneity, and sensuality with his mother's middle-class steadfastness, intellectualism, and social ambition. Paul can be viewed as the volatile offspring of both the lower and the middle classes. He can also be seen as a lovable, charismatic character. He's often kind and jovial, especially to his mother and the shop girls at Jordan's. Paul shares a healthy companionship with other men. It helps him appreciate the everyday joys of life and escape his brooding tendencies. There's also a dark, brutal side to Paul. He can be very cruel, particularly to his girlfriends. He can't bear Miriam Leivers' superspirituality when it interferes with his sexual desires. After she finally gives up her virginity to him, he leaves her. Given the importance of virginity to an unmarried woman in the early twentieth century, Paul's treatment of Miriam seems shockingly inconsiderate. Once the proud Clara falls in love with Paul, he leaves her as well, telling her to go home to her husband. If Paul is such a sensitive, caring young man, why does he do such cruel things? Paul is a fascinating mixture of extremes: vitality and despondency, spirituality and sensuality, love and hate, sensitivity and cruelty. Do you think any of these contradictions are resolved as the story ends? ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: GERTRUDE MOREL Gertrude Morel is one of the most formidable mothers in all of Western literature. To the narrator, and perhaps to Paul Morel, she is both a giving, selfless nurturer of her children and a possessive tyrant. This small, resolute woman with luxuriant hair and a grim, determined mouth is the axis from which her children, particularly William and Paul, spin out into life. She instills them with self-confidence, social and intellectual ambitions, and a great joy in living. At the same time, she dislikes her sons' girlfriends and makes it difficult for her sons to find happiness with a mate. Gertrude also lets her sons know that she's living just for them, placing enormous pressure on their ability to "cut the apron strings." Mrs. Morel is a character you must watch carefully. She often seems to be doing wonderful things for her children, but the resulting impact on their lives cripples them. Many readers feel that Mrs. Morel is so important to William and Paul that all other women come up short when compared to her. These readers believe that William dies, not of pneumonia, but really because he can't resolve the conflict he feels between marrying his girlfriend Gyp and remaining devoted to his mother. Paul, too, will have a hard time feeling satisfied with his lovers. At one point he even says that he'll never find a wife while his mother lives--nor does he. According to modern psychological theory, as formulated by Freud and others, Gertrude Morel has replaced her husband with her sons. Although Mrs. Morel adores her sons, she is certainly capable of hate. We see this in her relationship with her coarse, uneducated husband and with Paul's first love, Miriam. Gertrude, brought up in the respectable middle class, can't accept her husband's irresponsibility or drinking habits. As a result, she writes him out of her life and puts all her passion into the children. As you read the novel you'll have to decide for yourself if her hatred of Walter Morel is justified. Gertrude's dislike of Miriam can be viewed as justified or unjustified. Some readers agree with Gertrude that Miriam tries to suck all the energy out of Paul's life and make him into a disembodied spirit. Other readers feel that Gertrude's dislike of Miriam is selfish. She fears the young girl will take her son away from her. Although Gertrude Morel makes it difficult for Paul to find a suitable mate, she clearly doesn't want him left alone when she dies. She wants him to find satisfaction in work and marriage. Gertrude feels he'll achieve this by marrying a lady and becoming a respectable, successful middle-class husband. But her idea of a suitable lifestyle may not be what Paul actually needs or desires. Mrs. Morel is right, however, to discern that her son needs a wife who equals him in strength, intelligence, and warmth. While Mrs. Morel comes across as icy and overly pious at times, Paul tells you that at one time she had known true passion with her husband and that it awakened her need for a full, vital life. She hates to give up living, even when she's terminally ill. Mrs. Morel wants to cling to life and realize her social and intellectual aspirations through Paul. When she finally dies, his emptiness seems total. Paul has been both blessed and cursed with such an extraordinary mother. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: WALTER MOREL Walter Morel is Paul's rough, sensual, hard-drinking father. In many ways, he is his wife's opposite. Walter is from a lower-class mining family. He speaks the local dialect in contrast to his wife's refined English. He loves to drink and dance, practices that Gertrude, a strict Congregationalist, considers sinful. There are two ways to look at Walter Morel's failure to be a good husband, father, and family breadwinner. You can see him as a man broken by an uncaring, brutal industrial system and an overly demanding wife. You can also see Walter as his own worst enemy, inviting self-destruction through drink and irresponsibility. You learn a good deal about Walter's good and bad qualities in Sons and Lovers, While Lawrence seems to concentrate on the character's violence and irresponsibility, he also gives you a picture of Walter's warm, lively, loving ways. The key scenes of family happiness revolve around the time when Walter stays out of the pubs and works around the house, hugging his children and telling them tall stories of life down in the mines. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: MIRIAM LEIVERS Miriam Leivers, Paul's teenage friend and sweetheart, was modeled after Lawrence's own young love, Jessie Chambers. As Jessie was with Lawrence, Miriam is Paul's devoted helpmate in his artistic and spiritual quests. Although beautiful, she takes no pleasure in her physical attributes. Her whole life is geared toward heaven and a mystical sense of nature. Paul and Miriam's first bond is their mutual love of nature. Sons and Lovers tells of their many idyllic country walks. However, whereas Miriam wants to absorb nature, Paul just wants to live in harmony with it. Later, Paul will come to feel, as his mother does, that Miriam wants to absorb his life as well. Miriam is a loner. By her own choice, she has few friends. When Paul thinks that perhaps they should marry for appearance's sake, she's mortally offended. Though Miriam is physically and socially timid, she refuses to live her life in accordance with superficial standards of etiquette. Most of Paul's family and friends feel put off by Miriam. She's too intellectual and otherworldly even to know how to hold an ordinary conversation. She lacks the normal joys of living. Her life is an extreme of agony or ecstasy. This lack of normalcy and plain fun is one of the things Paul hates about her. There are two warring sides to Miriam--her love of Paul Morel and her resistance to her sexual feelings toward him. Her mother taught her that sex is one of the burdens of marriage, and though she doesn't want to believe it, she can't help but listen to the woman who's shaped her life. When Miriam finally gives in to Paul, she does it in a spirit of self-sacrifice that disappoints both of them. Miriam's inability to enjoy sex makes her an incomplete person in the Lawrentian world, where sex as well as spirituality is necessary to an individual's fulfillment. Miriam is a very complex character. At times you feel that Lawrence himself is trying to understand exactly what she's like. The narrator, like Paul, fluctuates between pitying and condemning her. But because there are so many opposing elements to Miriam, you have an opportunity to figure out who she really is and what she wants, through your own investigation and interpretation. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CLARA DAWES Clara Dawes is the sensuous older woman who comes to replace Miriam as the love interest in Paul's life. It is with Clara that Paul learns the importance of sex as humanity's deepest link with nature and the cosmos. Clara is depicted as a new twentieth-century woman. She's a feminist before it was fashionable. Determined to be independent, she leaves her husband, earns her own living, and has an extramarital affair with Paul. Clara can be viewed as representative of the many post-Victorian women who rebelled against the traditional image of woman as the "weaker sex." Clara is extraordinarily intelligent, with a good critical mind. But you get little demonstration of this aspect of her personality, since the story concentrates on her physical attractiveness to Paul. Clara, unlike Miriam, is bursting with a lusty, animal passion. She is Paul's match for fearlessness, sensuality, and intelligence. At the same time, she lacks Miriam's spirituality and sensitivity. Without these qualities, can she stimulate Paul's work as an artist? At first Clara acts condescending to Paul. He's convinced she hates all men. She's certainly bitter about male/female relationships. Her husband Baxter brutalized her and was unfaithful. Does this mean that she hates men, or that she's had an unsatisfying married life? Later, when Paul delivers a message to Clara at her mother's home, you see quite another side of this proud, independent woman. She's humiliated and exhausted by her sweatshop labor, as she and her mother spend grueling hours making lace. Even though they have the freedom to work at home rather than on an assembly line at one of Nottingham's many factories, these women are still exploited, underpaid victims of the industrial system. Paul helps Clara get back her old overseer's job at Jordan's, and they become good friends through his generosity. Their subsequent love affair gives them both a new, expansive sense of life. With Clara, Paul finds the sensual fulfillment he can't have with either Miriam or his mother. Paul awakens Clara's sexuality, something she missed with her husband. Some readers feel that Clara is the least successful of the major characters in Sons and Lovers. They believe she comes across merely as a vehicle for Paul's passion and as a very shallow caricature of the "new woman." How do you think Lawrence succeeds in drawing Clara Dawes? How does he fail? ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: WILLIAM MOREL William is Paul's older brother. He's based on Lawrence's own brother Ernest, who was the pride and joy of his family. Like his fictional counterpart, Ernest died in London at an early age. William is robust and merry like his father. He's also intellectual and responsible like his mother. He's Gertrude's darling because he distinguishes himself early and remains devoted to her. When he goes off to a promising job in London, he meets and falls in love with a shallow-minded beauty, Louisa Lily Denys Western ("Gyp"). She satisfies his passion and fulfills his aspiration to marry someone from a higher social class, but leaves his mind and soul unfulfilled. Some readers think that William chooses such an unsuitable mate because he fears having a woman who might usurp his mother's place in his heart. Lawrence, in an unpublished foreword to Sons and Lovers, ascribes William's death from pneumonia to his internal struggle between his physical passion for a young, frivolous woman and his true love for his mother. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: LOUISA LILY DENYS WESTERN ("GYP") Gyp is William Morel's fiancee. She's a flighty, foolish, but beautiful young woman whose family has fallen upon hard times. Even though she is forced to work as a secretary, Gyp still treats people like the Morels as inferiors. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: THE OTHER MOREL CHILDREN Annie Morel is Paul's older sister. She becomes a schoolteacher and marries her childhood friend, Leonard. Arthur Morel is Paul's younger brother. He's much like Walter Morel, unintellectual and fun-loving. He marries Beatrice Wyld, a friend of Annie's. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: THE LEIVERS The Leivers are Miriam's family. They provide a home-away-from-home for Paul. Paul is very close to Mrs. Leivers, a flighty, mystical woman very different from his pragmatic mother. He's also friendly with the strong, rationalistic Edgar, Miriam's oldest brother. The Leivers family give Paul much support. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: SETTING Sons and Lovers is set in the British Midlands at the turn of the twentieth century. This is a region in central England that is highly industrialized. Factories, coal pits, and ugly row houses are abundant. Yet, Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest is close by the busy industrial city of Nottingham, where Paul works, and the river Trent swirls its way from the city through the wide-open country hills and vales. Sons and Lovers constantly contrasts the sensuous, natural environment with that of the cold, drab monuments of industrial town and city life. Paul grows up in the vicinity of Bestwood, a mining village within an hour's train ride of Nottingham, a large, factory-lined city. Bestwood, which is based on Lawrence's birthplace of Eastwood, is a conglomerate of company-owned miners' dwellings. The homes are ugly and impractical; the adjacent areas, dirty and crowded. The town is surrounded by coal pits, lush green valleys, and old farms, such as Willey Farm, where Paul spends a great deal of time. In Sons and Lovers, natural landscapes are the true home of human sexuality. Most of the lovemaking scenes take place out-of-doors, near rivers, in forests, by the sea. Nature represents life's beauty and fertility. Flower imagery abounds in this novel. You'll see how Lawrence uses flowers as both spiritual and sexual symbols. The industrial cityscapes in Sons and Lovers serve to show us how modern technological life ravages people, depriving them of their dignity, sense of beauty, and natural drives. You'll notice this particularly in the Jordan factory scenes and at Clara's home, where she's a "slave" to the cottage-industry of lace-making. Her job is quite similar to ones in the computer industry, where people are often paid minimum wages to make various computer parts at home. At the same time, town life means human community, with its ongoing survivalist drive. You'll see at the end of the novel that Paul walks away from the dark, uninhabited country fields and toward the bright city lights. Some readers see this act as Paul's walking away from death and toward life. Consider this interpretation in light of Lawrence's comparison of city and country. Is it consistent to identify the city with life and the country with death? ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: THEMES Here are some major themes of Sons and Lovers. They will be discussed in depth in "The Story" section of this guide. 1. SONS, MOTHERS, AND THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX You can look at Sons and Lovers as a story of the unnatural devotion of Paul Morel to his possessive mother. Many readers see the novel as a fictional study of the "Oedipus complex," described by Lawrence's contemporary, the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud took the old Greek myth of Oedipus, in which the hero unknowingly kills his father and marries his own mother, as a reflection of man's subconscious sexual desires. Freud rebelled against the Victorian idea that children are asexual. He believed that a child's earliest sexual attraction (at about three to five years of age) is to the parent of the opposite sex. Freud concluded his theory with the warning that if a boy did not eventually suppress this attraction and begin to identify with his father, he would never be able to transfer his early love for his mother to a suitable partner. Paul Morel seems very much like a man suffering from an Oedipus complex. At times Paul's relationship with Gertrude is disturbingly passionate. He hates his father and dreams of living exclusively with his mother. Paul has grave problems finding a satisfying relationship with any woman other than his mother. The novel traces his unsuccessful attempts to reconcile spiritual love, sexual passion, and filial devotion. Mrs. Morel encourages her son's dependence and is envious of Miriam, her rival for his affection. Along with the Oedipus complex, you'll want to consider the positive aspects of Paul's relationship with his mother. She encourages his art, education, and social advancement. In many ways, Mrs. Morel embodies the Victorian concept of the ideal mother. She lives for her sons and will do anything to see them make their way in the world. Paul's life on his own is just beginning at the novel's end. Do you think Mrs. Morel's influence on her son will prove to be for better or for worse? 2. MAN/WOMAN LOVE Sons and Lovers is an investigation of love between men and women. Paul has a spiritual love with Miriam and a sexual one with Clara. Both relationships leave him unfulfilled because Paul needs a love that combines both spiritual and sexual elements in one woman. Lawrence clarified and developed his ideas on the importance of man/woman love in his later novels. Still, in this novel you get a strong feeling that survival in modern, industrial society depends on strong heterosexual relationships. Such a relationship is only possible when both man and woman are spiritually and physically vital. Paul Morel's unfulfilled quest for this sort of relationship is a major theme of Sons and Lovers. Sex is a bone of contention between Paul and his two loves, Miriam and Clara. Both women want a personal, emotional relationship, whereas Paul views sex as rather impersonal. The woman isn't exactly an object, but a catalyst for man's mystical communion with nature. Clara and Miriam both feel that Paul doesn't make love to them as individuals, but as symbols of womanhood. They feel used, while Paul fears they're trying to possess and smother him. Lawrence felt that modern, industrial life caused such sexual warfare between men and women. Sex, which the author viewed as a healthy expression of man's link to God and nature, had been perverted by Victorian morality and the dehumanization of mechanized, industrial life. Lawrence's sense of sex as good was alien to the Victorian belief that it was evil and beastly. Sex was not supposed to be a topic of conversation between a man and a good woman. The character of Miriam is a depiction of repressed sexuality common in the Victorian woman. Many other writers were encouraged by Lawrence's bold descriptions of the sexual act and continued his revolutionary work in their own novels. 