Sons and Lovers
Chapter 6: Death in the Family
This chapter begins with a description of Arthur, and tells how, as he grows older, he comes to detest his father. All of the children follow this same trend until they all loathe him. Arthur wins a scholarship to the school in Nottingham, and his mother decides to let him live in town with one of her sisters because of his adversarial relationship with his father. Annie is a teacher in the Board-school, and Mrs. Morel clings to Paul.
William becomes engaged to the girl he has been seeing, and decides to bring her home at Christmas. She comes home with him and puts on airs of high station, treating Annie like a servant. William begins to be annoyed with the way that she acts much grander than his family, and he tells his mother that he only feels fond of the girl when he is around her in the evenings; otherwise, he has no feelings for her.
Paul has Monday afternoons off from work, and one Monday his mother tells him that they have been invited to see Mr. Leivers on his new farm. They decide to go that afternoon. They have a nice walk through the countryside on the way there, and then are welcomed and given a tour of the farm when they arrive. The Leivers boys show Paul how to make the chicken eat out of his hand, and they tease their sister Miriam because she is afraid to try. Paul later finds her shyly reaching her hand toward the chicken and helps her to let it eat out of her hand.
The next time William brings his fiancee home, she once again annoys him and the rest of his family with her attitude toward his sister. He begins to ridicule her in front of others, and discusses with his mother that he no longer really wants to marry her, but feels that he has gone on too long to break it off now. He comes home again, alone, the first weekend in October, and his mother notices that he has not been well. The Tuesday morning after his return, Mrs. Morel gets a telegram saying that he is ill. She takes the train to London, arrives at William’s lodging, and stays with him until he dies late that night. She sends a telegram for Morel to come to London, and when it arrives Paul has to go to the mine to fetch his father. Morel goes to London, and Mr. and Mrs. Morel return on Saturday night. After William’s death, Mrs. Morel becomes shut off until one day Paul falls ill with pneumonia. She almost loses him as well, but he somehow pulls through and “Mrs. Morel’s life now rooted itself in Paul.”
The title of the chapter foreshadows what will happen in the end of the chapter; however, the reader wonders throughout the chapter which member of the family will die. Since the first sentence of the chapter begins with Arthur, the reader might begin by suspecting that Arthur will die. It isn’t until William alludes to his death by saying that his fiancee would forget about him three months after he died that we begin to suspect that William will die. He makes many allusions to his death so that, by the time his mother gets the telegram from London that he is ill, the reader is hardly surprised.
After William dies, Mrs. Morel remains closed off from the world until Paul also falls ill. Lawrence uses an image of tulips to illustrate the bond forged between Paul and his mother as a result of his illness. Mr. Morel buys Paul a pot of tulips, and they flame in the window where Paul and his mother sit closely and contentedly.
In this chapter William follows in his mother’s footsteps of choosing a spouse who is very different from his corresponding parent. He tells his mother that his fiancee is neither serious nor thoughtful—the exact opposite of Mrs. Morel.
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