Sons and Lovers | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Sons and Lovers | Part 2, Chapter 14 : The Release | Summary



Dr. Ansell tells Paul that there is a man named Dawes in the fever hospital. Paul visits him and then tells Clara that Dawes has typhoid but is showing improvement. Clara feels guilty about treating Dawes badly. She tells Paul that she never considered Dawes "worth having" but that "he loved me a thousand times better than you ever did." Clara visits her husband to make restitution, "to humble herself to him." Paul continues to see him as well.

Mrs. Morel is getting worse, and Paul can see the pain in her face. She is curled up in bed like a child. He lovingly brushes and braids her hair. When their eyes meet, his mother smiles, and when she speaks about her husband, it is with hatred because she cannot forgive him. Her illness interferes with Paul's work. His mother tries to ignore the pain, never allowing herself to think of death. Paul and Clara spend the weekend at the seaside for her birthday, but Paul is distant and she is unhappy because he is "not with her; she was nothing." Paul talks about his mother's refusal to die, how "she will never give in."

The cancer gnaws at his mother, and Paul wishes she would die to stop the pain. When she can't sleep he sits with her, stroking her face, holding her hand, and calling her "my pigeon ... my love." Paul visits Miriam, and she sees how pale and gaunt he is. She kisses and caresses him, but it is torture to him and not comfort. Annie and Paul share the care for their mother, who is now "wasted and almost ashen."

Months pass by and still she clings to life. On the nurse's night off, Paul crushes all of her morphia (morphine) pills into hot milk. It is very bitter, but Mrs. Morel drinks it anyway at Paul's insistence. In the morning Annie and Paul listen to their mother's labored breathing, but she is still alive. The nurse comes and sits with her, and around noon Mrs. Morel dies. When Mr. Morel returns from work he is told about his wife. He says "H'm!" and proceeds to eat his dinner. Later Paul goes up to her room; "she was young again," lying in the bed, and he "kissed her passionately." He feels like he can never let her go. The funeral takes place during a "furious storm of rain and wind." Mr. Morel tells his wife's relatives how he did "his best for her" all of her life.

Paul and Clara continue to visit Dawes in a convalescent home, and when he is released he stays with Paul. Paul tells him that Clara might want to resume their marriage. Clara comes to visit the night that Paul is leaving. Dawes is set to leave in the morning. Clara compares the two men and thinks her husband has "more manly dignity," and she now despises Paul. She is angry at Paul for "leaving her the option to stay with her husband," as if he took what he wanted and is now "giving her back." Paul feels "crumpled up and lonely" while Dawes nobly crawls back from "the brink of death." Paul leaves and the couple sits down to tea together, agreeing to take each other back.


The bond between Paul and his mother is never stronger than it is here as the two struggle to hold on to life and each other. Mrs. Morel clings to life in an attempt to remain with Paul. Paul holds on to her as long as he can, but as his mother gets sicker and wastes away, so does he. Paul becomes pale and gaunt, connected to his mother emotionally and physically. Paul is tortured by his mother's will to live in the face of such extreme pain. His love and empathy for her propels him toward the heartbreaking decision to give her an overdose of morphia, choosing to end her life rather than see her suffer. As she dies a part of him dies. This is an interesting twist on the story of Oedipus, who kills his father and marries his mother—instead, Paul kills his mother.

Paul feels attached to his mother, even after she dies. When Paul looks at her he sees a young woman at the age she was when he was born. He kisses her passionately and struggles to let her go, calling her his love. He has lost his mother and his first true love—or perhaps his one perfect love.

Though Paul does not love his father, he has a rare moment of sympathy for him. Mr. Morel is frightened to be alone in the house with his wife's dead body. Paul is shocked to realize that his fearless father is now afraid, and he feels sorry for him. In an interesting twist, when Morel finally looks at his dead wife the next morning, he also sees her as a young woman.

Paul acts unselfishly in his unexpected friendship with Dawes. He helps Dawes recover, and brings Clara back into his life. Paul can't give Clara love so he gives her the next best thing—the love of her husband.

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