Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15

Chapter XIII Summary:

Baxter Dawes, Clara's husband, sees Paul drinking in a bar with some friends. Dawes has not been doing so well lately. Paul, though his enemy, wants to befriend Dawes. Dawes makes a reference to Paul's theater date the other night, though he doesn't reveal to the other men who Paul's date was. The men want to know who it was, and Dawes incites Paul, who throws his beer in Dawes's face. Dawes is thrown out.

Paul feels distanced from his mother, since he cannot speak to her about his sexual life. When Paul tells Clara about his altercation with her husband, she is angry that Paul does not want to fight him. Paul runs into him at the factory, and Dawes threatens and grabs him. Jordan intervenes and tells Dawes to leave. Dawes throws him on the floor before leaving. Jordan fires him and takes him to trial for assault, where Paul testifies. The case is dismissed after the magistrate insults Dawes, and Jordan believes Paul gave away the case. Clara is angry that Paul mentioned her name in the trial. Paul confides to his mother that he does not always love Clara, and he feels that he can never "'belong'" to any woman, at least while his mother is alive.

Clara remains passionately in love with Paul. Paul tells her he plans to leave Nottingham and go abroad soon, though he would not leave his mother behind for a long period of time. Clara remains unsatisfied, feeling she does not have Paul. Paul loses his passion for her, but her desire for him and his body rages on. They take a trip to the seaside, and Paul questions who Clara is, and what her appeal is to him. She is upset that he wants to spend time with her only at night, and not in the day. He admits that he sometimes wants to marry her and have children with her, but she confesses she does not want a divorce from Dawes, since he "'belongs'" to her. She knows that she and Paul will separate at some point.

Clara and Paul walk past Dawes on the road one night. Dawes tries to make himself unnoticeable. After, Clara compares Paul unfavorably with Dawes in regards to their intimacy together. During his love-making, Paul feels alive and passionate, but their sex life soon grows stale.

One night, while Paul is running to make his train, Dawes finds him and punches his face. After several more blows, Paul chokes Dawes. He lets go, but Dawes recovers and kicks Paul, who falls unconscious. A nearby train's whistle, and the fear that people are coming, sends Dawes scurrying off. Paul eventually recovers consciousness and gets home. In the morning, his mother sees evidence of the fight on his wounded face, and tends to him. He tells her about the fight, and after Clara and Miriam visit him on separate days, he confides to his mother that he does not care about them.

The official story is that Paul had a bicycle accident, and he returns to work. His relationship with Clara feels empty, and he and his mother seem to avoid each other. Mrs. Morel stays with Annie in Sheffield for a week, and Paul visits. Mrs. Morel is sick in bed, and reveals she has a tumor on her side. She has been in pain for months, though she never complained to Paul. Paul goes to a doctor for a consultation, and the doctor agrees to see Mrs. Morel the next day. He diagnoses it as possibly a tumor, and says an operation is impossible, though if it is a tumor he can sweal (singe) it away. Paul promises his mother he will return next week. Clara tries to get Paul to forget about his mother's problems, but he cannot. Morel visits his wife the next week, though the visit is awkward. Mrs. Morel stays at Sheffield for two months, her condition worsening, until she goes home.


Another bearer of jealousy emerges in this chapter, Baxter Dawes. His brand of jealousy is a more conventional kind in literature, that of the jilted (in his eyes, at least) lover. Other conventional actions emerge from this: threats, insults, the humiliating encounter (when Dawes makes himself unnoticeable), the comparisons by the woman between the two men, and the fight.

Paul's pacifism, and his lack of knowledge of even how to fight, disappoints Clara, who seems to relish the idea of two men fighting for her. However, generally she is far more subdued now, no longer an elusive, mysterious figure to Paul. Now Paul is the more magnetic character. There is a great deal of description of Paul's body in this chapter as seen through her eyes, a contrast to previous chapters in which Paul's point of view focused on Clara's body.

Interestingly, the description of Paul's body coming alive in the fight is similar to the description of his body during love-making. Perhaps the fight releases his pent-up hatred for both Clara and Miriam as well as for Dawes. Meanwhile, Mrs. Morel's body continues to decay, and death is now imminent.

There is also much discussion in this chapter of possessiveness and bondage. Clara is bound to Paul, who does not feel the same degree of bondage toward her, or any woman, except his mother. Clara also feels Dawes belongs to her, which is why she cannot divorce him.

Lawrence refers to Paul as "Morel" during his fight with Dawes. This change emphasizes that the battle is between two men, rather than a man (Dawes) and a boy (Paul).

Chapter XIV Summary:

Mrs. Morel's doctor tells Paul that Baxter Dawes is in his fever hospital. Paul asks him to tell Dawes he will visit. The doctor reports that he did, and Dawes seemed angry at first, then refused to say anything. Paul visits and the two men trade gruff, but not impolite, comments. Dawes looks very sick with typhoid. Paul leaves him some money before going.

Paul informs Clara about Dawes's illness. She is shocked, and grows distant from Paul. She feels guilty for having treated Dawes badly, and feels that he loved and respected her more than Paul does. She visits Dawes and tries to make up, but there is too great a distance between them. Paul visits Dawes a few more times, as well, though they do not mention Clara.

