Sons and Lovers | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Sons and Lovers | Part 2, Chapter 10 : Clara | Summary



Paul wins first prize for one of his paintings, and it is sold for 20 guineas. Miss Jordan is interested in Paul and invites him to her house to meet other artists. Then Mr. Jordan asks him to come for dinner. Paul doesn't have a suit, so his mother insists he wear William's old one. After several such dinners Paul tells his mother that he would rather belong to "the common people" than "the well-to-do middle class." He sees the middle class as having ideas but the common class as embodying "life itself, warmth." Mrs. Morel wants "him to climb into the middle classes ... to marry a lady." She knows he does not even consider meeting girls who are "his social superior," nor has he found true happiness. He disagrees and says "so long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not."

Arthur leaves the army, marries Beatrice, and their child is born six months later. Mrs. Morel finds him a job and helps pay for a cottage for him to live in. He struggles with his new life but in the end accepts work and his responsibilities and makes the best of it. Paul is now connected "with the Socialist, Suffragette, Unitarian people in Nottingham" through Clara. One of their friends asks Paul to take a message to Clara at her home on Bluebell Hill. Mrs. Radford, Clara's mother, a stout, severe-looking woman, lets him in and leads him to the parlor. Clara is surprised to see him, and they sit in the kitchen where Clara and her mother are wrapping lace around cards with the help of a machine called a "jenny." Paul asks Clara if she likes "jennying," and she replies bitterly, "What can a woman do!" and complains that men have tricked women into taking on "sweated" work. Paul asks Clara if she would prefer being back at Jordan's; although she replies "No," her mother shouts "Yes, she would!" Paul likes watching Clara and "experienced a thrill of joy, thinking she might need his help." Paul learns that "Susan, the overseer of the Spiral girls" is getting married and will be leaving Jordan's. He visits Clara and asks her if she wants Susan's job; he helps her get it when the time comes.

Clara is seen as "reserved and superior" by the other women at Jordan's. During the afternoons when Paul paints at work, Clara stands by him and critiques his work by either praising or criticizing it. Clara had educated herself over the last 10 years as part of the women's movement. She knows some French and feels herself "apart from her class" and aloof from her coworkers. Paul watches her making elastic stockings and asks her if she dislikes spiral work. She replies that "all work is work."

Later that day Paul stops by with chocolate for her, and he reminds her that he is her boss. The next morning he sees that Clara has not eaten her chocolates. He picks them up and flings them out the window, saying they must be all dusty. But later that day he drops off fresh chocolates for her and also for the other girls working there.

On his birthday Fanny, the hunchback worker, calls him down to the finishing-off room. She presents him with their gift—tubes of paint. Paul is very touched, since paints are expensive. Fanny says they all chipped in except for Clara because they didn't ask her to participate. At dinnertime he runs into Clara; they go outdoors and walk up to the castle, talking about the town. Finally, Paul asks her what is bothering her; she tells him the girls have been planning something in secret and gloating about it in front of her. He confesses that it is his birthday and that they chipped in to buy him some paints. Later that evening he receives a package at work. It is a book of poetry from Clara. Paul is moved and senses a "closer intimacy" to Clara now, something that the other girls in the factory see though Clara does not notice it.

One day they go to tea and on the way Paul asks Clara about her marriage. While they are talking he puts his hand over hers but she soon withdraws it. She says she never loved her husband and he bullied her, becoming brutal and unfaithful. He left her after five years of marriage. At tea Clara is quiet, sitting and twisting her wedding ring then removing it and spinning it on the table. Over the next few months Paul maintains his friendship with both Miriam and Clara, believing his bond to Miriam is much deeper than his feelings for Clara. Finally, he and Clara discuss Miriam; Clara lets him know that Miriam wants him and not his soul.


Paul has an opportunity to mingle with well-to-do people through his art. Surprisingly, he tells his mother that he prefers "the common people" to the middle class. Mrs. Morel wants him to move up in society, but Paul resists. One possible reason is a fear of failure or rejection. He may not see himself as being on their level and would rather stay where he is, among people he is comfortable with. He continues to discuss things with his mother so that she can share his life.

Arthur exhibits a strong sense of duty by doing the right thing and marrying Beatrice and raising their child together. He accepts responsibility and acts like a man instead of a child.

Clara wants to be independent and supports the women's movement, which makes her a "modern" woman. When Clara returns to Jordan's factory to make stockings again it's a bit of a setback because they symbolize that she is back in a form of constraint or bondage, which she accepts because "all work is work."

The book shows Clara twisting her wedding ring when she is at tea with Paul, which may symbolize her ambivalence toward the institution of marriage and her mixed feelings toward her husband. She is legally married but not living with her husband and confused as to what she wants to do—stay married or get divorced and move on. Interestingly she encourages Paul to continue seeing Miriam by letting him know that Miriam really wants him.

Paul's interest in Clara is a different passion than he feels for Miriam. With Clara he feels a sexual attraction that he does not have toward Miriam—he can be more of a man with Clara. Miriam demands his soul, and he is filled with a sense of duty and obligation to her. Miriam represents the past, and Clara represents the future.

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