3. THE MATURATION OF AN ARTIST Sons and Lovers tells the story of an individual growing up to become a talented painter and a deeply sensitive, troubled young man. The novel traces Paul's discovery of his need and ability to paint. Art for Paul is inspired by nature and women. The beauty of the countryside stimulates his creativity, as do the gentle, devoted encouragement of Miriam, the sensuality of Clara, and the protective, sensible nurturing of Mrs. Morel. As the novel progresses, Paul becomes more and more confident in his paintings. He starts to believe he'll make a great artist someday. What's most interesting about Paul as an artist is the way he sees things. He imbues raindrops, birds, and wildflowers with a supernatural vitality. They appear to him like miraculous affirmations of brilliant, individualistic lives struggling against eternal darkness and chaos. The artist's mission in life, according to Lawrence, is to help others see beyond the commonplace and into life's mystery and wonder. At Jordan's factory, Paul draws the local shop girls in such a way as to make each of them appear unique. He makes the girls see their own inner beauty and specialness. 4. CLASS CONFLICT You can see Sons and Lovers as a novel that epitomizes the conflict between the unskilled, ill-educated working class and the rigidly moral, emotionally and sexually inhibited middle class. Walter Morel, a symbol of the working class, has the positive qualities of instinct, warmth, and spontaneity. His wife, Gertrude, a symbol of the middle class, embodies their work ethic and their intellectual and social aspirations. Gertrude and Walter ought to complement one another with their very different positive points, but in fact they, like the lower and middle classes, can't get along. In Sons and Lovers, the lower class's hatred of snobbery and phony propriety and the middle class's concern with money and social advancement cause Gertrude and Walter to come to blows. Lawrence in his own life and later novels sought a way of bringing these two social realms into harmony. Sons and Lovers can also be viewed as a working-class novel, a novel that focuses on the everyday lives, trials, and tribulations of unskilled, poor laborers. Through Lawrence's words, you get a vivid picture of what it was like to be a miner or a factory worker around the turn of the century. 5. INDUSTRIAL LIFE VS. NATURE We have a sense in Sons and Lovers that modern industrial life perverts people. They're cut off from nature and their own instinctive sexuality. Industrialism and its rigid moral code enslaves nature and discounts the sensual and aesthetic needs of humans. As you read the novel, pay close attention to the narrator's description of Jordan's factory and the way that Clara and Paul, on a brief escape from work, view the cityscape as a scar on the countryside. Factory life with its enforced confinement and long working hours isolates man from the natural world that is his true connection to the life force. Flowers, water, and other natural images are identified with sensuality and beauty, while the mines bury the fields in dust and darkness. 6. OPPOSING FORCES: LIGHT AND DARK Sons and Lovers deals constantly in oppositions, such as light and dark. Lawrence believed that oppositions in the grand scheme of things form a completeness, rather than a vicious, irreconcilable struggle. Light stands for rational life and day-to-day reality. It is most strikingly associated with Mrs. Morel. Darkness symbolizes the wonder and mystery of existence, as well as the human subconscious and brute instinct. This quality is exemplified in Walter Morel, who every day descends deep into the earth. To Lawrence, light and dark, like life and death, opened naturally into each other. When you come to William's death in Chapter 6, you'll notice that the coffin is brought from the dark into the family's lighted parlor. Lawrence, always ill and close to dying himself, felt that death was a natural extension of life and should be treated as such. To deny death, he believed, was truly to deny life. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: STYLE Lawrence uses a combination of realistic description and poetic images to create the world of Sons and Lovers. Realism is a style of writing that attempts to describe in a true-to-life manner concrete, everyday events. Poetic narrative, on the other hand, serves to lift life out of its normality, making it seem supernatural or symbolic of universal themes outside ordinary daily experience. Poetic narrative achieves this feat by using word comparisons, metaphors and similes, many adjectives, or elaborate and rhythmical language, rather than everyday speech. The realism in Sons and Lovers is strongest in the first half of the novel, where the narrator describes the Morel family's day-to-day existence. Mr. Morel hammers away at work, and the children help him along with his tasks. Mrs. Morel goes out marketing and comes home with a load of domestic treasures. The narrator also uses realistic detail to great effect when he presents the miners dividing their weekly pay in the Morel home. The men's gestures are carefully described in almost photographic detail. The realism of Sons and Lovers gives you an accurate picture of working-class life at the turn of the century. You come to know, almost as if you were there, the pains and joys of their hard lives. Lawrence's poetry comes to the forefront in his descriptions of nature, where, for example, vivid sunsets and blazing rosebushes stand out against darkening skies. The poetic portions of Sons and Lovers seem to make the common lives of its characters miraculous and heroic. Many times Lawrence uses a pattern that starts in realism, expands into lyrical poetic narrative, and then puts you back on your feet with a return to realism. You'll notice this particularly in the scenes between Paul and his women--his mother, Miriam, and Clara. He'll start them off on a normal walk or conversation and then heighten the language to give you a sense of their souls' communion. The poetic style serves the purpose of evoking an emotional response in the reader rather than advancing the plot's action. As you read Sons and Lovers, try to discover where the different styles are used and what each of them offers. How do they enhance each other and create what's unique about the novel as a whole? Lawrence also uses dialect to accurately convey his working-class characters' conversations. The Midlands dialect is quite different from standard English and you may have some difficulty understanding its slang terms, as well as its contractions of words. The dialect often drops beginning consonants of words and employs the old-fashioned "thee" and "thou" for "you." To Lawrence, this sort of language was more warm and intense than standard English. Walter Morel speaks in dialect, emphasizing his social background and his sensuality. Gertrude Morel, on the other hand, speaks the standard English of the educated middle class. You'll notice that Paul speaks both "languages," as well as French, which he teaches Miriam. Paul uses dialect for sensuous love with the sexually uninhibited Clara and for flirtation with Beatrice. He reserves proper English for Miriam and his prim mother. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: POINT OF VIEW Sons and Lovers is told from the point of view of an omniscient, or all-knowing, narrator. Most of the time, the narrator tells you more about the characters than they themselves know. This helps you accept and understand actions that might otherwise seem arbitrary or unmotivated. Since this book is highly autobiographical, many readers identify the narrator with Lawrence, who seems to be looking back and trying to come to terms with his own youthful problems and feelings through the character of Paul Morel. The narrator's subjectivity about Paul shows through. At times he sympathizes with Paul, and at other times he condemns him. You may find the other characters judged in a similar way. Some readers find the narrator's changing opinion indicative of Lawrence's own confusion over his various past relationships. Others feel that the narrator is simply reflecting how people naturally change their perspective depending on the circumstances. At times, the narrator seems to step aside and allow the characters to speak for themselves in passages of dialogue. You may feel closer to them when the narrator doesn't guide your view of their motivations. But don't forget that the narrator is choosing the speech and actions to be revealed, in order to influence your reactions. Sometimes, instead of stepping aside, the narrator seems almost to take over a character, even if the result is at odds with that character's personality. For instance, when Gertrude Morel is locked out of her house in Chapter 1, she seems mystically transported by her experience with the daylilies. But isn't she really "out of character"? Some would say that the narrator (or author?) has stepped into her shoes in such a totally subjective way that he reveals his own artistic and spiritual nature rather than Gertrude's. Others might feel this is the only way to depict a character's hidden inner feelings. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: STRUCTURE Sons and Lovers has fifteen episodic chapters, divided into Parts One and Two. Part One deals with the Morel family home life, emphasizing social and historical influences. Paul, the protagonist, is not yet the main focus of the novel. The core of Part One is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Morel's failed marriage and the promise of son William's success in life. Part One ends with the death of William and Mrs. Morel's new hope in her younger son, Paul. Part Two begins the story of Sons and Lovers in terms of Paul's perceptions. Part Two, or the story of Paul's life, can only begin once the favored son William dies and Paul takes his place in his mother's heart. This section of the novel concentrates more on the conflicting inner feelings of its characters than on the straightforward, action--and detail-oriented realism of Part One. It also focuses on the battle between Miriam and Mrs. Morel for Paul's soul. Sons and Lovers moves chronologically from before Paul's birth through his life as a young man and ends with his mourning the death of his mother. Flashbacks are often used, particularly in Part One, where Lawrence deals with the Morel parents' premarital backgrounds and Paul's early childhood memories. Part Two involves a series of repeated attempts of male/female unions, exemplified by Paul's relationship first with Miriam, then with Clara. Many readers feel that these relationships take forever to resolve and that when they do, the result is quite unsatisfactory. Other readers believe that the monotonous repetition of the failed Miriam/Paul relationship theme is deliberate. They feel that Sons and Lovers is structured like ocean waves. There's a rhythmic return pattern to various themes, such as the decay of Mr. and Mrs. Morel's love after it has reached its climax. This serves to show that there are no clear-cut resolutions in life. People make the same mistakes again and again. Part Two can be considered a journey from the known, realistic world of Part One into the realm of the unknown, where there are no definitive solutions. Part Two explores the subconscious and mysterious forces that motivate people. Lawrence saw this sort of exploration as far more important than providing his audience with resolutions. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 1 Sons and Lovers begins before the birth of its hero, Paul Morel, as his parents and brother and sister are moving into the dreary miners' lodgings known as the Bottoms. Walter Morel is a rugged miner whose small, deeply religious wife, Gertrude, is unhappily pregnant with their third child, Paul. Of all the Morels, you get the clearest picture of Gertrude in this chapter. A proud woman who has married beneath her own social class, she feels quite condescending toward the miners' world of which she is now a part. Her one joy in moving to the shabby Bottoms is that she has an end house in this low-income development, affording the Morels the luxury and status symbol of a side garden. You'll see as the story progresses how important a sense of social superiority is to the educated, refined Gertrude. NOTE: In this chapter the narrator concentrates on Mrs. Morel. Most of the time, he strongly sympathizes with her feelings. Some readers think that Mrs. Morel's importance in the novel is reflected by the fact that Lawrence chose to begin the story with her, rather than with Paul. Other readers tend to believe that her overwhelming presence here signifies the immense power she'll exert over Paul's life. The narrator makes a point to tell you that by moving into the Bottoms, the Morels have "descended" from Bestwood, a more prosperous town atop a nearby hill. You also learn that Mr. and Mrs. Morel's marriage is a shambles. Consider why Lawrence starts his story with the Morels' social, economic, and marital decline. How does it serve to color your impression of Walter and Gertrude's passionate courtship and early married bliss? Does the placing of the baby Paul in such a traumatic environment help you to understand his personal trials and tribulations as a boy and as a young man? Gertrude Morel is miserable. She fears this new child will bring grave economic hardship to the family's strained finances. Even more important, she does not want to have the baby, because it was not conceived in love. She and her husband have grown to hate each other. In contrast to the unhappiness of the Morel household, the village is caught up in the fun and festivities of the wakes, or local fair. Annie and William, the Morels' two young children, badger Gertrude to take them to the exciting event. She sends the impatient William off to the fair and promises to follow shortly with little Annie. William is in heaven at the wakes, with its games and sideshows. He's even more delighted when his refined and graceful mother arrives. Unlike the other coal miners' (colliers') wives, she has refused to let poverty and drudgery affect her poise and pride. William proudly presents his mother with two eggcups he's won. The puritanical Mrs. Morel, however, disapproves of these vulgar local festivities, so she soon departs with Annie, leaving William at the fair. NOTE: A puritanical person is one who is extremely strict in moral and sexual matters. As a practicing Congregationalist of her day, Mrs. Morel disapproves of dancing, frivolity, sexual license, and drink. Congregationalists believe in the value of hard work and good deeds, and feel that nothing should be done for pure pleasure, only for self-improvement. You'll see how strongly these beliefs vie with the freewheeling attitude of her husband later in this chapter. William's happy mood changes abruptly after Gertrude leaves him at the fair. He's struck with guilt because he let her go home without him. This is the first sign you have of Mrs. Morel's power over her children. Here, too, you see a foreshadowing of the adult William's fatal conflict between staying with his mother and living his own life. Mrs. Morel reflects on her misery once she's tucked her children in bed for the night. She feels trapped, nearly buried alive in her bleak existence, filled with demanding children, household drudgery, and a drunken, irresponsible husband. Late that night the tipsy Mr. Morel returns home, speaking tenderly and offering his wife gifts of gingerbread and a coconut. Instead of being touched by his presents, she launches into a furious lecture on his drinking habits and his unfulfilled duties as head of the household. Think about how begrudgingly Gertrude takes Morel's gifts compared to her joyful appreciation of William's eggcups. Some readers see Mrs. Morel as intolerant of her husband. It's their view that she even encourages his bad points by expecting him to live up to her ideals rather than accepting him for himself. Other readers feel that Lawrence slants their sympathy toward Mrs. Morel because he truly believed his own mother suffered unjustly at the hands of her crude, unreliable husband. Now the story flashes back to a portrait of Gertrude and Walter before they married. Gertrude grew up in a steady lower-middle-class family with a strong work ethic and a great deal of pride in their self-sufficiency. Her father never recovered from the disgrace of the family's financial losses. He was a stern, self-righteous, satirical man who was unyielding in his joyless morality. Gertrude, as you shall see, inherited most of her father's rigid moral and religious beliefs, though she also has her mother's gentle, humorous streak. Walter and Gertrude meet at a local dance. To the prim, sheltered Gertrude, the strapping young miner is like a stranger from another planet. He comes from a rough, low-class mining family and speaks a lilting Midlands dialect, with "thee" and "thou" substituted for "you," and many archaic words in his speech. She sees him as mysterious, even noble, as he tells her stories of descending day after day into the bowels of the earth. Unlike Gertrude's father, Walter is lighthearted and sensuous. She herself is intellectual and reserved. She's attracted to Walter because he's so different from her or from anyone else in her life. He, in turn, is fascinated by Gertrude--a woman with class, culture, and education--someone he assumed was beyond his reach. Walter arouses a passion in Gertrude that she never dreamed existed. Based on this animal magnetism, they marry and share a brief, happy union. Soon, however, the vast differences in their social backgrounds divide them. Gertrude finds she can't talk seriously with her nonintellectual husband. She begins to feel desperately isolated in his coarse working-class world, where there is little time for the luxury of trading ideas. Walter also becomes dissatisfied with his new home life. A man of action rather than words, he can't sit around the house every night and soon takes to staying out late and drinking with his old cronies. Gertrude, a teetotaler, hates his drinking. And she discovers in Walter another unforgivable