Sons and Lovers

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She has many arguments with her husband, some of which have painful results: on separate occasions, she is locked out of the house and hit in the head with a drawer.

Colm Tóibín on Sons and Lovers

Estranged from her husband, Mrs. Morel takes comfort in her four children, especially her sons. Her oldest son, William, is her favorite, and she is very upset when he takes a job in London and moves away from the family. When William sickens and dies a few years later, she is crushed, not even noticing the rest of her children until she almost loses Paul, her second son, as well.


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From that point on, Paul becomes the focus of her life, and the two seem to live for each other. Paul falls in love with Miriam Leivers, who lives on a farm not too far from the Morel family. They carry on a very intimate, but purely platonic, relationship for many years. Morel does not approve of Miriam, and this may be the main reason that Paul does not marry her.

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He constantly wavers in his feelings toward her. Paul meets Clara Dawes, a suffragette who is separated from her husband, through Miriam. As he becomes closer with Clara and they begin to discuss his relationship with Miriam, she tells him that he should consider consummating their love and he returns to Miriam to see how she feels. So, instead of talking, she goes to parties and entertains herself by trying to find out as much as she can about the other guests.

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You know, kind of like how we ride the bus with our sunglasses on just so we can stare at people. Anyway, one day, Gertrude comes across a man who's unlike anyone she's ever met. His name? Walter Morel. Walter is a young coal miner who loves to dance and sing without any of the inhibitions that govern Gertrude's prim and proper life.

Lucky guys, those earlyth-century Brit boys. Compared to the women, at least—are we right? Anyway, it doesn't take long for Walter's zest for life to completely win Gertrude's heart.

Surprise, surprise. Swoon, swoon. Big fat diamond.


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Next thing you know, Gertrude becomes Mrs. There's only one problem: Walter decides shortly after marrying that he doesn't want to be a teetotaler anymore, and starts drinking away all of their money. Oh yeah, and he kind of lied about ever having any money to begin with. Morel quickly descends into a miserable life and has four children with Walter. Her first son, William, grows up to be an energetic and successful guy.

Overall Summary

Morel is pretty up-front about the fact that she wants to use William to live out all her unfulfilled ambitions. When William dies young, though, Mrs. Morel heaps all of these unfulfilled desires onto her next son, Paul. Then she gets really possessive of him.

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If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. We guess. Paul is a quiet and artistic boy.

As he grows up, he and his mother become inseparable. But then Paul falls in love with Miriam.