Sons and Lovers Part 1, Chapter 1-6
A mining company, Cranston, Waite and Co., has claimed a place in the coal and iron field in Derbyshire and set up homes in the Squares and the Bottoms, where the mining families live. The Squares are located on the hills of Bestwood, while the Bottoms have been placed over "Hell Row".
Mr. and Mrs. Morel have been living in the Bottoms for three weeks. Mr. Morel is a miner employed there. Mrs. Morel dislikes living in the Bottoms; she is from Bestwood and she feels superior to the other women married to miners - the Morel home is located on the end of a street and in the best block. The Morels have two children, seven-year-old William and five-year-old Annie, and are expecting another child soon.
William, anxious to attend a local fair, and Annie, whining about fair as well, are trying Mrs. Morel's patience. She is tired and exhausted from caring for the children; she is not looking forward to the third child. Mrs. Morel lets an impatient, excited William go to the fair and brings Annie later. William is surprised to find his mother and sister at the fair when he sees them. Mrs. Morel, tired easily from all the noise and the crowd, wants to leave early with Annie, but when William refuses to leave, gives her permission for William to stay longer.
As she expects, William is overly exhausted and miserable when he arrives home couple of hours after. He tells his mother that he had seen Mr. Morel in the bar. Mrs. Morel is glad that she is alone with the children. She is miserable and tired of living as Walter Morel's wife and mother of their children. She despises her husband for always drinking, never dreaming of living a better life. She cannot wait for William and Annie, especially William, to grow up. She yearns of the day when they do not have to struggle with poverty. She hates the life of wretchedness and dreariness that her husband and the unborn baby will undoubtedly bring her.
Mrs. Morel goes into the front garden and looks toward the path that leads to the mines. She desperately wishes that she does not live the life of a poor miner's wife and asks herself what she, a girl from Bestwood, has to do with the slums of Hell Row. Gertrude Morel comes from an established family, the Coppards; she had inherited her mother's beautiful looks and her father's proud, fiery temper. When she was twenty-three, she had met twenty-seven-year old Walter Morel at a Christmas party and was attracted to his warm, animated laugh and personality. Walter was fascinated by the ladylike presence Gertrude exuded, which was unknown to him. She was surprised to hear that he had been a miner since he was ten years old and looked at him with new admiration. That he risked his life daily for so many years and to have such a cheerful disposition touched her soul. The two fell in love and married; for the next six months, Gertrude Morel was very happy with her marriage and life as a miner's wife despite her in-laws' constant sneering. One day she was humiliated to learn that her husband has not paid any bills for the house or the furniture and that he owes over half the money. Walter's dependence on his mother annoyed and shamed Gertrude. Her attitude toward her husband changed even more when she found out about his drinking.
Mrs. Morel loved her new baby son as passionately as she hated her husband. She focused all of her attention to her son rather than her husband. One day she found that
Her husband had cut off William's beautiful blonde curls. Mrs. Morel, enraged and furious, was horrified that Walter could have done hurt their child that way. She was frustrated with the little amount of money he gave her from his salary and even more infuriated with the way he carelessly spent most of his salary on his drinking.
That night, Walter returns home drunk. They have an argument, their first furious one. Mrs. Morel bitterly declares that she would have left him a long time ago if it were not for the children. He shuts her out of the house in response and falls asleep. Mrs. Morel is forced to wander around her garden and knock repeatedly on the window to wake him up. She fears that she might have to stay outside in the cold, and the cold would affect their unborn baby. After she succeeds in waking him up, she goes to bed, looking defiant and proud.
Mrs. Morel gives birth to their third child, whom she calls Paul. She believes that the baby has the ability to interpret her feelings, such as the time when her husband hits her. One night, Walter comes home in a drunken fit. Both he and his wife ate moody and tired that night, and they argue. Their tempers flare up and Morel throws a wooden drawer at his wife, scarring her face. Morel realizes the severity of his actions and tries to be nice to his wife, but Mrs. Morel pushes him away. Morel is fascinated by the sight of the blood trickling down from his wife's cut into Paul's golden hair. Although Mrs. Morel tries to cover up where she gets her scar, the children seem to figure out that their father had given it to her and they empathize with her. Morel feels alienated and cast out from the family. The children feel awkward with him, as much as he feel awkward with them. However, things gets so tense in the Morel household that Morel finally does not care about his treatment in the family. Every day he would rush off to work, return home, and get ready to go out with his friends and drink.
