Sons and Lovers Summary and Analysis
Chapter VII Summary:
Paul visits the Leivers' farm several times in the fall. Miriam, though a romantic, is distant with Paul, afraid he will scorn her as her brothers do. She is deeply religious, and wants to be educated and rise above her status as swine-girl. Paul visits one day and chats with Miriam as she prepares dinner. Miriam is distracted by Paul's watching her, and she burns the potatoes. The family puts down Miriam while they eat. Paul, Miriam, and Mrs. Leivers spend a day exploring the countryside. As he convalesces, Paul develops his relationship with Mrs. Leivers and her children, including Edgar, the eldest.
Paul and Miriam spend more time together. Paul hates it when Miriam lavishes love on her unaffectionate five-year-old brother. Miriam expresses to Paul her dissatisfaction with being a woman and her desire to learn. Paul tutors her in algebra, though her slow learning frustrates him. Paul often avoids her and spends more time with Edgar. Paul continues to paint at home, often with his mother nearby. He then shows his finished sketches to Miriam. He goes to art school one day a week.
Miriam shows Paul a favorite wild-rose bush of hers in the woods. The two share an intimate moment before parting. Paul does not understand why his mother, who believes Miriam is trying to reduce Paul's manhood, is angry over how late he stays out with Miriam. After a fight with her, Paul kisses his mother's forehead.
Neither Paul nor Miriam acknowledges their growing love for each other. On Good Friday, when Paul is nineteen and the family lives in a new home, Paul organizes a walk to nearby Hemlock Stone. Miriam comes along and, watching Paul, realizes she loves him. A few days later, they all make another trip to Wingfield Manor and other destinations.
Miriam has an older sister, Agatha, a school-teacher who competes with Miriam for Paul's attention. Miriam feels shameful for desiring Paul. She also stops visiting his house after receiving several insults from his family. Paul continues to tell himself and her that they are only friends. One evening, they pick flowers and Paul pins them on her dress. The family goes on a holiday at a cottage with some other friends, including Miriam. She and Paul walk along the beach and nearly kiss, but they are too afraid. Mrs. Morel criticizes him for staying out late. The Morels turn against Miriam, and even Paul hates her for spoiling his "ease and naturalness."
Paul dislikes it when Miriam smothers unreturned love on her youngest brother not only because Paul is not the recipient, but because it reminds him of how his mother loved and favored William. The old feelings of jealousy that must have been present when he observed his mother's closer relationship with William reemerge.
Miriam is also like Mrs. Morel in her desire to learn more and transcend her gender's societal limitations. Mrs. Morel's own jealousy of Miriam, therefore, is not only a product of her ever-present disdain for any girl who shows an interest in one of her sons. Mrs. Morel envies Miriam's independence which she herself has forsaken for a family.
Paul strengthens the connections between the two women when he fuses his mother and Miriam through his painting: his mother provides the artistic inspiration, and Miriam helps him shape the final product. But this blending confuses Paul's sexual desires, evident when the image of his mother, and not Miriam, presides in his head at night. Perhaps Miriam is simply a way for Paul to get to a younger version of his mother, before she was ruined by her husband and William's death.
It is possible to read Miriam's wild-rose bush as a symbol for the female vagina. She and Paul make their way "'Down the middle path'" through the dense undergrowth of the woods to "have a communion together," and they finally reach the bush, which Lawrence twice describes with the sexualized words "splashing" and "splashed." Moreover, the roses, some of which are "expanded in ecstasy," have a "white, virgin scent."
Again, nature and, more specifically, flowers intimately bond characters, as when Paul shows Miriam the celandines, and in their frequent nature walks.
Chapter VIII Summary:
Arthur, wild and always in trouble, gets a job on an electrical plant. One day Mrs. Morel receives a letter from him reporting that he impulsively joined the army, but he wants her to get him out. Paul tries to convince her the army will do him some good, but she is opposed to the idea. She takes the train to Derby but cannot get Arthur out of the army.
Paul wins prizes for two paintings, which makes his mother proud.
