Study Guide

Sons and Lovers Chapter 6

By David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence

Chapter 6

Death in the Family

  • This chapter opens with a description of the youngest Morel child, Arthur, who is just like his father. He always complains about work and can never wait to get back to his leisure activities.
  • Oh yeah, and he has a terrible temper, of course.
  • His mother often wearies Arthur with all her nagging, since he thinks only about himself. He hates anything that stands in the way of his amusement and self-interest.
  • Over time, Arthur also comes to hate his father. Walter bullies him. And he's generally a pretty detestable guy, if we do say so ourselves.
  • Once Arthur reaches adolescence, Walter's treatment of him becomes downright brutal.
  • Mrs. Morel clings more and more to Paul as her only companion in life.
  • Right on cue, William becomes engaged to his brunette girlfriend in London. He buys her a very expensive engagement ring. All he talks about in his letters is how he and his girlfriend walk around town like big shots.
  • This time around, he comes home for Christmas with his fiancée, but no presents.
  • Mrs. Morel welcomes the girl into her home coldly… not that we're the least bit surprised about that.
  • William's fiancé, Lily, has an annoying habit of talking to William as if his family weren't around. William winces at this.
  • After William leads Lily to bed, he comes back downstairs with a sore heart. He apologizes for her nervous behavior, but Mrs. Morel assures him that she likes the young woman.
  • Yeah right, lady.
  • When he's alone with his mother, William confides that he wishes Lily wouldn't put on such airs. He admits to his mother that his soon-to-be-wife isn't serious and can't think about deep things.
  • Why is he marrying her, then?
  • Someone tell us, please.
  • Mrs. Morel probably loves to hear all of this smack talk about Lily. But she makes a half-hearted defense of Lily to her son, because it's the right thing to do, after all.
  • William further admits that Lily's family doesn't have the same depth as the Morels, or the same principles.
  • In the coming days, William takes his siblings on his walks with his wife. It's clear that Paul really admires Lily, which doesn't sit well with Mrs. Morel. Obviously.
  • Anytime any of her sons aren't paying attention to her, Mrs. Morel pretty much loses it. Kind of like this Siberian Husky.
  • At Easter, William comes home alone and admits to his mother that when he's not with Lily, he doesn't feel anything for the girl. When he's with her, though, he loves her.
  • Mrs. Morel tells him this isn't a very good love to base a marriage on. Well, duh.
  • As time passes, all of William's strength and money goes into keeping Lily supplied with expensive clothes and jewelry.
  • Paul, meanwhile, gets a slight raise at Jordan's, but his mother still worries about his health. On his half-holiday, she invites him out to visit a family friend on a farm.
  • When they get to the farm, the first person they see is a girl of fourteen. The young girl comes near him and he makes a small remark about some flowers. The girl's name is Miriam Leivers.
  • She doesn't really know anything about what he's saying about flowers. She blushes. You know those early-20th-century British girls, they don't know anything about anything.
  • Sigh.
  • Paul doesn't pay particular attention to her at first. Miriam feels resentful; she thinks Paul looks at her as a common girl.
  • But she thinks herself to be refined, like Scott's "Lady of the Lake."
  • When Paul and his mother leave through the beautiful fields, they both want to cry from happiness. Mrs. Morel starts talking about how she'd be a better wife to Edgar than Mrs. Leivers, which is gosh golly gee-darn awkward, if you ask us.
  • Later, William comes home on another visit with Lily. The two of them spend time walking with Paul and lying in the meadows.
  • Paul gets flowers and threads them in Lily's hair. For some reason that no one understands, this makes William angry at his fiancée.
  • William is irritable whenever Lily is around his family; he's more aware of how superficial she is at these times.
  • Mrs. Morel and William both hate Lily for treating Anne like a servant, getting her to do her washing for her and such.
  • Even as he complains about Lily, William talks about marrying her. His mother advises against it, but he says he's gone too far to break things off.
  • Is that even possible?
  • Mrs. Morel admits that she loses sleep over the thought of William marrying Lily. She warns her son about how much a bad marriage can destroy your life (hint hint: she's talking about herself).
  • When William and Lily are gone, Mrs. Morel admits to Paul that she feels comforted by the fact that Lily will keep William too poor to get married. This makes us lol.
  • The next time William comes home, he's not in great health.
  • One day, he shows his mother a big red rash that he thinks his shirt collar has made on his throat. Mrs. Morel gives him ointment and he feels better and heads back to London.
  • Soon, a telegram comes from London saying that he's ill. Mrs. Morel comes to see him, and realizes that he's delirious with sickness.
  • A doctor comes to William's home and announces that he has pneumonia and some other strange type of disease… Something that has started in his throat and is moving up his face.
  • Scary stuff.
  • The doctor can only hope that the sickness won't reach William's brain.
  • Before we even know what's happening, though, William dies.
  • The family brings William home from London. Mr. Morel gets five friends to help him carry the heavy coffin.
  • Mrs. Morel becomes visibly upset over the swaying of her son's coffin in the men's hands. The men are all strong miners, but they have trouble with William's weight.
  • After this, Mrs. Morel "could not be persuaded […] to talk and take her old bright interest in life" (138). Paul tries to talk to her about his life, but she takes no notice. He asks her what's the matter, and she irritably answers that he knows what's the matter.
  • Finally, Paul also gets pneumonia while walking home with a Christmas box. People got pneumonia a lot back then.
  • He's in bed for seven weeks. One aunt remarks that his illness might have actually saved his mother, since it took her mind off William.
  • When Paul finally recovers, Mrs. Morel is changed forever. As the narrator tells us, her "life now rooted itself in Paul" (6.486).
  • As far as we're concerned, this woman was always rooting her life in her sons. But whatever.
  • Walter and Mrs. Morel are gentle with each other for a while after William's death. Which is kind of nice.
  • Peace.
  • And quiet.