fault to her puritanical mind: he's lied to her about their finances. She finds out they don't own their home or even their furniture. Like her father, Gertrude considers debt not only shameful but sinful. In her eyes, it's a Christian duty to be financially responsible and constantly striving to improve the social rank of one's family. Such concerns are very far from the mind of fun-loving Walter. The couple begins to battle viciously as Gertrude embarks on an almost religious mission to reform her husband. The birth of their first child, William, regenerates the despondent Gertrude. Now she can put all her energy into this new life waiting to be molded into her ideal image. Walter feels left out and jealous of his son. As you read Sons and Lovers, you'll want to consider whether Mrs. Morel encourages the rivalry between her husband and sons and to what purpose. The Morel family history flashback ends with Walter shearing off baby William's long curls. This act completely estranges husband and wife. Gertrude never forgives Walter for making their son a little man, even though she admits it's necessary. Why do you think she feels this way? Now you return to the present. The Morels' love and passion has been totally transformed into a bitter, hateful ongoing war. It's a new day and Walter returns home very late and very drunk, as usual. This time, however, he's irritable and antagonistic. It's more than his pregnant, overworked wife can bear so she verbally attacks him. Being a simple, inarticulate man, Walter can't adequately combat his wife's tirade. He retaliates physically and shoves her out into the night. Although locked out and feeling terribly alone in the world, Gertrude nevertheless finds herself refreshed by the glowing moonlight. She feels overwhelmed by nature's expansiveness after the claustrophobic torture of her small home and its domestic strife. Gertrude places her hand inside one of the pollen-filled white lilies in the garden. The scent of the flower almost makes her dizzy. NOTE: This passage is a good example of Lawrence's use of poetic, or heightened, metaphoric language to elevate an ordinary scene. A pregnant woman, angry at her husband and sick to death with her difficult life, goes out into her garden and suddenly she "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." The simple, struggling housewife whom Lawrence has depicted very realistically is also, as evidenced by the poetry of this passage, capable of communing with all of nature and humanity. Soon the cold night air brings Gertrude back to her senses. She must get inside for the sake of her unborn child. Finally Morel wakes up from his drunken stupor and lets her in. As Gertrude returns to "the real world," her fury at Walter reestablishes itself. But she can't help smiling when she sees her golden pollen-smeared face in the mirror. Like the flowers, she is a fertile, procreative vessel of the life force. Nothing, not even her cruel husband or her humiliating life, can take this sense of the miraculous away from her. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 2 Walter attempts to make up with his wife. He helps out around the house and tries to be a model, stay-at-home husband. But both of them are still happiest when they're apart. Why do you think this is? While Gertrude is in labor with Paul, Morel is in the mine, working away at a difficult rock deposit. He curses and sweats and finally, exhausted, must give up the impossible task. There is one important difference between Walter's labor and that of his wife. While Morel struggles fruitlessly to break through a cold, lifeless rock formation, Gertrude's struggle produces a warm, living child. When Morel comes home and is informed of his son Paul's birth, he doesn't even go up to see mother and child. He simple grumbles over the inconvenience of her confinement. Does Morel come across as selfish and heartless? Today many men actually assist in their babies' deliveries. But in Lawrence's era, men were supposed to stay clear of such female concerns. Giving birth was woman's work. It's possible that like many men of the post-Victorian Age, Walter feels alien to the whole idea of birth and the raising of children. Perhaps Walter feels Gertrude has shut him out of family life to such an extent that he has nothing to do with his own children. She runs the house; he brings home the money. It's also possible, considering how arduous mining is, that Walter is truly too tired to be sensitive to anyone else's needs. As you read Sons and Lovers, you'll see that the narrator seldom gives clear-cut reasons for his characters' often extreme actions. You'll have to come up with your own interpretations, since Lawrence depicts human beings and life itself as mysterious configurations that cannot be easily explained. Soon after Paul's birth, Mr. Heaton, the young local parson, drops by to see Mrs. Morel. They enjoy discussing religious ideas. Mrs. Morel is particularly hungry for intellectual stimulation since few other people in the Bottoms have any education. On this particular visit, the preacher tells Gertrude about his upcoming sermon on the relevance of the Wedding at Cana. NOTE: The Wedding at Cana was the event at which Christ performed his first miracle in order to show the Apostles that he was truly the Messiah. The wine at the wedding was spoiled, so Jesus took water and turned it into wine for the marriage feast. Mr. Heaton uses the Wedding at Cana to show his parishioners that the sacred love of marriage turns water, an uninspired substance, into a heady wine, which he sees as a symbol of the Holy Ghost. Through the bond of matrimony, human beings experience their bond with divine love. How do you defend the reference to this biblical passage in a house where there is little marital love and where drink leads to domestic brutality rather than bliss? Mrs. Morel cynically believes the young preacher has such lofty notions about marriage because his own wife died early. The Heatons never had a chance to get to know and hate each other, as the Morels have. Mr. Morel unexpectedly bursts in on this deep conversation. Like a bull in a china shop, he upsets both the talk and the beautifully laid tea setting. Walter is hostile toward Mr. Heaton, who, unlike himself, reaches Gertrude's heart and mind. He goads the young preacher, with his clean starched collar and refined hands, to touch his grubby mining clothes. Walter declaims on the nobility of plain, honest work and also tries to make the preacher feel sorry for his unhappy, thankless lot in life. Gertrude is embarrassed and angered by Morel's crudity and self-pity. Is Morel acting like a small child having a temper tantrum for the sake of adult attention? Do you think his actions are justified? Once again, the frustrated Gertrude finds solace and strength in nature. She takes Annie and the baby out for a walk. The fiery sunset and the peaceful stillness of the countryside, full of flowers and trees, make her problems with her husband seem miles away. NOTE: In Sons and Lovers nature often makes the characters' everyday, individual problems seem small and insignificant. How petty squabbles can seem when you're looking at an awesome sunset or a beautiful landscape! Nature also reflects the characters' emotions. For example, Gertrude's anger when she walks out of her home is reflected by the fiery sunset. Gertrude muses whether her new son will be like the biblical Joseph and deliver his family from their economic and emotional famine. She holds the baby up to the sun, as if to give it the elemental heat and energy of life. A sad, guilty feeling creeps over her, as she remembers not wanting this child. Gertrude vows she'll make up for that by nurturing and loving him with all her might. She worries, too, that the baby might feel she didn't want him. Suddenly, Gertrude decides to name the baby Paul, after her father's favorite disciple. NOTE: Paul was one of the twelve apostles and was most noted for his asceticism and his missionary spirit. You'll have to wait to see if Paul Morel turns out anything like his biblical namesake. Morel continues his old pattern of drinking and lashing out at his family. One evening he hurls the silverware drawer at his wife and injures her. Blood from her cut drips down onto little Paul and soaks into his scalp. Why do you think D. H. Lawrence created that incident? Morel is ashamed of himself for harming Gertrude. However, like many people, Morel then just drinks more to forget his inadequacies instead of trying to do something about them. Haven't you noticed that feeling bad about yourself can sometimes make you crueler rather than kinder? When Morel throws the drawer at his wife, he deepens the gap not only between husband and wife, but also between father and family. How would you feel growing up with a father who might start lashing out at you without the slightest provocation? Most likely you'd stay clear of him and cling to the more stable parent in your family, just as the Morel children cling to their mother. Morel feels so alienated from his family that he does childish, desperate things. One day he steals his wife's household funds to buy liquor. Gertrude desperately needs every penny for the family, so Walter's theft is like stealing bread from his children's mouths. Mrs. Morel accuses her husband, but, instead of owning up, he threatens to run away, like an overgrown Tom Sawyer. But he's tied to his family, regardless of how horribly he treats them. And they need him, too. Despite his faults, he is the family breadwinner. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 3 Morel falls sick and has to stay home, nursed by Gertrude. Oddly enough, this brings some tranquility to the wretched household. Even though Morel acts like a big, sick baby and there's little money coming in with him out of work, Gertrude prefers her husband's dependence. Mrs. Morel has resigned herself to the fact that her husband will never really reform. Without this expectation, she finds it easier to be kind to him. Gertrude has finally lost the last vestiges of emotional dependence on Walter. Now, all her hopes and dreams lie in her children, particularly the eldest son, William. Knowing that it's really all over between them, Gertrude and Walter come to a kind of truce. They even regain some of the simple joys of their first married months, as she sews by the fire and he putters around the house. During their brief peace, the Morels conceive another baby. Again, Gertrude worries over the economic burden of an additional child. But, unlike her pregnancy with Paul, she doesn't feel any guilt for the baby's sake. She doesn't feel this child will suffer. Why do you think this is? Many readers believe that Paul was the hardest child for Gertrude to bear because he came forth from an agony of love that was not yet dead but dying. The new child, Arthur, is born on clearer ground--there is no longer any love or passion between his parents. Gertrude, hungry for domestic peace, is even happy that Arthur loves his father, whereas the other children hate and fear Walter. It's ironic that Gertrude still wants Walter to have some place in the children's hearts, even though she's helped turn them against him. Harmony never lasts long in the Morel household. Paul, a moody, sensitive child, has unexplainable crying fits and Mrs. Morel has to hide him from his quick-tempered father. Do you think Paul's fits are as unexplainable as his parents think? There's a violent confrontation between Mr. and Mrs. Morel when a neighbor accuses William of ripping her son's clothes. Gertrude, always protective of her brood, immediately takes William's side. Just as quickly, Mr. Morel sides with the neighbor. Mrs. Morel boldly defends William against his infuriated father. Morel, always somewhat afraid of his wife, backs down. It's clear that she now rules hearth and home. The children are growing up, and Mrs. Morel finds time to join the Women's Guild, where she can exercise her intellectual faculties. NOTE: Women's guilds were an important part of the industrial working-class life. They were the women's divisions of the cooperative societies, which were the lower classes' forums for trying to work together for social betterment. The women's guilds often dealt with the domestic problems of the poor as well as the prevalence of alcoholism among working-class men. The guilds were self-help groups that provided emotional, economic, and intellectual support to their members. When William turns thirteen, Mrs. Morel, determined to keep him out of the coal mines, finds him a clerical job. Mr. Morel makes fun of William for taking such a sissy job. Besides, he could make much more money as a miner. But mining is a dead-end field, and Mrs. Morel wants her children to get as far away from the working-class life as possible. Clerking, though vastly underpaid, will offer William a chance at middle-class respectability in the future. NOTE: Why doesn't Walter want his son to escape the mining life? It's possible he doesn't want his son to outclass him. It's also possible Walter is proud of his working-class background and its honest, arduous toil. Walter may also view the middle class with disdain. Many miners considered middle-class people such as clerks, shopkeepers, schoolteachers, and even preachers to be pretentious frauds, out of touch with nature and life. William is an excellent clerk and progresses rapidly at his work. Do you get the feeling he's doing it all for his mother's approval? William may be pragmatic and socially ambitious like Mrs. Morel, but he's also very much like his high-spirited father. He's a great athlete and, to his mother's chagrin, an expert at dancing and romancing. Some people consider parents the greatest influence on a child. Others think that environment is more important. Still others vote for education as being the most important factor. Which would you select and why? The Morel children feel a deep conflict between the traits they picked up from their mother and those they got from their father. Why do you think they're so confused? It's possible that their ties to their stern, future-oriented mother are so strong that they feel guilty enjoying life vigorously, as their father always has. William is very popular with the girls. Like his father in his heyday, he has many girls whom he doesn't care an ounce about. Mrs. Morel encourages his rudeness. She wants him to concentrate on his work and schooling, and fears he'll end up sidetracked. Is she reflecting on her own marital mismatch? William receives a wonderful job offer in London. He's so excited that he doesn't realize how deserted his mother feels. She's happy William is embarking upon the road to success she primed him for. At the same time, however, she doesn't want him to leave her. For Gertrude, William, rather than Walter, is the indispensable "man of the house." Have you ever loved someone and found yourself torn between what's best for them and what's best for yourself? Gertrude has problems letting go of her children. All parents, at one time or another, must decide how and when to "cut the apron strings." What do you consider a mature, healthy parent/child relationship? ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 4 Now that favorite son William is making his own way in the world, Paul begins to take center stage. NOTE: CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE This chapter goes back in time and concerns Paul's life while William was still at home. It's almost as if the narrator tells the family history all over again, but from a fresh perspective. Now you're seeing it through Paul's sensitive eyes. The chapter reads like a bright, colorful fairy tale, emphasizing the fact that the point of view is that of a young, sensitive child who will grow up to be an artist--an individual who uses the details of life to symbolize great universal themes. You'll also notice a series of vivid, disconnected fragments or highlights from Paul's childhood. This structure reflects the way children see things as well as the way adults selectively remember only certain aspects of their childhood. Paul is a slight boy with reddish hair and gray eyes that seem to absorb everything they light on. He's terribly shy and is oversensitive to the way others see and treat him. Since he's often sickly, Mrs. Morel is even more protective of him than of the other children. He, in turn, follows her like a shadow. Paul is very different from the other boys in the village. Being less robust, he tends to spend most of his time playing with his sister Annie. But Paul's dependence on Annie is a formidable foreshadowing of the more serious dependence he'll have on his mother and his lovers when he becomes a man. Paul does begin to assert himself in a strangely destructive incident. He accidentally breaks Annie's beloved doll and then suggests that he and Annie burn the battered doll like a sacrifice. He now hates the thing he mutilated. NOTE: This scene helps you understand Paul's later cruelty to his sweethearts, Miriam Leivers and Clara Dawes. Even as a child, a part of Paul wants to obliterate or thoroughly erase those he's hurt. In what way is Paul like his father? You'll have to decide for yourself why Paul at times would rather reject and destroy than soothe those he has hurt. Another remembrance from Paul's childhood flashes before you. Paul comes home one evening to find his mother with a black eye, his father looking ashamed, and teenaged William glaring. William threatens to beat up his father for hitting Gertrude. Morel dares him to try, and Paul, who hates his father even more than the other children, wishes his brother would hit Walter. Mrs. Morel stops father and son from fighting. After all her suffering, why do you think she makes William back off? It's possible she prefers to control their rivalry by keeping father and son mired in a war of words where she emerges looking like the ultimate peacemaker. It's also possible that she still feels some love for her husband and doesn't want him humiliated. What do you think her motives are and why? Much of the time, Lawrence gives you brutal confrontations or facts and leaves you to decide the motivating forces. There are usually many forces at work at the same time. Lawrence creates characters with many dimensions. They're ruled by a combination of reason, instinct, love, fear, and hate. Would you say this is typical of many people? The narrative now flashes back farther into the past, showing the family's move