Sons and Lovers | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Sons and Lovers | Part 2, Chapter 12 : Passion | Summary



At this point Paul is starting to earn money through his art, selling textile designs and working on his paintings. Mrs. Morel is "warm and rosy again with love of him" now that he has broken off with Miriam. Paul takes her to the Isle of Wight for a holiday, but, ominously, the walking is too much for her and she faints and looks grey.

Paul also spends more time with Clara, finally getting the up the nerve to hold her hand while he waits for his train. The next day Paul tells her that has broken off with Miriam and kisses her fingertips. On Monday they agree to meet in the afternoon, and he buys her flowers for her coat and they hold hands. They walk down a path along the river bank and hold each other, kiss, and make love. Clara's flowers are crushed into red petals falling all around her. Afterward they go for tea. Paul tells his mother about Clara, and she worries that people will talk. Paul promises to bring her to tea so she can meet her. On Sunday he walks with Miriam from the chapel, and he tells her about his outing with Clara. Paul explains that Clara's husband does what he wants and has another woman, but Miriam says Clara cannot have the same freedom. Paul disagrees with Miriam's belief. Another time Miriam asks if Clara's marriage is similar to the Morels' marriage. Paul says his mother loved his father at first and it is that passion that binds people together. Miriam sees that Paul needs to feel that passion before he can settle down with her; she reassures herself that once he gets it he will not want it and she will be able to possess him again. Paul tells her that Clara is coming to tea on Sunday to meet his parents. Miriam says that she may stop by to see Clara, making Paul angry, but he does not express it.

Clara arrives for tea, and Mrs. Morel is pleased to meet her. Paul shows her the family photos and they all have a friendly, warm chat. Mr. Morel joins them; he is quite courteous, and Clara finds him delightful. Paul and Clara walk in the garden, and Miriam appears. She sees how Paul and Clara are standing so close together. Miriam senses the Morels have accepted Clara in a way they never accepted her. When Miriam leaves she is bitter, believing Paul still belongs to her and angry that Clara has taken her place with Paul and his mother. Paul overhears Clara and his mother criticizing Miriam, and it angers him. Later, as they are returning from chapel, Clara asks Paul about Miriam, and he insists that they are just friends. Clara pulls away from him, but Paul is overcome with passion and grabs her and kisses her over and over. It gets late, and they must rush to the station so that Clara can catch her train.

Several days later Paul asks Clara to go to the theatre with him to see Sarah Bernhardt, a famous flamboyant, unconventional French actress. Clara asks him to wear a suit, and when he arrives at the theatre he is excited to see that Clara is wearing a semi-evening dress of green crepe. He cannot take his eyes off her beautiful bare arms and the curves of her body. He holds her hand during the play and kisses her arm. The play ends late, and Paul misses the last train home. Clara takes him home with her, and her mother welcomes him and makes sarcastic comments about their fancy evening attire. They eat, then Paul and Clara play a game of cribbage. Clara spins her wedding ring around as Paul shuffles the cards. Clara's mother refuses to leave them alone while they play. Paul goes upstairs to sleep in Clara's room, and Clara sleeps with her mother. He gets into bed and listens for the sound of Mrs. Radford going to sleep. He then sneaks downstairs and sees Clara warming herself by the hearth. He touches her shoulder and they hold each other. She lets "him adore her and tremble with joy of her," which helps her feel proud again; "it healed her; it made her glad." She refuses to go to his room with him, so he falls asleep alone.

At breakfast he talks about his love of painting, and Mrs. Radford seems fond of him. He offers to rent a place at the seaside for the three of them, and Mrs. Radford says she won't go because it's just between the two of them. Paul is "amazed and rejoicing."


Lawrence illustrates that Clara and her husband are treated differently by society because of a double standard. The husband can do whatever he wants and see other women, but Clara cannot enjoy the same freedom. Women and men are not treated equally. When Paul and Clara are at the riverbank, Clara's red flowers echo the "scarlet letter," or mark that signals adultery. Afterwards Paul asks Clara if she feels criminal, and her response is that she would "if they knew." Clara's status as a separated woman is also shown when Clara and Paul play cribbage. Clara takes off her wedding ring and spins it on the table, indicating she feels conflicted about her marriage and the limits of her freedom.

The important role Mrs. Morel plays in her son's life is evident in this chapter. When Paul first holds Clara, he puts his mouth on her throat, just like he does when he kisses his mother. Paul also shares everything with his mother, telling her about Clara and then inviting Clara to tea to get his mother's approval. Miriam is aware of the strong mother-son bond, and when she learns that Clara has been asked to tea, she realizes that Paul's feelings for Clara must be stronger than she thought. Clara herself knows the importance of her meeting with Mrs. Morel. Both Miriam and Clara understand that they must accept the role Mrs. Morel plays in Paul's life.

The effect of Clara's abusive marriage on her self-esteem is evident when she is alone with Paul. It is clear that Clara has suffered from her husband's behavior. Paul's adoration of her in front of the fire helps her feel proud again, healing her wounded spirit.

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