One day, Miriam introduces Paul to a striking blonde woman, Clara Dawes. Mrs. Dawes, who appears to be poor, has separated from her husband and taken up Women's Rights, and her cleverness interests Paul. He knows and dislikes her burly, handsome husband, Baxter Dawes, a smith at Jordan's factory. Another night, Paul and Miriam discuss Mrs. Dawes, and then Paul expresses frustration that he is only "'spiritual'" with Miriam. He wants to kiss her but is somehow held back. The next day, Edgar and Miriam come for tea, and they all go to chapel later. Paul often criticizes her religious beliefs, which hurts her deeply. Mrs. Morel continues to believe Miriam is draining Paul of his individuality. Paul is still confused; he feels allegiance to his mother, but he cannot deny his tenderness toward Miriam. He is often cruel with Miriam. They have numerous close brushes with physical contact.
Paul becomes the overseer at Jordan's. Annie is engaged. On Friday nights, the miners split up their money at Morel's house. Before they arrive, Mrs. Morel and Morel discuss Morel's body and how it used to look. After they divvy up the money, Mrs. Morel is angry about how little her husband has left her. Paul tries to calm her down before she goes out. Miriam comes over and Paul shows her a design he has made on a cloth for her. A friend of the Morel's, Beatrice, shows up and calls attention to Miriam's muddy boots. She playfully fights with Paul and sits between him and Miriam. The bread that Paul is supposed to watch for his mother burns. Beatrice soon leaves, and Paul helps Miriam with her French. Every week she writes a diary entry in French, and he reads this week's entry, essentially a love-letter to him. He tries to ignore the passion in the letter and corrects her grammar. They lock eyes and nearly kiss before he leaps up and turns the bread in the oven. He reads her some French poetry.
Later at night, Mrs. Morel is angry at having lugged home the groceries by herself. She and Annie criticize Paul for paying attention only to Miriam. Paul argues with his mother about Miriam; Paul tells her he has more in common with Miriam since she is young. Mrs. Morel is hurt. When he kisses her, she hugs him, cries, and expresses her animosity toward Miriam, who she believes will take Paul from her. Paul assures he does not love Miriam. Morel intrudes and takes a piece of pork-pie. When Mrs. Morel says she didn't buy it for him, he throws it into the fire. Paul reacts, and Morel purposely punches close to Paul's face. Paul is distracted by his mother, who has fainted. He lies her down on the couch. When she recovers, he begs her not to sleep with Morel, but she insists she will. Everyone tries to forget the fight.
The discussion of Morel's body is important, especially coming after various descriptions of the close calls Miriam and Paul have had in physical contactMiriam even touches Paul once intimately on his sides. Lawrence shows the importance of the body in romantic relationships, and how that almost makes up for lack of spiritual communion; Mrs. Morel nearly remembers her long-abandoned passion for Morel when she examines his body.
The brief flirtation scene between Paul and Beatrice marks, for the first time, a love triangle of sorts that does not involve Mrs. Morel. Paul has a love/hate relationship with Miriam that affirms Lawrence's theme of oppositions, and he vacillates frequently with her in this chapter. Every time he sees a window open onto their love, he recalls something that instills some hatred in him. His burning the bread also recalls the time Miriam distractedly burnt the potatoes while Paul watched her.
Often, that something is his mother. Mrs. Morel returns to her rightful place in the novel's real love triangle when she openly admits to her reasons for hating Miriam. Her interaction with Paul is sexually charged, full of intimate physical contact. She says "'I've never had a husbandnot really'" almost as a plea for authentic romance in her life, and Paul's desire that she not sleep next to Morel sounds like more than merely a son's concerned view.
Paul's winning the art prizes is similar not only to William's "sporting trophies" for his mother, but to William's winning the egg-cup at the wakes long ago. In all three cases, the sons live for their mother, who lives through them.
Chapter IX Summary:
Conflict continues between Paul and Miriam. Paul visits her in a cold mood, and they look at the daffodils behind the house. Paul criticizes her for fondling all the daffodils as if she is fawning for their love. Paul tells her they should "'break off,'" and that he cannot "'physically'" love her. She assumes his family has influenced his decision.
