Study Guide

Sons and Lovers Chapter 5

By David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence

Chapter 5

Paul Launches into Life

  • As the years roll by, Walter Morel starts having accidents all the time. He's kind of an oaf, you see.
  • One day, a lad in pit clothes comes to the Morels' door and says Walter has hurt his leg at work, so they've taken him away to the hospital.
  • When she returns, she tells the family that Walter's leg is busted up pretty badly, with bits of bone sticking out of his leg. Gross.
  • The children realize that, despite their mother trying to minimize the severity of the whole mess for them, things aren't looking great for their father.
  • As she sits in her rocking chair, Mrs. Morel is startled to find herself feeling a deep indifference to her husband and his pain. This failure to love her husband hurts her.
  • We're honestly not sure why she's surprised about this indifference at this point in the book, because it's been evident both to her and to us before.
  • Unsurprisingly, without the bane of all of their existences in the house, the family sans Walter does quite well.
  • Since Walter can't spend all of their money on booze while he's in the hospital, the family is actually happy and peaceful.
  • During this time, Paul proudly declares himself the new man of the house.
  • None of them will admit it, but they all felt a little regret when their father is ready to come home.
  • By this point, Paul is fourteen and looking for a job. That might sound young, but as your grandpa probably told you a million times, boys were tougher back in the old days.
  • Oh, and there weren't those pesky child labor laws to contend with. (Just kidding, those are great and very important laws to have around.)
  • Paul's dream is to earn enough money to live on, to live in a cottage with his mother after his father dies. Um, what young boy in his right mind wants to move in with his mother when he grows up?
  • We're really starting to worry about you, buddy.
  • Oh, and Paul also wants to spend his life painting and going out whenever he likes. Now that's more like it, sir.
  • To apply for a job, Paul copies a letter of application that William has written in "admirable business language" (5.76). Paul's handwriting, though, is terrible, and William gets impatient with him.
  • William, meanwhile, befriends people of a higher station in life, and starts to fancy himself a gentleman.
  • But he can't seem to handle the pace of change in London, and feels as though the ground under his feet won't stay still.
  • He starts to write to his mother of a young woman he (and apparently, every man he knows) has been after. Mrs. Morel, though, says he might not like the girl so much once he's won her from other men.
  • Zing.
  • While this is all going on, Paul gets called in for an interview with a manufacturer of surgical appliances. He's only written four letters, and gets an interview off of his third.
  • If only it were that easy for a young person to land an interview these days.
  • His mother goes with him on the train to the manufacturer's factory. Paul is sick with anxiety about meeting strangers to be accepted or rejected, and we all know he can't go anywhere without his mommy.
  • In these scenes, our friendly author D.H. Lawrence keeps dropping not-so-subtle hints about there being something romantic between Paul and his mother: "The mother and son walked down Station Street, feeling the excitement of lovers having an adventure together" (94).
  • They arrive at the town early, so they visit some shops before eventually going to Thomas Jordan's (the manufacturer's) office.
  • Paul is intimidated by Mr. Jordan, who is a small man who speaks sharply. Jordan asks Paul if he wrote the letter of application, and Paul says yes, even though it was William's letter he copied.
  • Afterward, Mrs. Morel takes Paul to a restaurant. Throughout the day, Paul is humiliated by how the more fashionable people are looking at him and his mother, especially women.
  • Maybe he's developing a mite of common sense?
  • Once all this is over, the narrator ironically notes that Paul "had spent a perfect afternoon with his mother."
  • Shortly after, Mrs. Morel receives a picture in the mail of William's sweetheart. The young woman's name is Louisa Lily Denys Western. Mrs. Morel feels that the picture reveals too much of the woman's shoulders. Gasp—not the shoulders.
  • Watching Paul leave for work the first time, Mrs. Morel congratulates herself on sending two men (Paul and William) into the world of business. She feels that their accomplishments are her own, and that this partially makes up for all of her frustrated desires.
  • We'd recommend living your own life, but, you know. Mrs. Morel has different ideas.
  • When Paul first gets to the factory, there isn't much going on. Eventually, a young clerk comes and gives him a tour of the dark, dirty building.
  • Eventually, Paul's new boss, Mr. Pappleworth shows up and sits down with him. The man tells Paul to copy out all the letters.
  • Paul likes copying the letters, but he writes very slowly and badly. When Pappleworth comes back, he makes fun of Paul's writing and orders him to write more quickly.
  • Suddenly, a bell rings next to Paul's ear, and Pappleworth comes over and talks to someone through a speaking tube, which amazes Paul. We wonder what'd happen if we showed him an iPhone.
  • It turns out that Paul's slow work is putting the whole factory behind, so Pappleworth does the rest of the copying himself. Not a good sign for his first day at work.
  • Things don't get much better once he's settled into the job. Paul starts working twelve-hour days with a long commute. He starts coming home looking pale and tired.
  • Soon, though, he decides he actually likes the factory and the people who work there.
  • Paul finds the men at the factory common, but gets on very well with the women, who find him gentle and respectful. Each day, the woman named Polly heats up his dinner for him.
  • Who wants to heat up our dinners for us tonight? Anyone?
  • Anyone?