from the Bottoms to a cozy home atop a hill. What Paul remembers most about this house is the eerie wind that screams around it. The children are terrified by this strong natural element and identify it with their father's drunken violence. But what scares them even more than the wind is the stillness, the silence that follows the stormy battles that go on night after night between their parents. NOTE: In this chapter, stillness denotes blood, destruction, even murder, Silence is associated with the aftermath of Morel's violence against his wife. Normally, you associate stillness with peace and tranquility. Later in the novel, stillness will take on such a meaning. But now, while Paul is a powerless child, silence takes on the dimensions of a frightening nightmare. When you were a child and unable to control what was happening around you, did you ever wish grisly ends for certain adults and then become frightened that your wish might come true? Paul hates his father and even wishes him dead, but then takes it back in his very next breath. Did you ever wait and wait for parents to come home from work and for some reason they were late? You may have been afraid they'd never come back and you'd be left to fend for yourself. The Morel children daily experienced this terrible uncertainty that their father may abandon them. It's no wonder Paul is so insecure and clings to his mother right into adulthood. As the Morel children begin to live up to their mother's ambitions, Walter feels more and more like an outcast. He retaliates against his family's success the only way he knows--by becoming cruder and more brutal. How have you felt about Walter Morel up to this point in the novel? It's likely you've come to dislike him almost as much as his own family does. But now that he's the lonely outsider, are your feelings toward him softening? If so, why? What could you say on his behalf? The narrative suddenly changes from gloomy despair to lightheartedness. You see the bright side of the Morel children's relationship with their father. Morel is always at his best when he's working around the house. As Morel works away, he tells his children funny mining tales and sings folk ballads in his rich, beautiful voice. Morel's vitality is like the explosives he uses in his work. It can hurt, even destroy. But it can also lead the way to joyful, carefree abandon. His ability to live in and enjoy the present moment is something the restrained, future-oriented Mrs. Morel lacks. Much of the children's passion for life's immediacy comes from their father. When Paul, always fragile, falls ill with bronchitis, all he wants is his mother; he can't bear his father's gentle attentiveness. Perhaps Paul feels that Mr. Morel is putting on an act, that he doesn't really care that his son is ill. Now that you have a good idea of some family factors affecting Paul's deeply sensitive personality, the narrator gives you an example of his sensitivity. Paul dreads his Friday chore of picking up his father's pay at the mine office. He's so small and delicate he's a perfect target for adult teasing. Paul is sure that everyone there is watching and laughing at him. He also feels, as his mother does, that he's better than these ignorant, common folk. After Paul returns with the week's pay, Mrs. Morel goes off to market. Here's a scene filled with rich gaiety. When Mrs. Morel comes home with a bundle of simple treasures, the narrator makes you feel that the smallest bouquet of daisies or the tiniest cornflower-decorated dish are as precious as a king's jewels to this poor mining family. Lawrence is concerned not merely with the hardships of poverty, but with the way it helps people to appreciate the small pleasures in life. Now the story returns to the present, with William clerking in London. The coal pits have gone bad for a while and the Morels find themselves in dire economic straits. William sends home very little money these days. Life in London is more expensive than he had imagined. Still Gertrude holds tight to her faith in him. William is her young hero, performing all his valorous deeds just for her. William comes home for Christmas, loaded with dazzling gifts, including a gold-handled umbrella for his mother. This umbrella, which Gertrude will keep to her dying day, takes on a greater significance in chapter 7. NOTE: While an umbrella is an appropriately practical gift for a poor woman in the rainy Midlands, it also has symbolic meaning. Umbrellas shelter human beings from the severity of the natural elements. Similarly, William offers his mother the umbrella as a token of his protection. The umbrella can also be seen as a symbol of Mrs. Morel's sheltering of her children from life's many vicissitudes. The whole Morel brood feels united by William's return. They even become sentimental about being one big, happy family. NOTE: Family unity was considered the backbone of Victorian society. Every family strived toward this ideal and believed in it regardless of how poorly their own personal experience matched up. As a writer, Lawrence did much to dispel the myth of the sanctity of home and family so prevalent in Victorian literature. With William home and the Christmas spirit in the air, the Morels seem to forget their family problems. But, as you'll soon find out, the scars of their constant domestic strife can never be erased. William's love and loyalty, so often questioned by the insecure Mrs. Morel, are soon reaffirmed. That summer he forgoes a much needed vacation in the Mediterranean sun so he can spend his next holidays with his family. The price William pays for this filial devotion will be seen shortly. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 5 This chapter concentrates on the teen-aged Paul as he begins to discover his individuality and freedom. Here, as he becomes a more mature individual, the story begins to follow a more chronological pattern with fewer flashbacks. NOTE: In this chapter Paul grows from child to adolescent. The forward-moving, chronological writing style emphasizes that he now has a certain amount of control over his life. A chronological style also reflects the idea that adulthood seems more sequential and causal than childhood, for it implies a history of feelings and experiences to draw upon. The chapter begins with Walter Morel's injury and confinement in the hospital. Paul takes on the role of "man of the house" with his father sick and away. Paul also starts to develop his painting skills in the family's newfound peace and quiet. The children and Gertrude are clearly happiest when Walter is out of the picture. At first Paul's painting is mentioned casually, as something he does for fun. For artists who start young, their first creative experiences are often enjoyable, but not very serious. You'll have to wait to see how Paul's relationship to art deepens. NOTE: Sons and Lovers can be classified in the literary genre of the bildungsroman, a German word meaning "development novel." Books like James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Sons and Lovers are bildungsromans--novels that trace the development and growth of the main character. Much of the time, the protagonist of such a tale, like Paul, will grow up to be an artist, and the story reveals all the psychological and social developments that prepare the hero or heroine for his or her life's calling. Bildungsroman heroes are often overly sensitive and melancholy. Paul certainly has these traits, but he also expresses a sincere gusto for living. Paul turns fourteen, and in the days depicted in Sons and Lovers that was time to start earning a living. Many children began working in the mines at the age of six or seven. Paul, on the other hand, spent his early years enjoying the rare luxury of an education, which his mother hopes will help him escape the mining life. For the shy, sensitive Paul, job hunting is terrifying. Not only is he afraid to be in the public eye, but he's certain that his days of freedom are over forever. He's off to become a cog in the big, impersonal industrial machine. Gertrude Morel may pamper her children, but her belief in the Protestant work ethic demands that each of them, for economic and moral reasons, must learn the virtues of hard work. To the puritanical Gertrude, laziness is a sin. But Paul feels so ill-qualified for the job market. Compared to the stellar William, his work is sloppy and his handwriting, so vital to landing a coveted clerking position, is nearly illegible. Mrs. Morel, always concerned with having her children reach their own well-reasoned conclusions, asks him what he wants to do. Paul says the job itself doesn't matter. He just wants to make enough money to support his mother, live with her in a small cottage in the woods, and perhaps paint a little. NOTE: Does Paul's wish sound like a childhood fairy tale? Notice that Paul does not include his father in his dream of an isolated cottage in the woods. Whether or not Freud's Oedipus complex theory fits Paul, he's certainly unnaturally passionate over his mother and abnormally dependent upon her. He's fourteen--why do you think he's not dreaming of girls his own age yet? Meanwhile, William is a spectacular professional and social success in London. He works all day, parties at night, and yet tries to study to advance his career. Mrs. Morel worries that her son is burning the candle at both ends. She's most concerned about the beautiful, extravagant young woman that he's dating, Louisa Lily Denys Western, nicknamed Gyp by William, because she's an exotic gypsy in his adoring eyes. Gyp comes from a good, middle-class family that lost all its money, as Gertrude's own family did. But unlike Gertrude, Gyp is emptyheaded and frivolous. William may be fulfilling his mother's dream that he marry into a higher social class, but Gyp hardly fills Gertrude's moral or financial expectations of a good match. Paul's inquiries pay off and he gets an interview at Thomas Jordan's surgical appliances factory in Nottingham. What a morbid place for a youth with an overactive imagination to work! NOTE: The narrator states that Paul "seemed to feel the business world, with its regulated system of values, and its impersonality, and he dreaded it. It seemed monstrous also that a business could be run on wooden legs." Lawrence may have chosen to have Paul work at a surgical appliances factory because he himself did so briefly as a youth. However, this particular factory setting has a symbolic purpose, too. It points to a world of man and nature maimed by industrialism and patched back together, all too insufficiently, with artificial mechanisms. Jordan's is a dark, gloomy place that makes Paul feel he's on the executioner's block. Mrs. Morel however, views the factory in quite a different light. She's in awe of its spaciousness, neatness, and buzzing industry. She dreams of Paul becoming a great, respected businessman and elevating his whole family. NOTE: WORKING CONDITIONS Jordan's is a typical factory of its time, perhaps a bit better in working conditions and cleanliness than most. Factory workers toiled twelve hours a day, and overtime wages were unheard of. There was little chance of escaping poverty as a factory slave. Factory workers' lives were ruled by the time clock and by heavy-handed supervisors determined to squeeze optimum efficiency out of the employees. In earlier times, makers of consumer goods worked at home with their whole families and regulated themselves. Many writers of the post-industrial revolution era were horrified by the depersonalization of the assembly-line factory system and believed it threatened not only the worker's individual rights but the Victorian ideal of the closely knit family. It's a miracle that Mr. Jordan gives Paul a clerking job. His handwriting is unreadable and his translations of foreign orders are nearly as bad. Paul's haughtiness surfaces, too. He looks down on Mr. Jordan and sees him as an ill-educated, cloddish man, even though he owns this great, prosperous factory. At the same time, Paul is nervous and is intimidated by Jordan, who represents an authority figure. Young Morel is an interesting amalgam of insecure timidity and snobbish superiority. Mrs. Morel, unlike her son, is jubilant over his first job. Now "she could think of two places, great centres of industry, and feel that she had put a man into each of them." As you read the novel, consider how Mrs. Morel's idealization of industrial life contrasts with the narrator's hatred of it. But life at Jordan's does have its rewards for young Paul. His job makes him feel grownup, and now he can even contribute to his family's upkeep. Mr. Pappleworth, Paul's immediate boss, is a gum-popping, gaunt man who enjoys harassing the factory girls. Paul tries to protect the girls from Pappleworth's bullying, and, as a result, the shop girls dote on him. One girl in particular--Fanny, a hunchback--becomes a favorite of his. Paul begins to enjoy his independent life working in the big city. NOTE: Pappleworth, Mr. Jordan, and the shop girls are caricatures--ludicrous exaggerations of characters for the purpose of satirizing (making fun of) them. Lawrence was an admirer of Charles Dickens, who often used this technique to criticize the excesses of industrialism. Paul observes that men and women have different work attitudes at the factory. The women can't seem to absorb themselves in their jobs the way the men do. NOTE: LAWRENCE ON WOMEN Paul's perception of the difference between men and women reflects the author's view. Lawrence saw men as being one with their work, but women, he felt, always seemed to be waiting for love to fulfill them. Remember that Lawrence was a son of the late Victorian era when women tended to be viewed as either hearth-keepers or harlots. A "good" woman's goal in life was supposed to be gaining a man's love, then marrying him and raising a family. For a woman to work outside the home was a disgrace. Only the very poorest did so, out of extreme necessity. Although Lawrence in his novels was forging a new philosophy of female freedom (especially sexual and economic), he still harbored many old-fashioned prejudices. As you read Sons and Lovers, notice how many sexist comments Paul makes about women's emotional needs and their intellectual abilities. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 6 Arthur Morel, the youngest of the brood, is growing up. He's a lusty teenager, more like his father than any of the other Morel children. Arthur is handsome, lively, good with his hands, and impossible to discipline. He loves his mother, but his thoughtless, selfish ways make her heart ache. Although close to his father as a child, Arthur has now come to hate Morel's vulgar ways as much as the rest of the family do. The narrator presents a pathetic picture of the aging Walter Morel. His shriveling body reflects the withering of his soul and proud spirit. His defense against his family's constant rejection is to deliberately act boorish and mean. Morel resents his family's striving toward middle-class respectability. Can you totally blame him? Their successes shut him out of their lives. William becomes engaged to Gyp and brings her home to meet the family at Christmas. Think back to the last time William came home for Christmas. He was a walking Santa Claus! Now, he returns home empty-handed except for the elegantly clothed Gyp. Although Gyp is polite and refined, she doesn't win Mrs. Morel's approval. She seems shallow and treats Annie and Paul like servants. Mrs. Morel fears that this woman, with her lavish tastes and frivolous ways, will drain William of his hard-earned money. As it is, he never sends funds home, now that Gyp's a part of his life. To the Morel children, Gyp looks like a fairy princess. Even the usually sulky Walter Morel can't help but admire this fine figure of a woman. He also likes the fact that she's as anti-intellectual as he is. Over all, however, the social-class differences between the working-class Morel and the middle-class Gyp are an uncrossable chasm. Against the idealized image of his beloved mother, William becomes conscious of Gyp's shortcomings, and he begins to treat her rudely. Surprisingly, Gertrude defends Gyp from her son, even though she feels the girl is unsuitable for him. Some readers believe Gertrude is just being shrewd by taking Gyp's side. Perhaps then, William will feel he's decided against the girl of his own volition, rather than because of his mother's coercion. Other readers think Gertrude genuinely feels sorry for Gyp. Mrs. Morel knows how hard married life can be, particularly between a mismatched couple. What do you think motivates Gertrude's kindness to Gyp? As William prepares to marry, Paul meets his own first sweetheart, Miriam Leivers. Mrs. Morel accepts an invitation to Willey Farm, where her friends, the Leivers, have recently moved. She hopes the fresh country air will revive Paul, whose health is suffering under the long hours at Jordan's. As mother and son walk happily to the farm, the narrative sparkles with exquisite images of rolling hills, colorful flowers, and brilliant sunlight. Paul is ecstatic to be out in the country with his beloved mother. NOTE: Paul's joy at being with his mother is enhanced by the beautiful natural surroundings. Throughout Sons and Lovers, landscape descriptions often reflect the characters' emotional states. As the Morels stroll along, Gertrude expresses her delight in the fields and flowers. Paul adds that the coal pits are wonderful, too. NOTE: Paul is attracted to opposites. He loves the black coal pits just as much as the green landscape. The dark pits represent the fuel source of the fire that kindles life. Aren't they also as much a part of nature as Mrs. Morel's beloved flowers and fields? The pits are full of mystery and intensity. Remember, too, that the pits are the realm of Paul's father. They may also symbolize the subconscious, that ominous, deep place from which so many of our desires and actions spring. At Willey Farm, you get your first glimpse of Miriam, who is to become essential to Paul's art and life in the years ahead. She's a strange, shy girl with a "rosy dark face" and tousled black curls. At fourteen, she's a year younger than Paul. Paul and Miriam have their first conversation in the Leivers' garden. He asks her to name the flowers, but she knows only their shapes and colors. We'll see later how difficult it is for Miriam, a bright girl, to apply her intelligence concretely. She's a character who lives most comfortably in the abstract. NOTE: