Sons and Lovers
Chapter 11: The Test on Miriam
Inspired by Clara’s advice, Paul realizes that he must go back to Miriam. He reflects that the problems between the two of them may have been caused by the lack of sexuality in their relationship. He feels no aversion to her; rather, he feels that his desire for her has been overwhelmed by his stronger shyness and virginity.
He begins to spend more time with Miriam again, much to the dismay of his mother. One day he begins a serious discussion with her about marriage, and asks her if she thinks they have been “too fierce” in their purity toward each other. He tells her that he loves her, that he has been obstinate, and he kisses her. On their way home, he asks her (not in so many words) if she will sleep with him, and she tells him that she will, but not now.
Miriam feels that her submission to Paul will be a sacrifice, and it is a sacrifice she is willing to make for him. He begins to treat his relationship with her as a romantic relationship. One evening they go into the woods and “she relinquished herself to him,” but with some horror and with her soul somewhat apart.
Miriam goes to stay at her grandmother’s cottage, and Paul visits her often. One holiday he goes to spend the whole day with her. She prepares dinner, for that day they feel as though they live together in that cottage. They take a walk outside after dinner, and then come back inside and make love. Paul feels that he is sacrificing Miriam and that she is allowing herself to be sacrificed because she loves him so much.
During the next week, he asks her why she is so hesitant toward him, and she replies that she feels it is not quite right because they are not married. He tells her that he would like to marry her, but she feels they are too young. He begins to feel a sense of failure and to draw somewhat away from Miriam again. He begins to spend more time with his men friends and also once again with Clara.
Paul tells his mother that he will break off with Miriam, because he does not love her and does not want to marry her. She is somewhat surprised, and encourages him to do whatever he thinks is best. He goes to Miriam and tells her they should break off because he does not want to marry. She is upset, tells him he is a child of four, and tells him that she knew all along that it would not work out between them. This upsets Paul and he begins to feel that she has deceived him, she had only pretended to love him. They part, each full of bitterness.
Partly because of Paul’s more frequent visits to Miriam, Mrs. Morel begins to give up on him. She feels that his mind is made up, and that nothing would persuade him to change his mind and restore his loyalties to her.
Lawrence’s language seems to be deliberately vague on the subject of sex; it seems that Paul and Miriam sleep together in the woods when the narrator says “she relinquished herself to him.” However, when they are in her grandmother’s cottage, it seems that he makes love to her for the first time. Paul feels as he rides home that night that he had finally moved past his youth. This vagueness of language is largely due to the strict public morality that characterized society when the novel was written. Lawrence’s books, despite his efforts at vagueness, often produced horror—many of them were even banned because of their sexual content.
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