Mrs. Morel gets sicker, and her relationship with Paul grows more strained and fearful as they pretend she is not dying. Paul is deeply affected, at times unable to work. He spends less time with Clara. They go to the seaside for her birthday (which he initially forgets) and discuss his mother's indomitable will to live. Soon after, he visits Dawes and makes the first mention of Clara, revealing that their romance is fading. He says he plans to go abroad when his mother dies.

Paul sees Miriam, who kisses him repeatedly until he pulls away from her. During December, Paul stays home all the time to tend to his mother, along with Annie, and the task is torturous to both of them. He and Annie decide to give her an overdose of morphia to speed up her death. He puts it in her milk, she sleeps heavily through the night, and dies in the morning. Paul informs his father and takes care of other business relating to her death. Paul looks at her dead body at night; it seems youthful to him. He kisses her lips and strokes her hair, but sadly knows that she will never return. Morel avoids looking at his dead wife's body.

They have a funeral. Paul's relationship with Clara remains distanced. Dawes heals slowly and stays with Paul for a few days at the seaside, their friendship much stronger now. Paul suggests that Clara wants Dawes and belongs to him, and suggests they reunite. Clara comes the next day, and Paul says he is leaving that afternoon. Clara says she will join him later. She does not, however, and begs Dawes to take her back, which he does.


The two illnesses in this chapter demonstrate how the sick body can either cripple or restore relationships that were, on some level, dependent on the body.

Mrs. Morel's illness and death has an adverse effect on both Morel and Paul. Morel is unable to deal with his wife's death, refusing to look at her in sickness and death. He wants only to remember her as his "young wife" with whom he shared a passionate, physical relationship, and not as the cancerous woman who loathed him.

Paul's physical relationship with his mother, on the other hand, has lasted longer than Morel's and is more deeply rooted. The effect of his mother's dying, therefore, has a more complicated effect. He is unable to stand seeing her waste away, and his overdosing her is as much for his and Annie's sake as their mother's. Moreover, his action reverses that of Oedipus; rather than kill his father, Paul kills his mother. Though he is still beholden to his mother, he is beginning to understand he must live without her.

Paul's reaction to his mother's death is intense‹he repeats "My love‹my love‹oh, my love!"‹but Lawrence spends little time discussing the death at first. When Paul visits Mrs. Morel's body again at night, however, his near-necrophiliac kissing and stroking reveals his pent-up desires. He wants her to be "young again" not only so she can be a youthful mother but, one suspects, so she can be the perfect romantic object Paul has not found in Miriam or Clara. His relinquishing Clara to Dawes can be seen as Paul's understanding that Clara is not a substitute for his mother, and that he must move on in life. He tells Dawes that none of his women has ever wanted to "'belong'" to him, and though it seems that Miriam gladly would have wanted this, it is clear that no one ever wanted it as much as his mother.

Conversely, Dawes's illness restores his relationship with Paul and, eventually, Clara. The friendship the two rivals form is curious but plausible; perhaps Paul feels he can befriend Dawes since he is no longer threatened by the older man's formerly strong body (the other reason, as Paul explains, is that the passion has died out in his romance with Clara).

Chapter XV Summary:

Clara goes with Dawes to Sheffield, and Paul hardly sees her after that. Paul and Morel cannot bear to be alone in the house together, so Paul moves to Nottingham, and Morel lives with another family in Bestwood. Paul loses the drive to paint and spends his time drinking in bars. One night he comes home late and, while watching two mice nibble crumbs of food, urges himself to live for his mother's sake. However, it is a half-hearted attempt; he knows that he wants to die.

He sees Miriam at church one Sunday and feels comforted by her. She goes home with him to eat supper. She compliments him on his old sketches, and says she will soon become a teacher at the farming college in Broughton. She suggests they get married, but he does not want to. He gives her some flowers before he takes her to her cousin's house.

Paul, feeling lost, wonders where he will go next. He calls out to his mother, longing to touch her. He resolves not to "give inŠto the darkness," and he walks resolutely back to town.


The brief concluding chapter is despairing until the very end, when Paul finally releases himself from the hold of his mother and chooses to return to life.

A hold, indeed, for much of Sons and Lovers is about bondage to someone else. Here, Paul refuses to be bound, to belong, to Miriam, but not because he fears bondage. Miriam is too sacrificial and passive; he wants a woman who will claim him as strongly for herself as his mother did. For him, this is the only kind of relationship that can duplicate the intense love he had with his mother. Paul does not seem to understand until the final moments of the novel, however, that his mother's love was smothering, jealous, and ultimately destructive. His release from her feels like a victory; he may now be able to love someone else.

Flowers reappear here, but now they symbolize Paul's parting from Miriam, and not a bond. The other imagery that is important is the city's "gold phosphorescence" in the final paragraph. Frequently in the novel, Lawrence paints scenes of happiness and love with light colors of the sky. The return of these light colors here signifies Paul's choice of life over the "darkness" of death.