Morel becomes ill. His illness weakens his temper. Even though Mrs. Morel has more to care for, now that her husband is ill, she is more tolerant toward him. With the arrival of Paul, Mrs. Morel cares more for her children than her husband. Even Morel realizes that his wife has cast him off for their children. As the Morels' marriage becomes tenser, Morel feels unsettled and empty.
Mrs. Morel gives birth to a new baby boy, who is named Arthur. Morel takes to the new baby immediately; likewise, Arthur is the only baby to love Morel immediately. William grows bigger and stronger, while Paul becomes his mother's shadow, always following her and crying. When Morel almost hits William as punishment, Mrs. Morel demands that he will not touch William. Morel, fearful of his wife's wrath, restrains himself from hitting William.
Mrs. Morel joins the Women's Guild. The children are proud of their mother and respect her for wanting to improve Co-op benefits. When Mrs. Morel gets William a job in the Co-op office, Morel suggests that William join him in the mining pit. Mrs. Morel is adamant that William will not become a miner.
William then becomes a shorthand clerk, a book-keeper, and later a schoolteacher. He becomes more outgoing and active as he grows older, but he begins to associate with Bestwood society, to his mother's chagrin. Occasionally, young women would call on William. He gives all his earnings to his mother. William's relationships with his young ladies and his dancing greatly disgraced Mrs. Morel. She fears that William may turn out to be like his father. At nineteen, William takes a job in Nottingham. William's advancement in employment gives his mother reason to hope that he might help his younger brothers. Mrs. Morel sees that William is troubled; she encourages him to continue dancing if he feels like it.
William is excited when he is offered a high-paying job in London. He gladly accepts the job not noticing that his mother looks so sad and hurt. Mrs. Morel is devastated that William is leaving. William cuts up his love letters and lets Paul keeps the decorated borders of paper. William leaves for London.
Paul is very close to Annie. He would always join Annie in playing games. If he is not with Annie, he is by himself. William has always been too old to play with them.
The Morels move to a new home on the bottom of a hill with a valley down below. A huge ash tree sits in front of the house. Whenever a large wind would brush by the tree, the tree would make a shrieking noise, which Paul, Annie, and Arthur hate, but Morel loves. To Paul, the loud shrieking of the tree sounds sinister and evil. He is terrified by the noise and he begins to associate the shrieking of the tree with the footsteps of his father coming home drunk. Not only was Paul frightened of his father's drunken wrath, all the Morel children were. Their nights would have been perfectly content if not for those moments of anxiety and worry, hoping desperately that their father would not hit their mother.
Paul continually prays for his mother's safety: "'Make him stop drinking'. He prayed every night. 'Lord, let my father die', he prayed very often. 'Let him not be killed at pit', he prayed when, after tea, the father did not come home from work." Part 1, Chapter 4, pg. 60
The children also suffer with their mother. They never tell their father anything about their lives in fear of getting him in a rage. They would only tell their father if their mother insists. They know that he would not appreciate hearing about their days at school or any achievements. "He was an outsider. He had denied the God in him." Part 1, Chapter 4, pg. 63
Mrs. Morel is the kind of woman who would wait as long as possible for her children to grow up. When William goes to Nottingham, Paul occupies the chief concern of Mrs. Morel's heart. She knows how to comfort him when he is upset, such as the time when he has to fetch Morel's salary from the district contractor. Paul, a small and shy boy, is scared to talk or move in the throng of men waiting for their salaries and is ridiculed when the contractors give him the money. When Paul furiously explains to his mother that the contractors are brutes and hateful men, Mrs. Morel assures him that the men themselves are witless.
Friday nights are Mrs. Morel's baking and market nights. Paul chooses to stay home every Friday night and helps his mother bake while Annie and Arthur enjoy themselves elsewhere. On summer evenings, Paul plays with his brother and sister and other neighborhood children. Mrs. Morel revels in hearing her children sing and play outside as much as they enjoy playing outside. They all adore the wide, open spaces of their home.
During the fall and winter months, the Morels are very poor. William does not send as much money as he used to. Now that he is in London, expenses are higher than Nottingham and he needs money for himself. Mrs. Morel misses her son's support very much.
