Sons and Lovers
Chapter 12: Passion
Paul begins to spend much of his time with his mother again. They go to the Isle of Wight for a holiday, and Mrs. Morel has a bad fainting fit caused by too much walking. She recovers, but Paul still feels anxious about her condition.
Paul also returns to spending a great deal of time with Clara. He tells her that he has broken off with Miriam. One Saturday evening Paul and Clara go for a walk and he kisses her, then, upon leaving, he is suddenly consumed by passion for her and cannot wait for Monday to come so that he can see her again. On Monday they go walking in the afternoon and take a tram out to the country. They walk near a river and decide to go down to the bank, but because of the rain, the path is gone. They encounter two fishermen while walking along the riverbank and keep walking until they find a secluded clearing slightly above the river level. After they leave, they climb up to the top again and they stop while Paul cleans off Clara’s boots. She distracts him with kisses, but he finally finishes. They stop for tea at the house of an old woman, who gives Clara some flowers.
Paul returns home and tells his mother that he has been with Clara. She cautions him because Clara is a married woman, and he tells her not to worry. He asks if she would like to meet Clara, and decides to invite her to tea at their house one Sunday afternoon.
He still sees Miriam occasionally, and they talk about Clara and why she left her husband. Miriam tries to compare them to Mr. and Mrs. Morel, but Paul disagrees; he says that his mother felt passionately toward his father and that’s why she stayed with him. He feels that Clara never had this type of passion for Baxter. Miriam understands that he is trying to initiate himself into passion. He tells her that Clara is coming to tea at his house on Sunday to meet his mother, and she understands that this is an indication of his seriousness.
When Clara comes to tea, she gets along well with his mother. Morel also meets her and impresses her with his politeness. Clara and Paul are in the garden looking at the flowers when Miriam arrives to say hello to Clara. She sees them together, and feels as though they are married. Mrs. Morel is not pleased to see Miriam, whom she still dislikes. All three go to chapel and, afterward, when Paul and Clara are walking home, she asks him if he will give Miriam up. He tells her that he thinks he will always be friends with Miriam, and she draws away from him slightly and mocks him, telling him to run after Miriam. He gets angry with her and kisses her in rage. They go off into the fields, where they look at the lights of the town until Clara realizes she must go to make her train. They run and she just makes the train.
The next week Paul takes Clara to the theatre. She tells him to wear his evening suit, and she arrives dressed in a green evening dress. After the play, Paul realizes that he has missed his train, and Clara tells him to come home with her instead of walking. They arrive, and Clara’s mother, Mrs. Radford, makes fun of their fancy clothes. Paul and Clara sit up playing cribbage, and Mrs. Radford waits up for them. Finally Paul goes to bed, but he cannot sleep for want of Clara. After he hears Mrs. Radford go to sleep and realizes that Clara is waiting downstairs, he goes down to her and asks her to come to his bed instead of going to sleep with her mother. She refuses, and he goes back to bed.
Mrs. Radford wakes him up in the morning, and he realizes that she is fond of him. He asks if she and Clara would like to go to the seaside with him and is amazed when she accepts.
Paul continues to exhibit physical similarities to his mother. At one point in this chapter he clicks his tongue, and the narrator comments that Mrs. Morel shares the same habit.
Paul’s relationship with his mother also continues to be central. Miriam knows Paul well enough to understand that whether he has told his mother about Clara is an indication of the seriousness of his feelings for her. This illustrates the way that his mother is still the most important woman to him, and the degree to which other events in his life can be understood by the way that they relate to her. It is also very important that Clara gets along well with his mother, as Clara understands, dreading the meeting because she realized Paul’s intense love for Mrs. Morel.
Again, there is no direct mention of sex in this chapter, but it is alluded to in Clara and Paul’s discussion of whether they are criminals, and in Paul’s mention of Eve after they have been walking by the riverbank.
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