It's significant that Paul and Miriam meet first in the garden, an Eden-like environment that reflects the innocence of the two teenagers. Nature is also Paul and Miriam's first shared interest. As the novel progresses, observe how differently Miriam and Paul treat nature, though they're bound by their common love for it. Paul also meets the Leivers boys, Edgar, Geoffrey, and Maurice. All the children go out gathering eggs. Poor Miriam is bullied by her brothers because she's so physically timid. Paul pities her and helps her overcome her fear of feeding the chickens; their pecking really doesn't hurt. He will continue to help Miriam master her physical fears throughout the novel. Eventually, though, these fears will prove insurmountable on the sexual level and destroy their relationship. Once again, William and Gyp visit the Morels. Paul loves to go along on their romantic outings, and William is relieved to have someone to talk to. William is infatuated with Gyp but horrified by her shallowness. Just as his mother tried to do with his father, William wants to make Gyp into a responsible individual. He resents her for not being able to live up to his expectations. William complains to Mrs. Morel about Gyp's stupidity and extravagance. When Mrs. Morel suggests they aren't suited to marry, William adamantly declares that it's too late to turn back. Do children learn from their parents' mistakes? That's what Mrs. Morel wonders about William and his ill-advised engagement to Gyp. She's convinced his upcoming marriage will ruin him. Gertrude identifies so much with her son that she feels her own life wasting away, as well. William's letters home become more and more manic. He's elated one minute, depressed the next. Is he just having the normal prenuptial jitters? Or is he fighting some deep inner battle? Many readers believe William is torn between his mother's tough puritanism and his father's moment-to-moment passion. They also feel he's motivated to marry Gyp because she satisfies his sexual needs without taking him away from his true love, Gertrude. NOTE: Lawrence, in a letter to his mentor Edward Garnett, wrote of William's plight: "William gives his sex to a fribble [frivolous person], and his mother holds his soul. But the split kills him, because he doesn't know where he is." What do you think of Lawrence's comment? Does the story of William's conflict coincide with the author's own interpretation? As you read this chapter, try to see how Lawrence succeeds in his interpretation and how he fails in it, as well. One of the last things William says to his mother on a visit home is that Gyp will forget him within two months of his death. How do you interpret that statement? Take into consideration the fact that it comes from a young man on the verge of marriage. It's possible William already knows that his inability to transfer his love from his mother to a mate will kill him. It's also clear to him that Gyp isn't the right woman. Why does he pick such an incompatible mate? A few days later, back in London, William falls severely ill. Mrs. Morel rushes to her son and finds him alone and neglected, dying of pneumonia. William's body is brought back home. The Morels solemnly guide the long, heavy casket out of the dark night and into the candlelit parlor. NOTE: Light and dark and life and death are opposites that Lawrence saw as essential to one another. In other words, we can't know light without dark, or life without death. The darkness of death must enter the world of the living, depicted here as the Morels' lighted parlor, for the characters to know the full circle of existence. Paul can't believe his big brother could be dead, especially amid all the buzzing activity of the mining town. Life goes on regardless of individual death. Paul tries desperately to communicate with his mother, but Mrs. Morel's thoughts seem to be at the grave of her eldest son. Finally, when Paul becomes seriously ill with pneumonia, Mrs. Morel is aroused from her despair. She realizes she should have been caring for the living rather than communing with the dead. Through devoted nursing, she saves Paul's life, and he, at least emotionally, saves hers. Think about this scene when Mrs. Morel gets sick later on in the novel. Some readers that physical illness in Sons and Lovers is a manifestation of the characters' psychological sickness. They also suggest that the characters make themselves sick to get attention from those they love. Perhaps this need triggers Paul's illness after William's death. The chapter ends with the fulfillment of a prophecy by William. Remember when he told his mother that Gyp would soon forget him? The Morel family receives a final note from the girl, describing a ball she has enjoyed--but with not one mention of William. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 7 Part Two of Sons and Lovers focuses on the protagonist Paul. There is an enormous change in the Morel household after William's death. Paul's story can really be told only after the favorite son dies. He is now his mother's new champion. Only when he becomes the central figure in her life does Paul assume the role of hero in the novel. Part Two also signifies the beginning of Paul's relationships with women other than his mother. Miriam Leivers will soon be Mrs. Morel's rival for possession of Paul's soul. At this stage of the game, Miriam remains aloof from Paul. Like many teenagers, she lives in a fantasy world. She sees herself as a princess turned into a ragged "swine-girl." Miriam waits for a prince to discover her true noble identity and rescue her from household drudgery. You'll see how Paul comes to represent this prince as the novel progresses. Like Paul and his mother, Miriam and Mrs. Leivers are suffocatingly close. Miriam is strongly influenced by her mother's religious mysticism, which infuses the most ordinary objects with a divine beauty. The religiousness of Miriam and Mrs. Leivers is very different from the self-improving pragmaticism of Mrs. Morel's Protestantism. The Leivers women are always trying to transcend reality through nature, art, and prayer rather than to experience the reality of the normal day-to-day existence. This quality appeals to Paul's sense of the wonder of life. Miriam admires and even envies Paul's meager education, for girls of her day lacked educational opportunities. Miriam is certain that the only way to escape her lower-class drudgery is through learning. Paul will play an important part in her education. At first, Paul is drawn to Mrs. Leivers rather than to Miriam. Mrs. Leivers believes in his art work so fervently that Paul himself begins to consider it something of a mission. Mrs. Morel is more concerned with Paul's ability to succeed in the world. She'd be just as proud of him if he became a respected businessman. While Mrs. Leivers and Miriam stimulate Paul's creativity with almost a religious fervor, Mrs. Morel instills in him the steadfast perseverance necessary to realizing his talent. One day Miriam takes Paul out to the family swing. He hops on and swings so high he feels as free as a soaring bird. Flushed with excitement, Paul offers to push Miriam on the swing. But timid Miriam is frightened--he's making her go too high, too fast. She can't control her own flight and fears placing herself so completely in Paul's hands. Many readers see this passage as a symbol of the sex act and a foreshadowing of Paul and Miriam's sexual problems. Here on the swing, Miriam can't give herself up to Paul's rhythms. Miriam's physical inhibitions become even more pronounced when she and Paul become lovers later in the novel. NOTE: Lawrence vigorously condemned Victorian morality, particularly the double standard for men and women. The author also felt that Victorianism turned many women into disembodied spirits, ashamed of their bodies and terrified of sexual pleasure. Lawrence characterizes Miriam as an extreme example of a sexually inhibited woman, crippled by the social and religious taboos of her time. Paul again leaps on the swing. Miriam watches him, fascinated. He reminds her of a "flame that had lit a warmth in her." NOTE: Men are often compared to flames in Sons and Lovers, Walter Morel reminded Gertrude of the very same thing when they first met. In Lawrence's world, male passion is the flame that sparks a woman into full, glowing life. Remember the flame image when you read later of Paul and Clara's "baptism of fire in passion." Paul finds himself increasingly inspired by Miriam. At this point, he's not conscious that some of this inspiration is based on sexual, as well as spiritual, attraction. As you read this chapter, notice how the narrator subtly and gradually depicts Paul and Miriam's growing realization of their feeling for one another. As much as Paul admires Miriam, he also dislikes a great many things about her. He is repelled by her hunger for intensity and religious significance in everything. Unlike Miriam, he knows that the simple, normal pleasures are the stuff of life. He both hates and loves her devotion to the uncommon. Mrs. Morel grows increasingly nervous and jealous about Miriam's hold on Paul. Why do you think she feels so threatened by this meek girl? Mrs. Morel says Miriam will "suck a man's soul out till he has none of his own left." Is she sincere in her concern that Paul retain his individuality? Perhaps, even more than Miriam, Mrs. Morel wants to possess her son's soul. Mrs. Morel could feel threatened by Miriam because they're very much alike, especially in their devotion to Paul. She's afraid Miriam will come between them. After William's death, can Mrs. Morel afford to lose another child to a silly girl? When Miriam visits the Morels, Gertrude and Annie snub her. They won't even let her help clear the dishes, which would have been a sign of acceptance. Compare Miriam's rejection with the warm reception Gertrude gives Clara Dawes later in the novel. While everyone else sees that Paul and Miriam are falling in love, they themselves refuse to believe there is anything stronger than a platonic bond. Miriam is so physically prudish that no one can even mention a farm animal's pregnancy without revolting her. How odd for a farm girl! Lawrence wants you to see how perverse it is to deny your natural instincts. Like Miriam, you risk becoming neurotically repressed and ashamed of the most natural and wonderful things in life. Paul is so sensitive to Miriam's sexual shyness that he denies his own growing passion. Do you think it is good for him to do so? He does creatively channel his sensuality into art and ideas. But, unlike Miriam, his sexual frustration makes him irritable and confused. He resents being cut off from the physical aspect of his being. Three important journeys take place in this chapter. Miriam, Paul, and their families and friends travel to Hemlock Stone, Wingfield Manor, and the seashore. These journeys share two elements. First, they emphasize that Miriam can't socialize very well and prefers to keep Paul all to herself. Secondly, they show Paul and Miriam drawing closer together in their own private world. On their first journey, the trip to Hemlock Stone, Miriam realizes she loves Paul. Miriam's realization of her love is an odd mixture of pain and pleasure. Lawrence often links these two extreme emotions in love relationships. NOTE: The futility of her love is intimated by the name of the place: hemlock is a deadly poison, and a stone is the opposite of a vital, living organism. As soon as Miriam surrenders herself to loving Paul, a crisis arises. Paul discovers that the cherished umbrella William gave his mother has been broken. He despairingly thinks he is responsible. Miriam knows--but doesn't tell Paul--that her brother Geoffrey is really the culprit. Miriam takes the breaking of Mrs. Morel's umbrella, a symbol of the sheltering protection of a mother's love, as a divine proclamation that Paul's soul now belongs to her, not his mother. Miriam's love for Paul becomes stronger and stronger. She is suddenly struck by the notion that her love might include a special need. What do you think Miriam wants from Paul? She may, though she could never admit it to herself, want him sexually. She's fairly certain she wants his soul. Her fear of her own desire for Paul influences her decision to become a sacrifice to love rather than a healthy, active participant in it. Is Miriam's decision selfless or selfish? Or is it a little of both? She is selfless in wanting to give Paul what he needs, rather than to serve her own desires. At the same time, she may be selfish in her saintliness. Saints can't be controlled by anyone, because they deny needing anything. And Miriam fears Paul controlling her, particularly in a sexual or emotional way. Meanwhile, Paul is still trying to figure out how he feels about Miriam. Are they still just friends? Or is there something more he wants from her, too? Although he can't bring himself to approach her as a woman, he realizes that their intense friendship is no longer enough for him. The final journey in this chapter takes Paul, Miriam, and the Morel family to the seaside. One evening Paul and Miriam walk alone on the beach. It's spring and he's filled with desire. The flaming orange moon reflects his passion. Paul now knows he wants Miriam. Still, he can't even bring himself to kiss her. He tries to deny his sexual feelings, but this only makes him hate her. He's relieved to go back to the cottage and his warm, jolly family. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 8 Arthur Morel whimsically decides to join the army. The very next day, however, he's begging his mother to buy him out. She tries, against Paul and Walter's wishes, but it can't be done. Why do you think Paul and Walter want Arthur to pay for his impetuousness? Paul's life is now brimming with success. He wins two top art awards, and he feels particularly proud of the honor because it will further distinguish him in his mother's eyes. One day Paul runs into Miriam and a tall, striking blonde woman. He's immediately impressed with this woman, who is so defiant and sensual compared to the reserved, brooding Miriam. This is Clara Dawes, who, along with her husband Baxter, will play a crucial role in Paul's life. Clara is separated from Baxter. She is an advocate of equal rights for women and is reputed to be exceptionally intelligent. Paul knows her husband, a blacksmith for Jordan's who has disliked him since they first met at the factory. He resents Paul's cool and critical gaze, the dispassionate air of the artist. The narrator tells you that Miriam cultivates Clara's friendship because Clara used to work at Jordan's. Through Clara, Miriam hopes to get an insider's view of Paul's clerical work. Why is Miriam so curious about every aspect of Paul's life? It's possible she lives vicariously through him rather than making her own way in the world. It's also possible that she wants to enrich her knowledge of his everyday life so she can be a better, more understanding friend. The first thing Miriam asks Paul on his next visit to the farm is his opinion of Mrs. Dawes. Paul is evasive, even critical. He says she's a terrible dresser but good-looking and passionate. He fears she holds a grudge against men. Why do you think Miriam brings up the subject of Clara? It's possible she's noticed his attraction for this older woman and wants him to admit it. It may also be that Miriam is interested in testing Paul. By presenting him with a sensual alternative to herself, he'll have to choose between what she considers his "higher" (spiritual) and "lower" (sexual) desires. Miriam may even have an unconscious urge to bring Paul and Clara together sexually in order to take that dreaded pressure off herself. The strife inherent in Paul and Miriam's love relationship escalates in this chapter. You can feel the growing frustration of their love as they repeatedly fail to cross the sexuality barrier. What do you think causes them to have so much difficulty expressing their love for one another? Perhaps the biggest problem in their relationship is Paul's attachment to his mother, who hates Miriam. He feels desperately divided by the two women in his life and starts to view himself as a helpless casualty of their battle. Is Paul just a victim of Mrs. Morel and Miriam's conflict, or is he an instigator as well? Paul could demand that Mrs. Morel accept Miriam, rather than deferring to her cold attitude toward the girl. But Paul may enjoy being the center of their attention. Being fought over can make a person feel quite special. One evening Walter Morel and his fellow miners reckon their week's earnings. NOTE: "Reckoning" is the term used by coal miners when dividing up their wages. The miners worked in groups at an assigned stall, or portion of the mine. Mr. Morel is a butty, or foreman. He collects the money his particular stall has earned for the week and shares it with his coworkers. The money varied from week to week, depending on the size of the coal haul. This made mining a financially unstable occupation. The reckoning scene shows you how deeply Lawrence knew and loved his people. The miners carefully divide the funds down to the last cent with absolute fairness. You see how incredibly poor these laborers are. Still, what shines through are their humor, generosity, mutual trust, and dignified honesty. As much as Lawrence aspired to better himself, he never lost his respect for the common people he grew up with. Unfortunately, Morel's fairness with the men doesn't extend to his own family. As Mrs. Morel bitterly notes, he holds back too much of his wages for his personal drinking allowance. He's obviously expecting Paul's salary to compensate for the loss. Gertrude attacks Walter for being so selfish, but Paul intervenes. He wants to give his mother his money, just as if he were her husband. Paul also desires to avoid more domestic strife--money is nothing compared to peace and quiet. One day while Paul's parents are out, Miriam comes to visit. He's seen little of her recently because of his mother's disapproval of their relationship. Paul totally forgets the bread that is baking and lets it burn. While Miriam gets the full blame by his mother for his inattentiveness to domestic duties, she isn't really the only one at fault. Beatrice Wyld, a young schoolteacher friend of Annie's, has dropped by. As she and Paul flirt, the bread burns. NOTE: Paul speaks in dialect with Beatrice. You'll notice throughout Sons and Lovers that Paul reserves dialect for his working-class friends and, most