Sons and Lovers
Chapter 14: The Release
Dr. Ansell tells Paul that Baxter Dawes is in the fever hospital in Sheffield, and Paul decides to visit him. Paul tells Dawes that he can recommend him a convalescent home in Seathorpe. He tells Clara that he has been to visit Dawes in the hospital, and she becomes upset and realizes that she has treated her husband badly. She goes to see him to try to make amends, but at first they do not get on well. Paul also visits Dawes a few times, and the two men begin to develop a sort of friendship.
Paul does not spend much time with Clara now, because he is occupied with his mother’s illness. Mrs. Morel gets gradually worse, and Paul spends much time caring for her. When Clara reminds him that it is her birthday, he takes her to the seashore, but spends most of the time talking about his mother and how he wishes that she would die.
The next time he sees Dawes, Paul mentions that he has been with Clara, and this is the first mention the two men make of Clara. He tells Dawes that he will go abroad after his mother dies.
Time passes, and Mrs. Morel stays the same. Miriam writes to Paul and he visits her. She kisses him, believing he will be comforted, but he does not want that kind of comfort from her and finally manages to get away. Paul and Annie share the nursing of their mother. They begin to feel as if they can no longer go on, and Paul decides to give her an overdose of morphia to put an end to all their suffering. He crushes all the pills they have into his mother’ milk, and she drinks it obediently, believing it to be a new sleeping draught. She lasts through the night and finally dies the next morning.
Dawes is now in a convalescent home, and Paul goes to see him again and suggests that he has plenty of life left in him and that he should try to get Clara back so that he can regain something of his former life. The next day, he and Clara bring Dawes to his lodging and Paul leaves them together.
This chapter is an excellent example of the way that the novel is not always narrated in chronological order, since the first episode in which Paul visits Baxter Dawes in the hospital actually occurs before Mrs. Morel is taken home, an episode which is included in the previous chapter.
Mrs. Morel’s desire to be with Paul is so strong that he tells Clara he believes she refuses to die so that she can stay with him. “And she looks at me, and she wants to stay with me . . . She’s got such a will, it seems as if she would never go - never!”
Even though he says he wishes she would die, Paul’s strong bond to his mother remains. He feels as though a part of him were dying also. After she dies, Paul still feels this connection: “Looking at her, he felt he could never, never let her go.”
Morel shows his vulnerability after his wife dies, when he waits up for Paul to return home, so that he is not alone in the house with the dead body. Paul, who had considered Morel to be fearless, is taken by surprise.
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