Sons and Lovers Plot Summary
The life of the Morel family is unhappy, tense, and uneasy. The Morels live in a mining town in the countryside. Walter Morel is a miner, and he and his wife, Gertrude, have two children, William and Annie, and are expecting their third child. When their third child, Paul, is born, Mrs. Morel does not really want the new baby. Her life is full with handling her husband's temper and caring for the children. She hates that she has to stay home with the children while her husband gets to go out and enjoy himself (i.e. drink). After the birth of their fourth child, Arthur, the Morel family is complete.
Mrs. Morel transfers her affections from her husband to her first son, William, who is intelligent and active. He is the apple of his mother's eye, winning awards, doing well in school and finding jobs easily. When William goes to London for a job, Mrs. Morel is devastated. William comes home, bringing with him his fiancee, a young lady who treats the Morels like servants. Having spent too much time at work and with his fiancee, William catches pneumonia and dies. After William's death, Mrs. Morel turns her love and attention to Paul.
Paul, always sensitive and emotional, gets a job at Thomas Jordan's, a surgical applicances factory and strikes a friendship with Miriam Leivers. Mrs. Morel does not like Miriam because in her view Miriam takes all of Paul's energy, desire, and feelings with nothing left of him for her. Miriam introduces Paul to Clara Dawes, whose mother is friendly with Mrs. Leivers and who is separated from her husband, Baxter Dawes.
After Paul and Miriam have sex, he decides that they are not good for each other, and breaks off their relationship, to Miriam's anger and bitterness. Paul heads into an intensely sexual relationship with Clara. Miriam is jealous that the Morels have accepted Clara as Paul's lover when they have not liked her at all. Paul and Clara share a passionate, sexual relationship. As much as Paul thinks that he is happy, his mother believes otherwise; she knows in her heart that Clara will tire her son out.
Baxter Dawes and Paul have a fight; the fight leaves Paul in great pain and a great dislike for Clara's husband. Although both men severely hate each other, they feel connected to each other.
Mrs. Morel falls gravely ill because of a tumor. The doctor who tends to her tells Paul that Dawes is in the hospital for his fever. Paul calls on Dawes in the hospital and the two men somewhat reconcile. When Paul tells Clara that Dawes is ill, Clara unexpectedly declares that her husband had treated her with more respect and had loved her more than Paul ever did. Clara returns to Dawes.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Morel grows weaker. Knowing that she is prolonging her death to live for Paul, Paul and Annie fear that she will live longer than she can emotionally survive. Paul and Annie cannot stand to see their beloved mother live in such pain that they give her an extra dosage of morphine. Mrs. Morel dies.
Paul goes to see Miriam. They ponder getting married, but Paul confesses that he has no desire nor any intention of marrying her. Miriam decides to wait as long as it takes for him to come to her. Paul returns home, thinking about the bond he shares with his mother. Their love is still alive in him, even though she has died.