Study Guide

Sons and Lovers Chapter 9

By David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence

Chapter 9

Defeat of Miriam

  • You can guess what this chapter is about from the title. It's obviously Mrs. Morel that's doing the defeating, too.
  • So, yeah. Paul resolves never to be with Miriam.
  • Over time, Miriam senses his distance and starts to give up on the idea that she can sacrifice herself to Paul's love.
  • One day, Paul does go to hang out with her at her house. While there, he acts like a total jerk to her. For instance, he tells her that she can't approach anything she loves without trying to suck the life out of it. Which is a bit harsh, don't you think?
  • Finally, Miriam asks him why he's sad. He says he isn't sad, only normal.
  • She persists, and he gets mad at her for asking. He picks up a stick and starts thrusting it into the earth (sexual imagery?). She asks him to stop doing it (yup).
  • He suddenly tells her that they need to break off their "friendship." He's tired of the whole "will they or won't they" game.
  • We are too.
  • It's another week before Paul goes back to Willey farm. He starts taking comfort in hanging with Miriam's mom.
  • I guess he's really got a thing for moms, not just his own.
  • In Miriam and Paul's next conversation, Paul says it's not fair for him to visit her without intending to marry.
  • Miriam just wishes other people would stop saying things and leave them alone.
  • Paul asks Miriam if she thinks they should marry. Ball's in your court, Miriam. But she won't let him get away with asking-her-to-marry-him-without-really-asking-at-all, and says no.
  • When they resolve not to be alone together, they realize that their lives won't actually change all that much.
  • Before long, though, they're back alone again. What is with these two?
  • Paul continues to give Miriam French lessons. One day, he messes up a romantic passage, and Miriam can feel the tension between them.
  • She still clings to the belief that she's his main need in life.
  • Miriam wants to prove that Paul needs her, so for some reason she invites him to Willey farm to come meet Mrs. Clara Dawes (the girl Paul had a crush on, of course).
  • Basically, Miriam thinks that if she puts a lower quality woman in front of Paul, he'll run back to her (Miriam).
  • Paul gets excited about meeting Clara, though.
  • It's totally possible this plan could backfire.
  • Paul leaves to go see Edgar in the fields. He talks to Edgar about Clara and makes fun of her negativity. They both agree (a little too emphatically) that they don't like her.
  • We think Paul and Edgar doth protest too much.
  • Paul goes back to hang with Clara and Miriam. He enjoys some witty repartee with Clara, as she's an independent, feminist type, and he's, well, a man of his times.
  • Like, when the three of them go for a walk, Paul mentions how nice it'd be to be an old-school knight. And Clara says that he'd probably want all women to be shut up in their homes while he was off knighting it up. Haha.
  • After this, Paul takes his mother to Lincoln. She looks frail sitting across from him in the railway carriage.
  • He makes a joke about his mother being his girlfriend when they're out for dinner. Under the circumstances, it's not remotely funny.
  • At one point, though, he actually gets angry at his mother for getting old, and not in a joking way.
  • After a while, they get happy again over tea. He starts to tell her about Clara. Mrs. Morel wants to know why he likes her.
  • He admits that he likes Clara's defiance, and probably wants to break her.
  • Yikes.
  • Mrs. Morel doesn't know what she wants for Paul, but she does know it's not Miriam or Clara.
  • We also find out at this point that Annie is getting married.
  • The wedding happens pretty much right away. Arthur comes home and looks great in his army uniform.
  • No one really cares about any of this.
  • Paul promises his mother that, unlike Annie, he'll live with her forever and never marry.
  • Mrs. Morel says she doesn't want to leave him with no wife. He says she's only fifty-three, and still has plenty of time left.
  • Cue the foreboding music.
  • After Annie's married, Mrs. Morel buys Arthur out of the army. He is wild with joy, and becomes affectionate to her after this.
  • One night, a woman named Beatrice comes over to smoke cigarettes with Arthur. She wants a puff of his, but he offers instead to blow smoke from his mouth into hers.
  • Things get childhood flirty, and the two of them make out.
  • To no one's surprise, Paul and Clara and Miriam hang out some more.
  • Next, we read a letter from Paul to Miriam explaining they can never be physically intimate because they're just too different.
  • In the letter, he calls Miriam a nun, which totally tears at Miriam's heart. She seals the letter and opens it one year later to show her mother.
  • She writes back and says that their relationship would have been beautiful except for one little mistake, which she doesn't name. She asks, though, if the mistake was hers.
  • Now, Paul's twenty-three and unattached. He's still a virgin, but he's been strongly stimulated by his relationship with Miriam.
  • Often, as he speaks to Clara, he feels himself getting aroused. But he feels that his heart still belongs to Miriam.
  • Paul's got ninety-nine problems, and women are at least three of them.