importantly, for women toward whom he feels a sensual attraction. He speaks the warm, lilting Midlands dialect with earthy Beatrice and later with Clara Dawes. On the other hand, Paul uses standard English exclusively with the prim Miriam and his class-conscious mother. Why? After Beatrice leaves, Paul gives Miriam a French lesson. He has her translate Baudelaire. NOTE: Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) was a poet known for his erotic, mystical language. He was a member of the Symbolist School, a group of French writers who reacted against realism by concentrating on metaphysical issues. Miriam dislikes Baudelaire, probably because of the sexual nature of his mysticism, which is deeply opposed to her asexual brand of spirituality. Is Paul trying to seduce her through the poet's language? Think about how this scene follows directly on the heels of his blatant flirtation with Beatrice. You should also notice how strongly Paul and Miriam pride themselves on knowing French. It's a sign of upper-class refinement and education to know this language. Their knowledge of French also symbolizes their secret, special intimacy. Few other people in this mining and farming community would understand it. Later that night, Mrs. Morel comes home sick and accusingly lays the burnt loaves on the table. To Gertrude, the ruined bread clearly demonstrates that her son couldn't care less about his mother when he's around Miriam. Paul feels guilty about the bread and even guiltier about his attraction to Miriam. Mrs. Morel attacks his relationship with the young Leivers girl, implying that it means Paul no longer loves or needs his aging mother. Paul denies loving Miriam. Can you believe him? He seems to both love and hate her. Paul proclaims that his true love is his mother, but, in fact, she's growing old and he needs a woman closer to his own age to share his work and his dreams. But Mrs. Morel's fierce maternal love wins him over. Whimpering, she tells him, "I've never had a husband--not really-." Paul kisses her throat and caresses her hair, as if he really were her husband. This frankly sexual episode between Paul and his mother has led many readers to call it the most blatantly Oedipal part in the book. Suddenly Walter Morel, who had been drinking, enters and catches his wife and son in a close embrace. Paul and his father then find something to squabble over--a tasty treat Mrs. Morel has brought for Paul. But in reality, the quarrel is about the rivalry of father and son over Mrs. Morel as wife and mother. Mrs. Morel stops the fight by nearly fainting, and they all go off to bed. Despite Paul's objections, his mother and father go together. Paul is too tormented to sleep. He acknowledges that his love for his mother is everything. Why do you think Paul cannot realize that this unnatural devotion to his mother is keeping him from growing up and loving someone his own age? ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 9 It's spring, the season when Paul Morel's blood runs hottest. As in past springs, he's drawn to Miriam by his passion. But again, his sexual frustration leads him to torment and despise her. Poor Miriam can only envision herself as a martyr to Paul's love and art. She hasn't the self-confidence to see herself as his equal. She doesn't really believe she can be what Paul demands of her. While Paul insists he wants her to be her true independent self, can you be so sure he does? He is often selfish and demanding when it comes to Miriam. He would probably like her to be the self he thinks she should be. At Easter, Paul is in a particularly nasty mood. He accuses Miriam of sucking the life out of everything with her spirituality. He criticizes her for nearly devouring the new-sprung daffodils with her caresses. NOTE: The women in Sons and Lovers are frequently identified with flowers and gardening. Miriam tends to smother flowers with her religious adoration, while Mrs. Morel nurtures them to become healthy and strong. Later, you will see how Lawrence uses the symbolism of flowers with Clara Dawes. Although Paul continues to visit Willey Farm, he keeps telling Miriam they should see less of each other. He claims that he doesn't love her, that she should find someone else. Why do you think Paul torments Miriam? Those we love often suffer the brunt of our confusion and frustration. Paul certainly doesn't act as if he has no love for Miriam. So why does he continually push her away? Again, you have to look at his relationship with his mother, whom he sees as the only stable, substantial person in his life. Everyone else, including Miriam, is comparatively abstract and unreliable. As Miriam sacrifices herself to Paul, he in turn sacrifices himself to his mother. What other reasons can you think of for his cruelty to Miriam? A week later, he returns to Willey Farm, singing another tune. Paul has the idea that it's wrong for them to spend so much time together without being engaged. People will talk. Miriam, in rare defiance, says she doesn't care what others think. She really is less dependent on social approval than is Paul. Suddenly, after again rejecting her, Paul asks Miriam to marry him. Paul makes his proposal out of desperation, not love. Miriam senses this and refuses. She sticks to her convictions, not wanting to live by other people's standards of propriety. She resents how they interfere with the unique relationship she shares with Paul. It's also possible that Miriam refuses because marriage means sexual relations, which she's terrified of. Once again, they decide to see less of each other. NOTE: Are you becoming a little tired of Paul's running back and forth to Miriam like a lost puppy? Are you bored with their unconsummated passion? Lawrence deliberately repeats their standoff again and again. In this way he shows you the agony of their impossible love. You begin to want them to separate even more than they do. Miriam doesn't brood as Paul expects. He pictures women as having no active outlets for their emotions, but Miriam is hardly as self-destructive as her friend thinks. She's firm in her belief that Paul needs her to realize his potential and create his paintings. Instead of brooding, Miriam resolves to find out what he wants that she can't give him. She decides to test him by tempting him with a more sensuous woman, Clara Dawes. Miriam is rather confident that the spiritual love she shares with Paul will conquer any physical attraction Clara might have for him. Miriam arranges for Clara and Paul to meet at Willey Farm. Clara is curt and haughty with the gawking, unusually polite Paul. He thinks Clara hates men. But Clara says she's just asserting her right to be free and independent. Paul has never met a woman quite as outspoken as Clara. You see a softer picture of Clara as she, Miriam, and Paul go for a walk in the country. They meet a lonely, middle-aged spinster who treats her horse almost like a lover. Paul complains that the woman makes him uncomfortable, but Clara is aware of the poor woman's loneliness. Clara herself is thirty and may see the spinster as a vision of her future self. She tells Paul simply that the woman needs a man. Perhaps, Clara is speaking about her own needs, too. Paul senses she is unhappy. One day Paul takes his mother on an outing to Lincoln Cathedral. When his mother has difficulty climbing a hill, Paul is both saddened and angry to see she is aging. "Why can't a man have a young mother?" he cries. Why is Paul upset that his mother is getting on in years? It's possible he wants mother and lover in one woman. Mrs. Morel can no longer keep up with him on his adventures, and her looks are fading. Meanwhile, Paul's sexual impulses are quickening. Significantly, he tells his mother about Clara Dawes, as if she's to be his next girlfriend. Mrs. Morel is concerned that Paul might be taking up with a woman seven years older than himself. She doesn't, however, seem to care that Clara, though separated from her husband, is still a married woman. Why do you think Mrs. Morel suddenly becomes so morally liberal? Could Clara's marriage make her less of a threat to Mrs. Morel's closeness to Paul? It's also probable that, having experienced passion once with her own husband, Mrs. Morel understands that Paul needs to fulfill himself sexually. So as not to lose or hurt her son, she, like Miriam, may unconsciously encourage his involvement with Clara. As Paul struggles into manhood, other romantic unions are blooming in the Morel household. Annie, now a schoolteacher, decides to marry Leonard. Arthur, fresh out of the army, starts seriously courting the flirtatious and lively Beatrice Wyld, whom you met in the last chapter. Paul and Mrs. Morel feel an incredible emptiness when Annie marries and leaves home. Remember how bleak all the Morels felt when William went off to London? Regardless of their differences, the Morels are an extraordinarily tightly knit family. Paul vows never to do as Annie's done and forsake his dear mother for a mate. But Gertrude, despite her possessiveness, doesn't want him left all alone when she dies. Paul's somewhat childish solution is to refrain from marrying till he's a fat middle-aged man and his mother's in her seventies. Paul withdraws even more from Miriam as his mother gets older, sicker, and more in need of his moral and financial support. As Paul pulls away from Miriam, he drifts toward Clara. At Willey Farm, poor Miriam must watch Paul and Clara's relationship bloom as they leap fences and race down hills with a physical daring that's beyond her. Paul hates yet feels sorry for Miriam now. He sees her only as an unbearable conscience he wants to forget. Finally, he writes her a farewell letter telling her that their spiritual love is not enough for a good relationship. He adds that they have no possibility for physical passion and calls Miriam a mystic, holy nun. The old pattern of breaking up and making up has continued between Paul and Miriam. After this letter, however, the strength of their relationship, at least in Paul's mind, diminishes. The narrator tells you that the letter sealed the end of the first phase of Paul's sensual life, where all is abstract possibility and unrealized passion. He's still a virgin but you sense strongly that he won't remain one much longer. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 10 Paul may be suffering over the complications of sex and love, but his professional and artistic life is flourishing. He's doing well at his job and also wins first prize in a prestigious Nottingham art competition. Mrs. Morel, of course, is delighted, exclaiming, "I knew we should do it!" And Paul loves sharing his honors with his mother. Even Mr. Morel is impressed. He can't believe his son has actually earned money from his "frivolous" hobby. Except for the father, the Morel family is moving up in the world, largely because of Paul's painting and his success in designing lace patterns. Paul now goes to exciting middle-class parties because of his special artist status that allows him to cross social barriers. But Mr. Morel, still crude and vulgar, feels more and more an outsider in his own family. Regardless of his newly expanded social horizons, Paul nevertheless feels proud to be part of the common people. He assures his mother it's the working class that has life, vitality, and warmth. But the wise Mrs. Morel doesn't let her son delude himself with his working-class idealism. She knows that Paul actually prefers being with the middle classes. He loves their concern with intellectual matters. The lower classes have neither the time nor money to luxuriate in philosophical meanderings. Mrs. Morel presses middle-class virtues upon her son because she wants him to be part of its comfortable life-style. To her, this means marrying a lady and having money and professional prestige. Through Paul's success, Mrs. Morel believes she'll find her own fulfillment. Mrs. Morel worries constantly over Paul these days. With all his hard work and success, he's still not happy. Paul revolts against her desire for his happiness. He says that man shouldn't worry about joy, but about having a full, expansive life, even if it means anguish and suffering. But Mrs. Morel sees her son physically wasting away because of his own intensity. She blames Miriam for his otherworldliness. Mrs. Morel wants her son to find a strong, intelligent mate who, like herself, is down-to-earth and will have a stabilizing effect on Paul. Even the married Clara Dawes doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Arthur's girlfriend Beatrice becomes pregnant, and the two marry. At first, Arthur finds it hard to settle down. But, finally he does come to accept his new responsibilities and, unlike his father, learns and flourishes from his mother's ethics. An incident soon occurs that helps Paul find a place for himself in Clara Dawes's life. He's asked to deliver a message to her from a friend. Seeing Clara at the home of her mother, Mrs. Radford, is indeed a shock. Clara is a slave to her lace weaving. NOTE: The making of lace was one of Nottingham's biggest cottage (home-based) industries. Cottage industry allowed its workers the freedom to work in their own homes. However, the work was grueling and the pay was at the bottom of the wage scale. Remember that it is Paul's job to make the lace designs that women like Clara must churn out. Thus, he feels a certain social guilt about and responsibility for her drudgery. The proud, beautiful Clara bent over her weaving seems humbled by the inhumanity of industrialism. NOTE: In this passage, as in earlier mining and factory scenes, you get a taste of Lawrence's sociopolitical views. He believed that industrialism was dehumanizing and destructive to civilization. People under such a system tended to lose their dignity and self-confidence. Walter Morel and Baxter and Clara Dawes are examples of people broken by the industrial system who try to retain some integrity in whatever small way they can. Clara is embarrassed to be seen by Paul at her tedious labor. Now she doesn't seem anything like the proud, daring woman he cavorted with at Willey Farm. Unlike Clara, however, the boisterous Mrs. Radford clearly enjoys this male visitor. Mrs. Radford, unlike her daughter, has no sympathy for women dominated by men or by the male-run industrial system. She says women have only themselves to blame for being such fools. Clara's vulnerability gives Paul a chance to help her and to obtain a certain power over her. Before this, he always felt as if Clara were his superior because she was older and more experienced. Now he insists on helping her get back her old foreman's job at Jordan's. The shop girls resent Clara deeply. She is reserved and, like Miriam, never acts like one of the crowd. Clara is, however, a fair overseer and a reliable worker. Like Miriam, she begins to watch Paul paint. Remember the inspirational effect Miriam always had on Paul's art? Clara, on the other hand, thoroughly distracts him. He's too attracted to her to concentrate on his painting. She's also bitingly critical of his landscapes, but criticism doesn't seem to be very helpful to Paul's artistry. It makes him too insecure. On the other hand, Clara's critical spirit shows she's not afraid of him. Perhaps she could be his intellectual as well as sexual match. The factory girls at Jordan's really worship Paul. They resent Clara, as much for her special relationship with him as for her haughtiness. The girls plan a wonderful birthday surprise for Paul--a box of his favorite paints. They deliberately exclude Clara from the festivities. Clara feels truly hurt by the shop girls' action in leaving her out. She feels even worse that she didn't know it was Paul's birthday. Obviously, Clara's aloofness toward Paul is melting. She may often argue with him, but now it's more a result of attraction than animosity. Later, she sends him a volume of verse for his birthday. Paul is deeply moved, particularly because he knows Clara can't really afford the gift. On one of their afternoon walks, Paul draws out the story of Clara's marriage to Baxter Dawes. You learn from Clara that she was prudish and Baxter insensitive. Finally, feeling he couldn't penetrate her soul, Baxter became brutal and eventually left her for another woman. Clara remarks that she seems to have been asleep all her life. Paul is surprised that Baxter failed to awaken her. NOTE: The Sleeping Beauty theme recurs in Sons and Lovers and continues in Lawrence's later novels. A woman, unaware of her own sexuality, is awakened to it by a man, usually from a social class below her own. At one time, Mr. Morel awakened Gertrude in just this way. Paul, even as he tenderly holds Clara's hand, strongly sympathizes with Baxter Dawes. He suggests to Clara that maybe she made Baxter into a brute by constantly rejecting him. Paul tells her Baxter loves her still. As the story progresses, you'll see how Paul identifies Baxter with his own father. Paul still believes his feelings for Clara are limited to artistic appreciation of her beauty and to a platonic friendship. But the narrator tells you that Paul's heart pounds and races in Clara's presence. Like many young men in the Victorian era he can't admit his sexual feelings. NOTE: Lawrence believed that young men in his era were oversensitive to women, so afraid of hurting them that they tended to deny their own natural sexuality. He attributes this attitude to the fact of seeing their mothers brutalized, spiritually and physically, by husbands who treated them as objects, rather than as living beings. The chapter ends with Clara advising Paul on his relationship with Miriam. She suggests that Miriam doesn't really want this communion of souls, but desires instead his flesh and blood. Clara tells Paul he's never tried to approach Miriam. Perhaps now, thanks to Clara's encouragement, Paul will make his move. