Sons and Lovers
Chapter 7: Lad-and-Girl Love
This chapter describes the growing intimacy between Paul and Miriam. It begins from Miriam’s perspective and describes the way that she aspires to learning, since she cannot have pride in her social status. She is interested in Paul, but scorns him because he only sees the swine-girl side of her and not the princess she believes she is inside. When he falls ill, she feels like he would be weaker than she and that is she could take care of him, she would love him deeply.
Paul enjoys visiting the Leivers’ farm because it is so different from his own home. Miriam and her mother both have very strong religious and spiritual convictions, and this strikes Paul as enormously different from his own mother’s logical manner.
One evening when he is there for dinner, the boys all become very upset with Miriam because the potatoes are burned. Her mother reprimands her for answering them instead of turning the other cheek, and Paul is puzzled why an insignificant matter like potatoes would cause such conflict.
Miriam and Paul make their connection through nature, as they share the experience of looking at a birds’ nest. The narrator tells us, though, that it is a long time before Paul really notices Miriam. He first becomes friends with the boys, most of all Edgar. Then one day Miriam shows him the swing they have in the cowshed, and they slowly grow closer. Paul is troubled by her “intensity, which would leave no emotion on a normal plane” (153). She tells him of her desire to learn, and he agrees to teach her algebra. They are both frustrated by the effort, and Paul finds her simultaneously infuriating and attractive.
One evening when Paul and Miriam are walking home, she brings him into the woods to see a particular bush because she wants to share it with him. This excursion causes him to be late coming home, and his mother is unhappy with him, partly because she is not fond of Miriam. They argue about his relationship with the girl and he insists that they are not courting.
Paul organizes a walk to the Hemlock Stone on Good Friday. During this walk, Miriam notices that Paul is different when she is alone with him. On the way back, she comes upon him alone in the road, trying to fix his umbrella so his mother will not be upset, and she realizes that she loves him.
Miriam and Paul get along well during another excursion to Wingfield Manor on Easter Monday. However, after this she begins to feel tormented about whether she should be ashamed of loving him, and she decides she will no longer call at his house on Thursday nights. One evening she does call, and Paul picks some flowers to pin on her dress. Paul still refuses to define his and Miriam’s relationship as that of lovers, and he forces his family to accept her as his friend.
When Paul is twenty, he has saved enough money to take his family away for a holiday for two weeks at a cottage called Mablethorpe. The night before they leave, Miriam stays at the house so she doesn’t have to walk in the morning. One evening, she and Paul are walking on the beach and see a beautiful view of the moon, and Paul is confused by his instincts: he feels powerful feelings toward Miriam, but does not know how to interpret them. So they return to the cottage, Mrs. Morel admonishes him once more for being late, and the chapter ends with Paul feeling irritated at Miriam because she has made him feel unnatural.
This chapter presents the conflict between logic, represented by Mrs. Morel, and religion, represented by the Leivers. Paul feels simultaneously attracted and repelled by the fascinating and different tone of life at the Leivers’ farm,
Miriam’s unpleasant relationship with her brothers causes her to speculate on the fundamental differences between women and men. This may be an indication of the cruelty of her brothers or of Miriam’s sensitivity, rather than of some actual difference between all men and women.
This chapter begins to suggest that Paul needs some connection beyond what he shares with his mother. In his free time, Paul is a painter, and he still needs his mother to do his best work, as he tells her. But Miriam allows him to take his work to another level; she makes him feel an intensity he has never before experienced.
Miriam also seems to have some sense of this connection. She feels that, until she shows him the rose bush, she will not fully have experienced it herself. The connection between Paul and Miriam may be one reason that Mrs. Morel dislikes Miriam. “She could feel Paul being drawn away by the girl.” She seems to view Miriam as direct competition for her son’s love and attention.
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