"All day long, as she cleaned the house, she thought of him. He was in London: he would do well. Almost, he was like her knight who wore her favour in the battle." Part 1, Chapter 4, pg. 79
William returns home for the Christmas holidays. The whole family prepares for his homecoming a fine, glorious celebration: a sumptuous feast and a decorated house are ready for him. Paul, Annie and Arthur pick William up at the train station; Paul is so proud and excited for William that he wants to let the people in the station know that William, their very own William, is returning from London. Both Mr. and Mrs. Morel cry when they see William, all grown-up. He bestows them with lavish presents: Mrs. Morel keeps the umbrella with gold on its handle William gives her until the day she dies. When William leaves, the family is miserable, especially Mrs. Morel.
"Not even the Mediterranean, which pulled at all his young man's desire to travel, and at his poor man's wonder at the glamorous south, could take him away when he might come home." Part 1, Chapter 4, pg. 82
About a year after William first left home for London, Morel breaks his leg in the pit. Mrs. Morel visits him in the hospital and tells the children that their father is in serious pain, a thought that dismays them. Mrs. Morel recounts how sad her husband was when she had to leave to return home to the children.
"But still, in her heart of hearts, where the love should have burned, there was a blank. Now, when all her woman's pity was roused to its full extent, when she would have slaved herself to death to nurse him and to save hum, when she would have taken the pain herself, if she could, somewhere far away inside her, she felt indifferent to him and to his suffering. It hurt her most of all, this failure to love him, even when he roused her strong emotions." Part 1, Chapter 5, pg. 86
While William is in London and Morel is in the Nottingham hospital, Paul tells himself that he is the only man of the house. William is courting a fashionable young lady named Louisa Lily Denys Western and sends his mother a picture of her. Mrs. Morel thinks that Louisa, whom William calls "Gipsy", dresses inappropriately and does not seem to like Louisa very much. She believes that William is spending far too much time on Louisa and his social life than he should. Paul, now fourteen, is looking for a job. He feels that the only thing he can do is to be a painter. Paul admits to himself that his only desire in life is to find a job and earn money for his family, and when his father would die, live in a cottage with his mother and paint to his heart's content.
Paul goes to the Co-op office to look for a job in the papers. Feeling self-conscious about looking for a job, Paul stares out of the window. He feels as if he is a "prisoner of industrialism." Part 1, Chapter 5, pg. 89 The valley he loves so much now holds the idea of work. "Already his heart went down. He was being taken into bondage. His freedom in the beloved home valley was going now." Part 1, Chapter 5, pg. 89
Paul is offered a job at Thomas Jordan and Son, a company that manufactures surgical appliances, in Nottingham. Thomas Jordan is the company manager and manufacturer.
He is humiliated and embarrassed at the interview. Mr. Jordan mercilessly makes fun of Paul's horrid handwriting, but places him in the position as a junior spiral clerk under Mr. Pappleworth at eight shillings a week. Paul's rage and anger quickly die as he and his mother walk along the bright and cheerful market.
Paul enjoys his first day of work. When he leaves to catch the early train to Nottingham, he feels homesick for his mother and the home he loves. He gets along well with his boss, Mr. Pappleworth, and he especially enjoys spending time with the factory girls. There are Fanny, whose sensitive nature Paul comes to understand, and Polly, the middle-aged woman, whose stern and business-like manner contrasts with Fanny's personality. Paul comes to enjoy work so much that he looks forward to the next day. The factory, to Paul, feels like home.
"He liked to watch his fellow-clerks at work. The man was the work and the work was the man, one thing, for the time being. It was different with the girls. The real woman never seemed to be there at the task, but as if left out, waiting." Part 1, Chapter 5, pg. 112
At the end of every day, Paul would recount the day's activities to his mother. His stories mean the life to her.
"The trains roared by like projectiles level on the darkness, fuming and burning, making the valley clang with their passage. They were gone, and the lights of the towns and villages glittered in silence." Part 1, Chapter 5, pg. 112
Arthur Morel is turning out like his father. The father who he had loved and admired so much as a child he now abhors. Morel is now an old man, suffering in bodily pain and in temper. As Morel grows more irritable and mean, Arthur grows more furious with him. Both are suffering with age: Morel becomes harsher and more contemptuous in his elderly age, Arthur becomes more enraged with adolescent anger at his father.
