Sons and Lovers
Chapter 3: The Casting off of Morel - The Taking on of William
Morel begins to fall ill, despite all of his requests for medicine. His illness is attributed to the time he fell asleep on the ground when he went with Jerry to Nottingham. He falls seriously ill and his wife has to nurse him. She gets some help from the neighbors, but not every day. Eventually, Morel grows better, but he has been spoiled during his illness and at first wants more attention from his wife. However, she has begun to cast him off and to turn completely to her children to find a sense of meaning in her life.
During the period of peace following Morel’s illness, another baby is conceived, and this child, Arthur, is born when Paul is seventeen months old. Arthur is very fond of his father, and this makes Mrs. Morel happy.
Meanwhile, time is passing, William is growing bigger, and Paul begins to have fits of depression in which he cries for no reason. One day, one of the other women of the neighborhood, Mrs. Anthony, confronts Mrs. Morel because William has ripped her son Alfred’s collar. Mrs. Morel asks William about it, he gives her his side of the story, and she reprimands him. However, Mrs. Anthony also tells Morel about the incident and he comes home very angry with William. This provokes yet another battle between Mr. and Mrs. Morel, as it is only her intervention that prevents him from beating William.
Mrs. Morel joins the Women’s Guild, a club of women attached to the Cooperative Wholesale Society, who meet and discuss social questions. When William is thirteen, she gets him a job at the Co-op office. This provokes another argument with her husband, who would have preferred his son to become a miner like himself. However, William does well in his job as he does well in everything. He wins a running race and brings his mother home the prize, an inkstand shaped like an anvil.
However, William clashes with his mother when he begins to dance. Mrs. Morel turns away girls who come to call, much to William’s dismay.
At nineteen, William gets a new job in Nottingham and also begins to study very hard. Then he is offered a job in London at a hundred and twenty pounds a year and is ecstatic, failing to see his mother’s dismay at his departure. William and his mother have one final shared moment as they burn his love letters, and then he goes to London to start his new life.
This chapter continues the theme of the constant lessening of Mrs. Morel’s love for her husband; Lawrence writes that her love for him ebbed in stages, but ebbed constantly.
We can see that Mrs. Morel does actually desire to have her whole family together as one. She thinks that her happiest moments come when her children seem to love their father.
More evidence of William’s devotion to his mother is introduced here in the form of his presentation of the anvil. His breathless eagerness and her solemn pride underscore the intimacy and intensity of their relationship.
They quarrel, however, over William’s dancing. This may be the beginning of a change in the relationship between William and Mrs. Morel, as his acceptance of the dancing corresponds to his rejection of his mother. This is especially evident when William goes to a fancy-dress ball; after an initial hesitation, he seems to forget about his mother completely.
William’s acceptance of the job in London seems the final step in his distancing from his mother. According to Lawrence, William never considers that his mother might be sorry to see him go, only that she must be happy for his success.
Mrs. Morel does not want her eldest son to become like his father—she refuses to let him enter the mines, and she disapproves of his dancing because his father danced.
This chapter also provides the first textual clue that Paul is viewed differently by Mrs. Morel. Paul’s fits of depression come only rarely, but when they manifest themselves, Mrs. Morel begins to treat Paul differently from the other children.
One narrative technique that is presented in this chapter and throughout the novel is the use of the iterative mode to suggest events happening the same way a number of times. Frequently-employed iterative words and phrases such as ‘would’ and ‘used to’ suggest repeated events, and this suggestion contributes to the novel’s confusion of time periods by making it unclear how many times an event happened.
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