The role of Mrs. Morel and Miriam in Paul’s life The relationship between Paul and Miriam is one of the central themes in “Sons and Lovers”, since it is through this relationship that Paul faces his issues regarding his mother’s role in his life and women. Even though Clara is later part of the theme of Paul, women and his difficulty in committing, it can be argued that Mrs. Morel, Paul and Miriam are somewhat a love triangle. The fact that Miriam shares certain personality traits with Mrs. Morel is what leads to Mrs.
Morel dislike of her. For instance, both women have a desire to love and take care of Paul in an overprotective and spiritual way. In Mrs. Morel case, her controlling attitude towards Paul is a result of Mr. Morel’s absence and the death of William, who was the object of her affection. Miriam’s love can be seen the same way as Mrs. Morel’s, that is, a spiritual type of love, since she is reluctant to have a physical relationship with Paul and is more centered in a platonic and intellectual area.
The type of love that Miriam feels for Paul is clearly shown on chapter 7: “If she could be mistress of him in his weakness, take care of him, if he could depend on her, if she could, as it were, have him in her arms, how she would love him. ” Even though the idea of “having Paul in her arms” might suggest physical desire, in Miriam’s case it reflects her yearn to take care of Paul, like somebody that saves his life. Although she and Paul eventually have physical intimacy, she sees such intimacy as a sacrifice, something she must do in order to be with Paul. One the reasons why Mrs.
Morel disapproves of Paul’s relationship with Miriam is the fact that she regards her as a rival. In other words, Mrs. Morel sees in Miriam somebody that can replace her role as a “mother” who is in control of Paul’s life. Mrs. Morel’s dislike is clearly shown in the remark she makes on chapter 7: “She [Miriam] is one of those who will want to suck a man’s soul out till he has none of it left. ” as well as in chapter 8, when Mrs. Morel cries: “She exults—she exults as she carries him off of me. She is not like an ordinary woman who can leave me my share in him. ” It can be argued that Paul’s soul belongs to Mrs.
Morel which means that by sucking Paul’s soul out and carrying him off of Mrs. Morel, Miriam would be distancing Paul from her. Mrs. Morel sees Miriam as a competitor for Paul’s love. An interesting aspect present in the “triangle” formed by Paul, Mrs. Morel and Miriam, is the constant presence of Paul’s feeling of guilt and his mixed emotions towards both women. Miriam’s intensity constantly disturbs Paul, because he knows, unconsciously, that once Miriam’s spirituality “trapped” him, she would be able to reach the depths of his soul, which is controlled by his mother.
Paul’s view of Miriam’s love is evident in the following passage: “In contact with Miriam, he gained insight, his vision went deeper. From his mother, he drew the life-warmth, the strength to produce; Miriam urged this warmth like a white light. ” As much as Paul appreciates both women in his life because they add positive aspects to his character, he is quite aware of the existing conflict between them; he knows that both women want him in the same way, spiritually and emotionally. He feels guilty because being in a relationship with Miriam hurt his mother and he also feels guilty by the way he treats Miriam at times.
In other words, guilt is a common occurrence in Paul’s life that affects him deeply throughout the novel, from when he is in a relationship with Miriam to when his mother falls ill. Such guilt comes mainly form his mixed emotions towards both women. Although he recognizes the importance of both women, mentioned earlier, he also hates them at times. His hate for Miriam is apparent on chapter 8 when he criticizes Miriam: “You’re always begging things to love you as if you were a beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn on them – You don’t want to love – your eternal and abnormal craving is to be loved.
You aren’t positive, you’re negative. You absorb, absorb, as if you must fill yourself up with love, because you’ve got a shortage somewhere. ” Paul’s hate for his mother, on the other hand is evident by his realization on chapter 13, that Mrs. Morel controlled much of his life: “Sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her bondage. His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle where life turned back on itself, and got no farther. She bore him, loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could not be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman. In other words, Paul becomes conscious that Mrs. Morel has influenced him deeply, to the point where it affects his relationships with other women. An interesting point in the novel is that Mrs. Morel complains in the first chapter that she wasn’t in control of her life: “It doesn’t seem as if I were taken into account. ” and yet does not take Paul in account when it comes to Paul’s relationships; she is more concerned with how a relationship is going to affect her as opposed to wishing Paul happiness and letting go of him so that he can make his own decisions. Sometimes life takes hold of one, carries the body along, accomplishes one’s history…but leaves oneself as it were slurred over. ” Such passage in the first chapter demonstrates that Mrs. Morel was a victim for not being in control of her life, but later on in the novel she transforms from victim into perpetrator by not letting Paul be in control of his life. The end of the novel represents a moment of epiphany/awakening. Paul realizes that much of his life has been controlled by Mrs. Morel and that his decisions and actions have been shaped by her desires.
Paul, as devastated as he is by his mother’s death, understands that he needs to change: “He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. ” Had he not changed his perspective in life, Mrs. Morel would still control him, even after her death. Paul’s decision of not marrying Miriam in the end shows the readers that Paul finally feels the need to break away and be in charge of his life. Nevertheless, the reader does not get an answer whether or not Paul will succeed in his attempt to be in control of his own life. The “triangle” is over, but the reader is left to wonder if Paul will be able to take care of himself on his own.