Paul remains more strongly with his mother, who devotes her full attention to him. He visits Miriam a week later and says he and his family think it is inappropriate for him to visit as much as he does without their begin engaged, and that he does not love her enough to become engaged. They decide to curtail their visits a little bit, and he soon leaves.
Still, Paul loves being at the Leivers' farm, and continues to visit, although he spends more time with Edgar. Miriam invites him to meet Clara Dawes again. Paul notices her body when he talks to her. She is aloof with him, and Paul leaves to meet Edgar, with whom he discusses Clara. He rejoins the women later. Later, Mrs. Leivers asks Clara if she is happier now, and Clara says she is, so long as she can remain "'free and independent.'" Clara, Miriam, and Paul go for a walk. They see a neighbor's stallion, and Clara is fascinated by the horse. Paul's awareness of Clara heightens at the expense of his attention to Miriam. Paul and Miriam pick flowers, but Clara refuses to pick them. Absorbed in her body, Paul unthinkingly scatters some cowslips over Clara.
Paul treats his mother to a trip and an expensive dinner. They must keep stopping so Mrs. Morel can rest, which enrages him. He tells her he wishes he had a young mother. He relates his feelings about Clara; he likes her because she is "'defiant.'" Mrs. Morel remains neutral.
Annie gets married. Paul promises his mother he will never marry, and vows to live with her. Mrs. Morel buys Arthur out of his obligation to the military. He courts Beatrice. Paul longs for something else out of his home, although he feels attached to it. He spends time with both Miriam and Clara; Miriam always suffers when they are all together, as Paul plays joyously with Clara more. He writes Miriam a letter in which he call her a nun, says that they can love each other only spiritually, not physically, and breaks off hope for a marriage between them. Though he remains friends with Miriam, his desire for sex grows, as does his interest in Clara.
Paul makes several differentiations between physical and spiritual love in this chapter. Sensual Clara epitomizes the physical, much as Paul's father does. She is fascinated by the great stallion's physique, roughhouses with Paul, and cuts a striking, full figure.
Miriam, clearly, opposes Clara, much as Mrs. Morel does. She is the far more spiritual figure, as Paul points out. Even Miriam's few instances of physicality are projected through another, purer medium. When she "caress[es] with her mouth and cheeks and brow" the "wildlooking daffodil," Lawrence hints at her repressed sexual desires; he explodes this when he writes "Rhythmically, Miriam was swaying and stroking the flower with her mouth, inhaling the scent which ever after made her shudder as it came to her nostrils." The numerous double entendres are easy to pick out, and Paul is the phallic "wildlooking daffodil" she so strongly desires.
Flowers otherwise continue to play an important role in the novel. When Clara refuses to pick them because she thinks they become like "'corpses'" when they are picked; this is indicative of her liveliness and sensuality. Paul picks them because "'I like them, and want them.'" He, too, indirectly expresses his true desire for Clara through the flowers.
Paul says he likes Clara because she is "'defiant'" and "'angry,'" but perhaps what really appeals to him is her own reference to her "'free and independent'" life. This alludes to her separation from her husband, and we see that Clara is the one woman in the novel who is unfettered by the men in her life. She is exactly what Mrs. Morel could never be, an independent woman who does not need her unloving husband.
Mrs. Morel is downplayed here as she seems to age well beyond her years, except when Paul takes her out to dinner and says "I'm a fellow taking his girl for an outing.'" He is still obsessed with his mother, wanting to live with her yet wanting something else out of life, and romantic confusion over her and Claraseven years his seniorseems inevitable.
Sons and Lovers Essays and Related Content
- Sons and Lovers: Major Themes
- Sons and Lovers: Essays
- Sons and Lovers: E-Text
- Sons and Lovers: Questions
- Sons and Lovers: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- D.H. Lawrence: Biography
- Sons and Lovers Summary
- About Sons and Lovers
- Character List
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-3
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-9
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15
- Related Links on Sons and Lovers
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
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- Author of ClassicNote and Sources