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 11 Another spring sends Paul running back to Miriam. He finally tells her that their purity is sapping his energy. He can't marry her now because of his family obligations (primarily his mother's disapproval), but he's sure that someday they could wed if only first they crossed the virginal barrier between them. Miriam recoils inside although she decides that if he needs her physically, she will give herself to him. She sees herself as a sacrificial offering, and that's how she approaches the sex act. But Paul doesn't want her this way; he wants her to come willingly to him. Miriam tells him she's not yet ready to do this. One evening Paul and Miriam get caught in a dark wood during a rainstorm. He loves both the dark and the rain, for they are a kind of death for him--a melting out of individuality into an eternal being. Miriam, on the other hand, is horrified. She hates the dark and fears that the rain-drenched ground will make the fragile Paul sick. Unlike Paul, she doesn't want to drown in night's forgetfulness; she always tries to keep a tight rein on her emotions. Paul begins to see this aspect of Miriam as sterile. When Miriam's grandmother becomes ill, Miriam goes to care for the testy old lady. When the grandmother takes a brief holiday in Derby, Miriam remains alone in the little cottage. One afternoon Paul bicycles over to the cottage, and he and Miriam make a grand dinner. They playact at being husband and wife with merry abandon. After a walk, the couple returns to the cottage. When Paul sees Miriam lying naked on the bed, her beauty transfixes him. His desire frightens her. She lies passively, like a sacrificial lamb, rather than like a woman wanting him to make love to her. He senses her old restraint and has to consciously block her out as a person to have sex with her. She can't share in the passion she provokes. For the next week, Paul comes to Miriam like a starving man to food. After he makes love to her, he always feels a strange sense of failure and a deep desire for death. Remember how in the dark forest Paul had a wondrous, immortal sense of death? But now, in the cottage with Miriam, his desire for death expresses the need to free himself from a hopeless love relationship. Paul and Miriam's sexual relationship is a fiasco. Much of the blame can be put on Miriam's mother, who taught her to believe that sex was the one horrible thing a woman must endure in marriage. Miriam doesn't want to believe this but, like Paul, she's deeply influenced by her mother. Also, consider the demands Paul makes of a sexual partner. Shouldn't some of the blame for their sexual failure fall on Paul, too? Out of desperation and guilt, Paul asks Miriam to marry him. She refuses, holding to her belief that one should do what the heart desires, not what society expects. Deep down, she must feel they're not suitable mates. Watch, though, how throughout the rest of the novel she expects Paul to tire of running around and come home to her. After they've slept together, Paul sees less and less of Miriam. Their unsatisfying lovemaking signals the end of their sexual relationship. However, he again grows close to Clara, who makes him feel happy and carefree. He remains faithful to Miriam, for he believes that somehow he belongs to her and is responsible for her. But because he feels tied down to her, he starts to resent her. He accuses her of being an overbearing conscience, not a life-generating mate. NOTE: Do you think this is really the truth about Miriam? Is it possible that this is just another of Paul's reactions when he feels Miriam threatens his devotion to his mother and his sexual desires? Don't forget that Lawrence, when writing Sons and Lovers, was still trying to figure out what went wrong in his own relationship with Jessie Chambers. You'll have to decide for yourself whether Miriam wants to "devour" Paul with love or just give herself to him as generously as she can. Remember the scene where Mrs. Morel, pregnant with Paul, finds her frustration and fury soothed by the luminous white garden lilies? One evening, fed up with Miriam, Paul goes out to the Morel garden and deeply inhales the scent of these lilies. He sees them glistening like madonnas in the dark night. Paul finds that although he likes their intoxicating smell, he can't bring himself to touch them. Then he catches the coarse, almost brutal scent of purple irises, and he feels he can touch these fleshy, accessible blooms. Breaking off a pink, he brings it to his mother and announces he's severing his ties with Miriam. NOTE: By using the flower metaphor, Lawrence shows you Paul's decision to end his relationship with Miriam (symbolized by the untouchable lilies) and pursue the more passionate, accessible Clara (symbolized by grasping the iris and plucking the pink). Paul's reactions to these flowers let you know his plan before he actually tells his mother he's leaving Miriam. Miriam fights her final battle for Paul's soul when he announces that they must break up. Has she a right to be angry with him? After all, it's often the case that people involved in a relationship turn out to be bad for one another. She did, however, sleep with Paul, a very daring and vulnerable thing for a turn-of-the-century girl to do. And almost right after their sexual affair, he decides to break off with her! Bitterly, she tells Paul, "It has been one long battle between us--you fighting away from me." From what you've seen of their relationship and Paul's conflict between Miriam and his mother, this is an accurate summary. Paul, on the other hand, rages over what she's said. He sees it as a total denial that they'd ever loved at all. Leaving Miriam, Paul heads directly to the nearest tavern, where he flirts with the barmaids and pals around with the men. Miriam seems the farthest thing from his mind, at least for the moment. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 12 Paul starts to make a decent living through his art work. Between his lace designs and other applied arts projects, he can support his family in style. After leaving Miriam, he has finally come to believe in the importance of his work. But she helped him gain this self-confidence. His relationship with Miriam over, Paul goes straight to Clara. He's forward with her in a way that would have embarrassed him with Miriam. Have you noticed that it's often most difficult to be physically intimate with those you're closest to spiritually? At first, Clara neither responds to nor rejects Paul's advances. He's intoxicated with her; the narrator describes him as a man under chloroform. On one memorable outing to the river Trent, Paul buys Clara a corsage of bright red carnations. They enter a dark grove and find themselves falling and stumbling by the river bank. Together they struggle through the mud. Clara is definitely Paul's match in strength and daring. Finally, down by the river, they find a private place to lie down. Their passion is as deep, swirling, and tumultuous as the Trent itself. Lawrence doesn't describe their lovemaking here, but he does tell you that Clara's crimson corsage is crushed. Together, they have crushed or broken through the sexual barrier. Paul even begins to speak to Clara in his father's dialect, which, for Paul is the language of sensual love. He'd never speak this language comfortably with the cultured, reserved Miriam. NOTE: Throughout this scene by the Trent, Lawrence uses the steep hills and deep valleys to call attention to the extraordinary experience of sexual union. Notice that after their passion is consummated, Paul and Clara walk peacefully to a nice level bit of ground, signifying their return to normalcy from the heights of ecstasy. Lawrence's topography follows his characters' emotional and sexual fluctuations. Although his relationship with Miriam has ended, Paul keeps visiting Willey Farm. He's so much a part of the Leivers family that he can't give them up. Rather nonchalantly, he tells Miriam about his adventures. Of course, the subject of Clara comes up. While he doesn't elaborate, Miriam can't help but guess they've become lovers. Here you see how heartless and insensitive Paul can be. He doesn't even realize that Miriam might feel hurt or jealous. He's so self-absorbed that he's oblivious to what a respectable woman like Miriam sacrificed by sleeping with him, given the moral code of his time. Also rather callously, Paul critically comments to Miriam that Clara probably drove Dawes away by being so inaccessible. Isn't this a reminder of why Paul feels he and Miriam broke up? He blithely goes on to imply that he can awaken a passion in Clara that Dawes cannot. Miriam tries desperately to be understanding. She suggests that the Daweses were mismatched like his own parents. Maybe that is why Baxter could not reach Clara. Paul violently disagrees with the comparison. He's sure his father did arouse passion in his mother, even if only for a short while. As a result, having experienced that "real, real flame of feeling through another person," Mrs. Morel exudes vitality rather than frigidity. Paul's sure that once you've experienced such passion you can grow and ripen, even after the passion itself has dwindled away. Miriam doesn't have the slightest idea of what Paul's talking about. She is still confident that once he's satisfied his lust, he'll return to her. She believes--and she may be correct--that Paul needs to be owned. What she doesn't quite understand is that his mother owns him far more than Miriam ever can. Clara has Sunday tea at the Morels. Understandably, she's nervous at meeting the mother of the man she's having an affair with, particularly since she's still married to someone else. Amazingly, Clara and Mrs. Morel get along well. Clara doesn't threaten the mother's possession of Paul's mind and soul. And Mrs. Morel is wise enough to know that Paul needs someone like Clara to satisfy his sexuality. Suddenly, observing her son objectively as a man, rather than as her flesh and blood, Mrs. Morel sees that it'll be hard for any woman to hold him. She feels sorry for Clara. This observation also foreshadows Paul's abandonment of Clara. NOTE: Lawrence believed there were vast differences between the sexes. His stories often pit male against female in an intense life-or-death battle. Notice how Mrs. Morel sometimes defends her son's women rather than her own flesh and blood. And later, Paul will defend a fellow male, Baxter Dawes, against Clara-Paul's own lover and Dawes's wife. The major sign that Mrs. Morel accepts Clara is that she lets her help with the dishes. When Miriam tried to do the same thing, Mrs. Morel shunted her away. Surprisingly, Miriam drops in on Clara, Paul, and Mrs. Morel. She says it's to see her old friend Clara. We know it's to find out how the relationship between Paul and Clara is progressing. Feeling guilty, Paul tries to be nice to his ex-girlfriend. He is angry when Clara and Mrs. Morel criticize Miriam. Why do you think Miriam deliberately puts herself in such a painful, humiliating situation? We know she's almost perversely self-sacrificial, even masochistic. Perhaps, too, she doesn't yet believe the intimacy that's grown between Paul and Clara. Maybe she needs to see it for herself. Miriam may also want to gauge how Paul is doing in the test she's set up for him. Will he let the physical consummation he shares with Clara override the spiritual communion he has with Miriam? Paul can't understand why Clara should be so envious of the abandoned Miriam. It seems to some readers that Paul wants it all-Miriam's spiritual inspiration, Clara's strength and sensuality, and his mother's enduring protection. Can you criticize him for it? Why? Soon after this Sunday tea incident, Paul and Clara go to the theater to see the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt perform. The show ends so late that Paul must sleep at Clara's. Remember how nice Mrs. Radford was to Paul when he first came to visit? Now she acts hostile to the young couple, as if she senses their relationship has grown intimate. She refuses to go to bed until Paul is safely away in his own room. Alone in his assigned bedroom, Paul can't sleep, thinking about Clara. Finally, he creeps downstairs and discovers her naked in front of the fireplace. His adoration of her heals her growing shame over their love affair. In the morning, Mrs. Radford treats Paul like a son; evidently he's won his battle with her. She even agrees to a seaside holiday with Paul and Clara. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 13 One day after work Paul runs into Clara's husband at a tavern. Baxter Dawes is down on his luck. His mistress has left him, and he's spending most of his time drinking. Paul feels drawn to his rival. They're linked through Clara. Perhaps he feels guilty about what their affair has done to Baxter. When Paul, who is Baxter's superior at Jordan's, offers to buy him a drink, Dawes not only refuses, but insults Paul and Clara. Paul hurls a drink in his face and the two men nearly come to blows. What do you think causes this quarrel? The most obvious reason is their rivalry over Clara. Their antagonism can also be seen as a battle between the middle class (Paul) and the working class (Baxter). We'll learn, as the chapter progresses, that Dawes is very much like Paul's own father. Some readers believe that Paul's fight with Dawes and their later reconciliation is an acting out of Paul's inner conflict regarding his aspiring middle-class mother and his self-satisfied working-class father. Later, at work, Baxter assaults Mr. Jordan, who is trying to protect Paul from him. Jordan dismisses Dawes and presses assault charges against him. Called as a witness, Paul loses the suit for Mr. Jordan by telling the judge that the basis of his and Baxter's rivalry is Clara. Mr. Jordan and Clara are both furious with Paul. Paul, on the other hand, is happy to protect Dawes from any further hardship or pain. Clara falls more passionately in love with Paul. Paul, meanwhile, drifts away from her. He tells his mother that women are out to possess him and he can't let them. He even goes so far as to say that he'll never "meet the right woman" while Mrs. Morel lives. Paul now knows Clara will never be his life's mate. Though he still desires her, he does not want to belong to her. Sensing his anguish, Clara lets him take her in an intense, yet, for him, impersonal sexual encounter, and his intellectual and spiritual struggles momentarily cease. NOTE: This chapter explores in depth the sexual experiences between Clara and Paul. Lawrence uses their relationship to expound his philosophy on the meaning of sexual union. Lovemaking to Lawrence is a primitive mystery that merges those involved with the never-ending life force. Through the act, they surrender their individuality and become one with nature. In passion, Paul and Clara are described as grains of sand, insignificant in the midst of a vast universe. After this passionate encounter, Paul and Clara's lovemaking loses some of its fire. Why can't Paul and Clara hold onto their intense passion? One reason is that they have different individual needs. Clara seeks stability and permanence in their relationship. Paul wants sex to be impersonal and free from attachments. He's determined that no woman shall replace his mother as the center of his life. Another possible reason for the deterioration of their passion is that it has served the purpose of making them realize their place in the cosmos. Now they must go their own ways. Which of these reasons would you choose and why? Paul tells Clara that there will be no affection or lovemaking between them during work or, for that matter, in daylight hours. Night and darkness are his time for sex. Clara can't bear this compartmentalization of love versus work. She didn't love Dawes, but at least, unlike Paul, he always needed her. Paul's passion gave Clara an affirmation of her own specialness, but he can't share her new liberated awareness. As with Miriam, Paul refuses to let Clara into his soul, to give her himself. Paul and Clara's "baptism of fire in passion" has given them a rebirth. But they are catalysts for one another's lives, rather than life mates. Unlike Miriam, sensible Clara realizes she'll never be Paul's wife. One night Paul walks Clara home and Baxter passes by. Caught up in his thoughts, Paul doesn't at first recognize the man. Poor Dawes looks so broken and humiliated. He acts as if he wants to be invisible, though his defiant pride still shines through. Clara feels guilty when she sees her husband. At the same time, when Paul expresses pity for the man, it angers her. Paul is also obviously jealous of Clara's concern for Dawes. They're both caught up in their own guilt over the affair. They do seem to agree on one thing: they're not truly suited for each other. Then they get angry with each other for the agreement. First Miriam and now Clara accuse Paul of leaving them out when he makes love. They feel that he sees them as one huge, impersonal female force, not as individuals. One evening, Dawes accosts Paul in a field outside town. Paul isn't much of a fighter. He doesn't want to battle Dawes, but soon the survival instinct surfaces and he nearly strangles the brawny smith. Realizing that he's choking Dawes, Paul lets up. Baxter seizes the opportunity and knocks him unconscious. When Paul awakes, alone and wounded in the cold field, he feels wonderment, not unlike his reaction after making love to Clara. At this point, all that Paul wants is to get back to the safety and security of his mother. NOTE: The violence and passion between these two fighting men is described in terms similar to the sexual encounters of Paul and Clara. Lawrence, particularly in his later novels, developed the idea that male aggressiveness toward other males is often caused by a mutual attraction with which they can't cope. Their battle is almost a perversion of the sex act. It's aftermath even leaves Paul in a similar euphoria. Paul's shoulder has been dislocated, and he gets bronchitis as a result of this incident. He requests that publicly it be said he's had a bicycling accident. He doesn't want Dawes to suffer any retribution. In the next chapter, you will see why. Clara and Miriam come to visit the convalescent, but now they tire him. He just wants to be nursed by his mother. Mrs. Morel is ill, a fact that both mother and son refuse to acknowledge. Paul goes on a week's vacation with a friend and drops his mother off to stay with Annie in Sheffield. Paul and Newton have a grand time. With the boys, Paul escapes from all the women he feels closing in on him. When Paul arrives to pick up his mother, Annie announces that she's gravely ill. Annie implies that it's Paul's fault for not keeping an eye on Mrs. Morel's health. Paul, of course, feels guilty. It seems that every time he leaves his mother to have fun on his own something terrible happens to her. Mrs. Morel has a huge lump on her stomach that may be cancerous. She tells Paul she's had it for a long time. Why didn't she mention it to the doctor she's been seeing for her heart and stomach ailments? Do you think Mrs. Morel wants to die? Perhaps she knows her death is the only way to release Paul from his dependence on her. Or perhaps the origin of her illness was psychosomatic: an attempt to keep control over her son. The doctors confer about Mrs. Morel's illness. They still don't know if the tumor is benign or malignant. Paul is terrified and guilt-ridden over not watching out for Mrs. Morel's health. Clara helps him to forget a little. But as soon as he leaves her, his fear and helplessness in the face of his mother's possible death return. Finally Mrs. Morel comes home from Annie's. The look of death is upon her. It's clear to everyone in the village as they welcome her. The contrast between the bright, warm August day and her deathly cold pallor heightens the tragedy of her illness. Inwardly, she's still full of life. Happy to be back in her own home, Gertrude marvels at the lovely sunflowers nodding their yellow heads in her beloved garden. