Sons and Lovers | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Sons and Lovers | Part 2, Chapter 7 : Lad-and-Girl Love | Summary

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Summary

Paul continues to visit Willey Farm and Miriam, a "romantic in her soul," sees Walter Scott heroines everywhere and imagines Paul is a hero and she a princess. She wants to learn and read more like Paul, frustrated that he "scarcely observed her." When he became ill she dreamed of taking care of him so that she could love him. Paul likes the atmosphere in the Leivers' home and he sees Miriam as a maiden "in some dreamy tale." Miriam's three brothers, however, are hard on their sister and have brutal manners. After she burns the potatoes for their dinner, the boys humiliate her in front of Paul, and their mother says nothing.

Paul and Miriam share an interest in nature, and after they observe a bird's nest and some flowers "their love started." After his illness Paul shares his drawings with the Leivers, and they show an appreciation that was missing in his own mother. He becomes friends with the boys, who are now more gentle than rude to him. Miriam asks Paul to look at a swing in the cowshed. She wants him to try it first, and he enjoys "swinging through the air" on this "treat of a swing." When it's Miriam's turn she is more fearful of the swing and does not want to go too high on it. She is not able to "lose herself" in the swinging motion as Paul did. Miriam likes to look at his sketches but "something in his breast shrank from these close, intimate, dazzled looks of hers." One day as he paints some pine trees Paul asks her why she is so sad. He tells her that her "joy is like a flame coming off of sadness" and that she is "never jolly." But Miriam denies feeling sad, and he sees a very different Miriam when she is playing with her baby brother. She holds him tight and rocks him with love as the boy asks her to stop. Paul notes her extreme emotion, asking "Why can't you be ordinary with him?"

Paul is irritated by her intensity, comparing it with his own mother's wholesomeness and reserve. Even when Miriam dries the dishes "there was no looseness or abandon ... everything was gripped stiff with intensity." Miriam resents being stuck at home, cleaning up after the boys. She wants "a chance like anybody else," wondering why "because I'm a girl" she must stay at home. She tells Paul she wants to learn and that "men have everything." Paul offers to teach her algebra, but she has trouble understanding it. He finds "his blood began to boil with her," and he loses his patience. When this happens he leaves with her older brother Edgar.

Paul enjoys spending time at home with his mother. As he draws he feels "her warmth inside him like strength." After he recovers from his illness he returns to work and the factory conditions are better. On Wednesday afternoons he has time off to attend the Art School. One summer evening Miriam shows him a wild-rose bush. Until "he had seen it, she felt it had not come into her soul." They stand together looking at the roses, then look into each other's eyes. His eyes traveled "down into her. Her soul quivered. It was the communion she wanted." Paul hurries home knowing his mother will be waiting for him and also knowing that she does not like Miriam because she fears she "will never let him become a man."

When he gets home his mother angrily tells him that "it is disgusting—bits of lads and girls courting." Neither Paul nor Miriam thought "there was any love growing between" them; they are both immature for their ages, so any intimacy "went on in an utterly blanched and chaste fashion." Paul tells her "if one person loves, the other does." Miriam agrees, saying "love begets love." Miriam's feelings confuse her. She looks forward to Paul's visits but prays, "O Lord, let me not love Paul Morel ... if I ought not to love him." Paul tells her that they are friends, not lovers. Sometimes when they walk together Miriam "put her arm in his" and his arm "ran hot with friction."

When Paul turns 20 he rents a cottage for two weeks, and they invite some friends and Miriam to join the family. One evening he is out walking alone with Miriam. Intense feelings are growing inside him but the thought of wanting "her as a man wants a woman" has "been suppressed into a shame." As a result their innocence "prevented even their first love-kiss." This made Paul hate her "for she seemed in some way to make him despise himself" and feel uneasy and humiliated.

Analysis

Miriam's love of Sir Walter Scott novels renders her a romantic. Miriam is spiritual and a dreamer; her love of romance novels symbolizes how she is grounded more in an imaginary world than the real one. Books help her escape reality. Later on the reader will see that she is incapable of earthy, physical love; she only wants ethereal and spiritual love and "scorns the male sex." When Paul touches her fingers, she is scared and prays to God "let me not love Paul Morel." Paul stops himself from kissing her because he senses her feelings of shame towards passion and kissing.

Miriam is not only spiritual, she is intense; her eyes "flame with light like a conflagration." On occasion this intensity frightens Paul, such as when "her eyes blazed naked in a kind of ecstasy." At the shore Paul is overcome by passion for Miriam and "his blood seemed to burst into flame." They both see "an enormous orange moon" in front of them, and his heart beats rapidly. This suggests that Paul is ready for something more with Miriam. Mrs. Morel senses what is going on and resents this connection between Paul and Miriam. She is envious of their relationship, resulting in her strong dislike of Miriam.

Nature is the catalyst that brings Paul and Miriam together. When Miriam shows him a wild-rose bush, they share a moment as they stand together, making her soul quiver. The roses are white, reflecting Miriam's purity. She calls them "holy" and she touches "them in worship." The roses give off a "white, virgin scent" that makes Paul feel "anxious and imprisoned." This symbolizes their relationship—her intensity and spirituality keep her virginal, and Paul is unable to be physical with her. Nature delights Mrs. Morel as well; her "garden was an endless joy to her." In contrast to Miriam, she sees flowers as a source of vitality and life.

The swing in this chapter represents the back-and-forth relationship Paul and Miriam share as they emotionally swing between love and hate. It may also represent the sex act itself. Paul swings with abandon, showing that he is ready to explore his sexuality with Miriam. Miriam, on the other hand, approaches the swing with timidity and control, and Paul asks her if she can "go any farther." She cannot allow herself to enjoy the motion of the swing in much the same way she cannot surrender herself to Paul sexually. In contrast, when Miriam cares for her younger brother she holds him and rocks him. She demonstrates her feelings when holding her brother, but she cannot hold Paul in such an extreme way.

Miriam resents being forced into traditional female roles. She complains about being stuck at home "because I'm a girl" to clean up after her brothers. Her comment that she wants "a chance like anybody else" is a cry for equality with men. But when Paul tries to teach her algebra she is unable to grasp the subject, proving that she is not ready to have "everything the men have."

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