Things change drastically in the Morel household now. Mrs. Morel allows an enraged Arthur to live in Nottingham with her sister when he wins a school scholarship. Annie will be receiving her teaching degree soon. Most importantly, William is engaged to his Gipsy. Mrs. Morel "clung now to Paul." Part 1, Chapter 6, pg. 114
William brings his fiancee, whom the Morels call Lily, home for the holidays to meet his family. Lily treats the Morels as if they are her servants, the thought that infuriates and frustrates William. Mrs. Morel does not trust her son and his fiancee when they are alone.
Mrs. Morel, anxious about Paul's deteriorating health due to his long hours and confinement, proposes that the two of them call on the Leivers family on Willey Farm nearby on his holiday. Paul immediately agrees. On their way to the Leiverses', they comment on the landscape. Mrs. Morel remarks at how beautiful the surrounding countryside is, while Paul expresses his wonder and amazement at the sight of the pit, with the mining trucks going about.
As Paul says, "But I like the feel of men on things, while they're alive. There's a feel of men about trucks, because they've been handled with men's hands, all of them." Part 1, Chapter 6, pg. 123
The Willey Farm is lush: the farm includes a pond, an orchard and a garden. While Mrs. Morel and Mrs. Leivers talk inside the house, Paul stays in the garden, observing the plants and flowers. Miriam Leivers, the fourteen-year-old daughter, comes out to fetch coal. Miriam blushes when Paul asks her a question she does not know the answer to, and Paul notices her warm complexion. Miriam has a rather superior tone in her voice that Paul does not catch.
Miriam's brothers, eighteen-year-old Edgar, twelve-year-old Geoffrey and thirteen-year-old Maurice, speak to Miriam in a condescending tone. They make fun of her for not being like them - running around, playing and hitting in jest - and mock her for reciting poetry. When she shrinks back from feeding the chickens, her brothers are disgusted with her fear and Miriam is full of shame and misery. The Leivers boys do not pay much attention to Paul, so he wanders around the farm by himself until he sees Miriam with the chickens again. He convinces her that feeding the chickens is not frightening, and teaches her how to feed them. Unlike her brothers, Paul is gentle with the scared Miriam. She is sure that Paul only thinks of her as a commonplace farm girl.
Paul and his mother are filled with happiness on their return home. Mrs. Morel declares that she would have been a better farm-wife than Mrs. Leivers.
William and Lily spend the summer holidays with the Morels. He and his mother are infuriated with the way Lily treats Annie like a servant. Mrs. Morel is also angered that William's manner toward his fiancee is so harsh, but William cannot help being so mean to her. He feels that he is stuck in a loveless relationship and cannot escape. When William insists that Lily would forget about him in three months' time if he dies, Mrs. Morel feels a sense of foreboding - she hears the bitterness in William's voice and worries.
William comes home for a weekend in October. An excited Mrs. Morel is thrilled to have her son alone to herself, but she is anxious and worried about his health. William looks thinner and more tired than usual, and he discovers a rash on his chin and throat. When he leaves for London, he seems to be on the road to recovery. However, Mrs. Morel receives a telegram that William is very ill. She departs for London immediately and sees at once that the William lying sick in bed is not the active and bright William she knows. William has developed pneumonia and a rash and does not recognize his mother when she talks to him. William finally dies after much suffering.
Paul goes to the pit to tell his father that William has died. Throughout all the tireless activity going on at the pit, the words Paul must say to his father do not fully penetrate in his mind. Absorbed in the amount of activity and people and trucks, Paul does not see that his father looks terribly grieved and weary.
When William's coffin is brought into the house, Mrs. Morel struggles with the reality of William's death. All Mrs. Morel can say is, "'My son.'" Part 1, Chapter 6, pg. 139 After William's death, she could not take much interest in life. Mrs. Morel shuts herself out from her family and her life.
Paul continues to work and tell his mother of his day's activities, but she wants to hear none of it. She is not interested in anything he has to say about work; she just wants to think about how short William's life was. His mother's restrained manner, in addition to decreased work hours, wear out and depress Paul so much that he suffers greatly. When he is laid off at Christmas, Mrs. Morel notices the deteriorating change in him. Paul's condition turns out to be pneumonia. Like she had done with William, Mrs. Morel nurses Paul throughout his long illness. When the critical moment arrives, Mrs. Morel cries to Paul, "'My son.'" Part 1, Chapter 6, pg. 141 Paul recognizes his mother's voice and face, and regains consciousness. From then on, Mrs. Morel's life revolves around Paul.