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 14 One day, when Paul was in Sheffield, the doctor mentions that there was a Nottingham fellow named Dawes in the hospital there. The doctor is worried that Dawes, who has typhoid, is fretting himself to death. Paul decides to visit the solitary, friendless Dawes. There's always been a strong connection between them, though it's been expressed as hate. Dawes is quite surprised to see Paul. He's non-communicative until Paul mentions his mother's illness. Dawes then realizes that Paul is a fellow sufferer, for Dawes mourns the loss of Clara, just as Paul grieves for his mother. NOTE: Some readers believe that Paul's reconciliation with Dawes is actually his coming to terms with his own father. Clara, in this situation, plays the mother figure. As you'll soon see, Paul strives to reconcile Clara and Dawes. This, to a follower of Freud, symbolizes the reuniting of parents by the son who had earlier desired to replace the father as his mother's mate. Once Paul begins to identify with the father figure, Dawes, and gives up the lover relationship to the mother figure, Clara, he can go in search of his own true mate. When Paul tells Clara that Dawes is hospitalized, she's struck with guilt and remorse. She turns on Paul, the man for whom she betrayed her husband and says that Dawes loved her, whereas Paul never did. Clara doesn't feel as though she loves Dawes. However, because she's failed to win Paul's love and because she now feels morally frightened by her affair, she resolves to do penance by returning to her husband. Mrs. Morel is slowly, agonizingly dying of stomach cancer. Even though she's in great pain and drugged with morphine, she characteristically refuses to complain. In some ways, Mrs. Morel seems happier than ever. Why do you think this is? It's possible she enjoys suffering. It's also possible that the undivided attention she now gets from her son makes her feel fulfilled. A third reason may be that even though she fights death tooth and nail, she's peacefully resigned to it. Mrs. Morel delights over her garden in her last days. Paul notices she again looks like a young, beautiful woman. Sometimes Mrs. Morel admits to Paul how horrible her life has been with Morel. She refuses to forgive Walter for disappointing her own aspirations. Paul absorbs her bitterness like a sponge. He feels as if his own life is being torturously ripped to shreds. His mother lingers in agony for months. She hates to leave Paul, who is her promise of success in life. Paul finally tells her to let go of life. It's better than slowly wasting away. As Paul falls into deep despair over his mother's terminal illness, Clara grows more distant. She fears and is horrified by this cruel and indifferent man who himself is now like death. There are limits to Clara's giving. Unlike Miriam, Clara has a strong instinct for self-preservation. While Mrs. Morel is dying, Baxter Dawes is recuperating in a pleasant seaside convalescent home. The two men become close friends. One day Paul visits Dawes, and for the first time brings up Clara's name. Paul implies that Clara loves Dawes, is tired of Paul, and is withdrawing from their extramarital affair. Actually, isn't it Paul who's been withdrawing from her? Paul sets up his own abandonment by Clara and carefully arranges for the Dawes's reunion. It's December, snowy and cold. Mrs. Morel wastes away to nothing but a pair of huge, intense eyes. Paul can't bear to see her like this; neither can his sister Annie. They want her to die. Mr. Morel stays aloof from the whole situation. He cannot deal with this overwhelming, final experience of death. It bewilders and frightens him. Finally Paul can't stand it anymore. With Annie's approval, he crushes up all the morphine pills and gives his mother a fatal overdose in her milk. Although Paul's euthanasia (mercy killing) of his mother may shock you, the narrator refers to the act as "this little sanity." NOTE: There are two reasons that this murder can be considered an act of sanity. First, to Lawrence it is compassionate to end the suffering of a terminally ill individual. Secondly, in the psychological framework, it is necessary for Mrs. Morel to die in order to release the son from the imprisonment of his mother's love. When Mr. Morel comes home that night, Paul tells him his wife is gone. Morel quietly goes about his dinner. How can he possibly eat at a time like this? Maybe he is simply relieved. It's also possible he's in emotional shock. Lawrence, however, makes clear that the death of Walter's wife is just too big an experience for him to fathom. Remember how Morel kept an emotional distance when William died? Also keep in mind his selfish attitude when he came home after Paul's difficult birth. Later that day, alone in the house, Paul goes up to see his dead mother. She looks like a virginal sleeping beauty to him, not an old dead woman. NOTE: Paul awakens Clara to life; now he moves full circle and brings his mother to the realm of death. Gertrude now exists for him as a lovely young "sleeping beauty," forever free from life's agony. Lawrence believed that life and death completed and complemented each other in a continual cycle of disintegration and renewal. Paul suddenly shrinks from the icy lifelessness of his mother's body. She is gone and in peace. But he must go on, though he is emotionally cold and empty without her. After the funeral, Mr. Morel disgusts his children by wallowing in sentimentality and self-pity. Morel tells Gertrude's relatives how he gave his wife his entire life. He refuses to face all the pain he'd caused her. Despite Walter's conscious attempts to deny his failures as a husband, he can't escape his guilt. He has wretched nightmares about Gertrude. Paul now finalizes his breakup with Clara and encourages her reunion with Dawes. He visits Baxter, who tries to comfort him over losing his mother. Dawes knows the deep sense of loss an abandoned man can have. Both men reaffirm each other's lives in this poignant scene of male empathy and support. Clara comes to visit Paul and Baxter. She compares them in a very cool, analytical manner. She now sees Paul as small-minded and unstable. She realizes that it's impossible to build a life with this wind-tossed, unsteady young man who will never admit he's wrong or beaten. She sees Baxter in a new, positive light. He's a man who can admit failure and the need for female help. Clara is blind to Paul's unbearable grief. He leaves Clara and Baxter with the excuse he must meet his father. He says he expects Clara to meet him later, but knows she won't. Clara and Baxter vow to try to build a new married life. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: CHAPTER 15 Clara returns to her husband, and Paul barely ever sees her again. The Morel household breaks up without Gertrude to hold it together. Mr. Morel goes to live with a family in Bestwood. Paul moves to his own apartment in Nottingham. After his mother's death, Paul has fallen into a deep depression. His whole life is shattered. The world seems so empty, so purposeless without his mother. He feels that he's going blankly through the motions of life but not really experiencing it. The only thing real to Paul now is darkness. It reflects his desire for death and numbness of feeling. Each time Paul sees something alive and moving--even a scrap of windblown paper--he's agonized, All he wants is to be with Gertrude again. Paul's will to live forces him to go on, if only for Gertrude's sake. He tries to discover what will bring him back to life. He has two possible answers: art, which he rejects as not living, or marriage and children. This second possibility makes him wonder if there's anyone in the world with whom he could share his life. Paul's a rootless wanderer now, separated by death from the sole person who grounded him in life. He can't escape himself or his solitary pain. One evening, he meets Miriam at church. He watches her and feels that she at least has some hope in a spiritual if not earthly peace. He greets her, and the two old friends go on to his lodgings, where they have a stiff, uncomfortable meal. Miriam's about to achieve economic independence, as she's to be a teacher at the local agricultural college. Paul proclaims that work can never be everything to a woman, though it is to a man. Does Miriam believe him? Her retort is bitter and ironic, but still she can't quite challenge Paul. Worried over his health, Miriam tells him they should marry. She wants to take care of him. But Paul fears she'll smother him. Paul talks of going abroad. Instinctively, Miriam feels she should grab him, protect him. But she just can't assert herself in this way--it's too different from her old concept of love as passive self-sacrifice. Out of pity he asks if she'll marry him, but he also tells her that he feels their marriage would not be right. Miriam decides to go, realizing he doesn't really want her sacrifice. He needs someone to force him to live and love. This the gentle Miriam cannot do. She leaves, still faintly believing someday he'll return to her. Paul finds himself alone in the dark, still night. He compares himself to the tiny sparkling stars standing out bravely in the vast blackness. Like the stars, or the grains of sand he felt so close to when he vacationed by the seaside with Clara, he feels he is a speck of nothingness in the midst of space. Still, he isn't nothing. He and the stars and the sand do exist and stand out, defiant against the futile darkness. Paul calls for his mother, but now she is diffused in the blackness of nonexistence. Yet, she has taught him well and left him the legacy of survival against all odds. Paul turns from the darkness and heads "towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly." NOTE: Many readers find the ending of Sons and Lovers a positive, life-affirming one. They define the word "quickly" here to mean "livingly" (full of life), rather than to mean "walking fast." Paul has swerved sharply away from darkness and death and now heads, full of vitality, toward life. He has always had a love of life; his mother's death tests it ruthlessly. That he chooses life, despite his grief, is a testament to his strong will and spirit. Other readers find this ending out of character. They say Paul is drifting toward death in this chapter and his quick turnaround toward life is unexpected. You'll have to decide for yourself what you think of this ending. Your decision will depend on what you think of Paul. Is he just a crippled mama's boy or is he a sensitive young man who can stand alone on his own two feet and battle the unknown mysteries of life? ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: GLOSSARY ANTIMACASSAR Cover to protect a sofa or chair against a particular hair dressing made of Macassar oil. BARM Yeast that forms on malt liquor as it ferments. BERNHARDT, SARAH (1843-1923) Famous French actress who specialized in tragedy and melodrama. BOARD-SCHOOL Local state-run elementary school. BUTTY SYSTEM System under which a group of miners received a lump sum for their weekly work, then divided the collective earnings. The butty often worked, played, and drank together. CARTHUSIANS Order of very austere monks founded in 1086 near Grenoble, France. CHARLES II (1630-1685) King of England restored to the throne after the end of Oliver Cromwell's dictatorship. CHELP Sound off. CORNCRAKE Bird with a harsh, grating voice, who hides in the high grass or cornfields. COSSED Resold; bartered or exchanged. CROESUS Enormously wealthy king in Greek mythology. EDDISH Cattle pasture where the grass is eaten down to stubble. GIN PITS Pits from which miners extract coal. ISEULT In Arthurian legend, an Irish princess wed to the king of Cornwall and loved by Tristram. Used by German composer Richard Wagner as example of tragic lovers in his opera Tristan and Isolde. MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (1542-1587) Scottish Queen who claimed the British throne and was beheaded, after years of imprisonment, by Queen Elizabeth I of England. MICHELANGELO (1475-1564) Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, and architect. MINER'S STALL Small enclosed subdivision of the coal pit assigned to a team of miners. MOUDIWARP Mole. MUCKY Impolite term meaning dirty or filthy. ORION Constellation of stars that looks like a man and his dog. In Greek mythology, Orion was a hunter who pursued the seven daughters of Atlas. PENELOPE In the ancient Greek poet Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses' wife who patiently spun a tapestry for years while waiting for her husband to return from the Trojan Wars. QUOITS Game similar to horseshoes. ROGER DE COVERLY Type of dance. SCOTCH Some impediment that blocks a machine from working properly. SCULLERY Pantry. SINGLET Man's undershirt. SKEGNESS British seaside resort. SKITTLES Game like bowling, only played with nine pins in a square configuration. SMARMY Excessively flattering; cloying; ingratiating. SNAP-BAG Bag in which miners kept their lunch. SWEAL To burn off. TRUCK-END Slang for buttocks. VERONESE, PAOLO (1528-1588) Venetian Renaissance painter. VITRIOL Medicine made from various sulfates known for being particularly bitter. WAISTCOAT Man's vest, pronounced "west-kit" in England. ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: ON WALTER MOREL In Sons and Lovers, only in Morel himself, brutalized and spiritually maimed as he is, does the germ of selfhood remain intact; and--this is the correlative proposition in Lawrence--in him only does the biological life force have simple, unequivocal assertion. Morel wants to live, by hook or crook, while his sons want to die. To live is to obey a rhythm involving more than conscious attitudes and involving more than human beings--involving all nature; a rhythm indifferent to the greediness of reason, indifferent to idiosyncrasies of culture and idealism. The image associated with Morel is that of the coalpits, where he descends daily and from which he ascends at night blackened and tired. It is a symbol of rhythmic descent and ascent, like a sexual rhythm, or like the rhythm of sleep and awaking or of death and life. True, the work in the coalpits reverses the natural use of the hours of light and dark and is an economic distortion... -Dorothy Van Ghent, "On Sons and Lovers," in The English Novel: Form and Function, 1953 ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: ON FLOWER IMAGERY As these thoughts indicate, flowers are the most important of the "vital forces" in Sons and Lovers. The novel is saturated with their presence, and Paul and his three sweethearts are judged, again and again, by their attitude toward them, or more accurately, by their relations with them. The "lad-and-girl" affair between Paul and Miriam, for example, is a virtual communion between the two lovers and the flowers they both admire. -Mark Spilka, "How to Pick Flowers," in The Love Ethic of D. H. Lawrence, 1955 ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: LAWRENCE'S STYLE One never catches Lawrence--this is one of his most remarkable qualities--"arranging." Words, scenes flow as fast and direct as if he merely traced them with a free rapid hand on sheet after sheet. Not a sentence seems thought about twice; not a word added for its effect on the architecture of the phrase. There is no arrangement that makes us say: "Look at this. This scene, this dialogue has the meaning of the book hidden in it." One of the curious qualities of Sons and Lovers is that one feels an unrest, a little quiver and shimmer in his page, as if it were composed of separate gleaming objects, by no means content to stand still and be looked at. -Virginia Woolf, "Notes on D. H. Lawrence," in The Moment and Other Essays, 1948 Sons and Lovers moves along a structural pattern determined by the nature of its human relationships. A wave-rhythm distinguishes, in beat and counterbeat, the major involvements of the characters: those of Walter and Gertrude Morel, Paul and his mother, Paul and Miriam, and Paul and Clara. In each of these relationships, separate episodes focus--in dramatically enacted dialogue, description, and action--aspects of each character-interconnection. Each event is a successive wave, and the movement of the relationship is the full tide which is its consummation. After that consummation, there are wavelike returns to the achieved tension in that relationship, but now each wave shows a diminishing strength and intensity. The reader of Sons and Lovers soon comes to anticipate the rhythmic returns and finds himself attuned to the Lawrencean mode. He doesn't ask for the conventional climactic development. -Seymour Betsky, "Rhythm and Theme: D. H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers,'" in The Achievement of D. H. Lawrence, 1953 ^^^^^^^^^^SONS AND LOVERS: ON D. H. LAWRENCE To be born, with that genius, a miner's son at Eastwood in the eighteen-eighties--it is as if Destiny, having given him the genius, had arranged also that he should be enabled to develop it to the utmost and qualified to use it for the purposes for which it was meant. If he had not been born into the working-class he could not have known working-class life from the inside. As it was he enjoyed advantages that a writer middle-class born could not have had: the positive experience and a freedom both from illusions and from the debilitating sense of ignorance. On the other hand, gifted as he was, there was nothing to prevent his getting to know life at other social levels. -F. R. Leavis, "D. H. Lawrence and Human Existence," in Scrutiny, 1951 THE END