Sons and Lovers
Chapter 8: Strife in Love
Arthur enlists in the army on a whim, and then writes a letter to his mother to try to get out of it. She is very upset and goes to the sergeant, but is not able to get him out of it. He does not like the discipline of the army, but he has no choice.
Paul wins two first-prize awards in an exhibition for students’ work in the Castle, which makes his mother very proud of him, and she goes to the Castle to see his work on display.
One day Paul meets Miriam in town with Clara Dawes, the daughter of an old friend of Mrs. Leivers. The next time Paul sees Miriam, she asks him what he thinks of Clara. He tells her that he likes her somewhat, and she sulks. He tells her that she is always too intense, and he longs to kiss her but cannot. When he leaves, he invites her and Edgar to tea the next day and she is happy. However, when he gets home and tells his mother, she is not pleased, and they argue.
Paul feels torn between Miriam and his mother, and resents Miriam because she makes his mother suffer. She feels hurt one day when he tells her he will not meet her before a party at his house because “you know it’s only friendship.”
One Friday night while Paul is doing the baking, Miriam comes to call and, when she hangs up her coat, he feels as though they live in the house together. He shows her a curtain he has made for his mother, and gives her a cushion-cover in the same design that he has made for her. They begin to talk about his work, and this is the time that Paul is happiest with Miriam.
They are then interrupted by Beatrice, a friend of the family, who makes fun of Miriam and flirts with Paul until Miriam reminds him that he is supposed to be watching the bread. He has burned one of the loaves, and then begins to feel somewhat guilty for ignoring Miriam. On some level, though, he feels that she deserves it. They go over her French notebook, they read a little bit, and he walks her home. When he returns, his mother and sister are waiting for him and they have found the burnt loaf of bread. They are angry that he has been with Miriam and his mother is ill. He reconciles with his mother and realizes that he loves her more. His father comes home, and they fight, stopping only after Mrs. Morel faints, and Paul takes care of her.
Paul continues to be Mrs. Morel’s favorite son, and he is the one she believes will be successful. We see finally in this chapter the way that this close relationship finally leads Paul to abandon Miriam because he loves his mother best: “She was the chief thing to him, the only supreme being.”
Paul suggests that perhaps Miriam likes Clara because of her apparent grudge against men. The narrator writes that Clara’s grudge might be one of the reasons Paul himself likes her; this seems to suggest that Paul would appreciate a grudge against men, which is a somewhat puzzling idea.
Paul begins to echo the actions of his father, after he argues with his mother. He flings off his boots before going to bed, just as Mr. Morel had done several chapters earlier. In addition, Paul is happiest with Miriam while they are discussing his work, just as Morel is happiest with his children while he is engaged with some work.
In this chapter we see Miriam’s objectification of Paul. She thinks of him as an object weaker than herself, and never considers him as an individual or as a man.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!