Sons and Lovers
Chapter 5: Paul Launches into Life
Morel is injured at work when a piece of rock falls on his leg. When Mrs. Morel gets the news, she is very flustered while she is preparing to go to the hospital to see him. Paul calms her down and gives her some tea, and she leaves for the hospital. When she returns, she tells the children that their father’s leg is injured rather badly. They all feel anxious, but are comforted by the fact that her father is a strong healer. Mrs. Morel feels somewhat guilty because she no longer loves her husband; while she is sorry for his pain and his injury, she still feels an emotional emptiness. She is somewhat comforted by talking to Paul, who is able to share her troubles. True to his nature, Morel does recover, and the family is very happy and peaceful while he is still in the hospital, almost to the point of regretting that he will soon return.
Paul is now fourteen, and it is time for him to find a job. Everyday, his mother sends him to the Co-op reading room to read the job advertisements in the paper. This makes him miserable, but he dutifully writes down a few offers and brings them home. He makes applications for several jobs using a variation on a letter that William had written. He is summoned to call on Thomas Jordan, a manufacturer of surgical appliances, and his mother is overjoyed.
Paul and Mrs. Morel travel to Nottingham one Tuesday morning to respond to the invitation. Paul suffers the whole way there, dreading the interview and the necessity of being scrutinized by strangers. During the actual interview, Mr. Jordan asks Paul to read a letter in French and he has trouble reading the handwriting, becomes flustered, and continually insists that doigts means fingers, although in this case it refers to the toes of a pair of stockings. Nevertheless, he is hired as junior spiral clerk.
After the interview, Paul and his mother have dinner in an eating-house, where it turns out that the food is more expensive than they realized; they order the cheapest dish possible. After dinner they wander around the town, look at some shops, and buy a few things. Paul is happy with his mother.
The next day he applies for a season ticket for the train. When he returns and tells his mother how much it will cost, she says that she wishes William would send them some money to help pay for things like the ticket.
Meanwhile, William is becoming a gentleman in London and is beginning to see a girl, Louisa Lily Denys Western, whom he calls Gipsy. He asks her for a photograph to send to his mother, and when the photo comes it shows her with bare shoulders. Mrs. Morel comments to William that she does not think the photo is appropriate, and the girl sends another one in which she is wearing an evening gown. Mrs. Morel is still not impressed.
The next Monday morning, Paul goes off to work on the train. He arrives at the factory and is introduced to his boss, Pappleworth. Pappleworth shows him how to fetch and copy letters, to write out orders and invoices, and to make up parcels for shipping. He also introduces him to some of the other people who work in the factory, and Paul gets along best with the women, like Polly, the overseer of the sewing crew, and the hunchback Fanny, who works in the finishing-off room. He becomes friends with many of the women and grows to like his job at Jordan’s.
We can see the way the narrative perspective has shifted from that of Mrs. Morel to that of Paul through the way Mrs. Morel’s trip to the hospital is narrated. The narrator describes Mrs. Morel leaving for the hospital, and then he describes her returning; the events that happen outside of the house seem to be outside the narrative field of vision. However, this is not the case later in this chapter, when Paul goes to Nottingham to work. This suggests that Paul has become the primary focus of the narration.
This chapter contains further examples of the identification between Paul and Mrs. Morel: Paul comforts her, and talks to her every day. It seems as if their identification is extended to the point that they are sharing the same life, and this is a motif that will continue through the rest of the novel.
We also see further evidence of Mrs. Morel’s disappointment in William, her favorite, in this chapter. She has been previously disappointed in William when he takes up dancing, and here she is disappointed that he does not send them money. She also disapproves of the girl he is seeing and the pictures that she sends.
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