Sons and Lovers | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Sons and Lovers | Part 2, Chapter 8 : Strife in Love | Summary

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Summary

Arthur was working in an electrical plant in Minton Pit, but his "wild and restless" nature always gets him into trouble. He sends a letter to his mother explaining that he has joined the army but now regrets it. Mrs. Morel travels to Derby and speaks to the sergeant, but it does no good. Mr. Morel swears that he will never allow Arthur to return home again.

Paul wins two first prizes in an art exhibition at the castle. Mrs. Morel is proud of her son and Paul is pleased he has "done something for her, if only a trifle." On his way to the castle he meets Miriam and her friend, Mrs. Clara Dawes. Clara is separated from her husband and "had taken up Women's Rights." Mr. Dawes works at Jordan's, and Paul dislikes him because he is a bully. The next time Paul sees Miriam she asks him about Clara. Paul says she has a fierceness and defiance about her. Neither Paul nor Miriam can break the invisible wall between them. Paul "was mad to comfort her and kiss her. But then he dared not." Before he leaves he has his back to her, and she runs her hands down his sides, telling him that he is "so fine." Paul's "blood [is] roused to a wave of flame by her hands." The following day Miriam and Edgar come for tea, and Mrs. Morel does not like Miriam. Paul is left feeling "dreary and hopeless." In March Paul and Miriam are sitting on the river bank; he senses that Miriam wants him, yet he feels he must resist. He wants to "give her passion and tenderness, and he could not." He ends up telling her, "You know it's only friendship," hurting Miriam deeply.

Paul is promoted to manager when Mr. Pappleworth leaves the company; he is also busy studying design. His sister Annie is now engaged. One Friday night Mrs. Morel goes to the market and tells Paul to bake the bread while she is at the market. Miriam arrives and then they are joined by Beatrice, a friend of the family. Beatrice teases Paul and makes fun of Miriam. In the meantime the bread burns. When Paul and Miriam are alone they resume her French lessons, and she writes a diary entry that reads like a love letter. Paul corrects the French and ignores the sentiments. Miriam looks up at him, "her dark eyes were naked with their love, afraid, and yearning" and Paul felt "a touch of hate for her." He hides the burnt bread below the good loaves and leaves. When Paul returns his mother and sister are waiting for him with the burnt bread on the table.

Annie tells Paul their mother isn't well and that perhaps it's her heart. His mother tells Paul that the bread burned because he was "engrossed with Miriam." Paul says he likes to talk to Miriam but he wants "to come home to you." His mother throws her arms around him and cries as Paul strokes her hair and puts his mouth on her throat. His mother kisses him with "a long, fervent kiss." Paul strokes her face and kisses her. When Mr. Morel appears and sees Paul kissing his mother, he yells, "At your mischief again?" and grabs a pork pie and throws it into the fire. Mrs. Morel faints, and Paul goes to help her. Paul feels at peace "because he still loved his mother best."

Analysis

Paul's passion for art allows him to express himself freely, giving him immense joy. It fulfills him in a way his love for Miriam does not. Miriam enjoys looking at his art and commenting on it, and these discussions provide happy moments for Paul.

Clara Dawes is introduced in this chapter. There is something intriguing about her that interests both Miriam and Paul. Paul sees her as very different from Miriam, and he describes Clara's mouth as "made for passion." When Paul suggests that Miriam may like Clara "because she's got a grudge against men" he seems to be calling out Miriam's ambivalence toward men. Clara will become a major character in the remaining chapters.

When Mrs. Morel expresses her dislike for Miriam, Paul acts as a concerned lover and fends off her jealousy by showing his mother how much he cares about her. The strength of the love between mother and son is apparent, and their closeness creates a tension that shapes the narrative. This unique familial love is one of the passions Lawrence explores in this novel. The characters suffer from the intensity of their love, leading Paul to push Miriam away when she stands in the way of his devotion to his mother. Mrs. Morel in turn is envious of Miriam, thinking Miriam "exults as she carries him off from me." Mrs. Morel thinks that Paul will be absorbed by Miriam so that "there is nothing left of him."

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