Pages read: 206 - 290
God, Paul is a dick to Miriam. It's kind of out of control. He's got this whole self-loathing thing going on when he's with her, because, according to him, she makes him all serious and contemplative and spiritual and he doesn't want to be. She, in turn, just loves him and likes to spend time with him, and can't help it that she seems to him to always be serious, even when she's laughing. They still spend lots of time together, though it's a little difficult to see why. Paul's mother continues to hate Miriam, and works hard to exert her influence over Paul and get him to break things off with her. The problem is, there aren't really any things to break off, since the two staunchly maintain a platonic relationship. That said, though, Mrs. Morel manages to convince Paul that he's doing them both a disservice by spending so much time with Miriam, since it looks as if they're engaged, and consequently, they should either actually get engaged or free themselves for actual liaisons. So Paul tells Miriam this, and they both agree they shouldn't get married, since he's unable to restrain his self-hatred around her, and she worries that to love him would prove her essential unchastity. (Whatever. God, I hate chastity. Have I mentioned that? The idea that a woman's worth is determined by her intact hymen is a real issue for me.)
Afterward, they continue to be pseudo-friends, somehow, since Paul is friends with Miriam's family as well as with Miriam herself. Miriam introduces him to a woman named Clara, who's quite the man-hater, and is always arguing with him about the fact that a woman can and should be independent, and does not, in fact, need to get married. This has the predictable result of making him want to subdue her by marrying her, so he's pretty much pursuing her doggedly at this point.
Paul's relationship with his mother gets creepier by the page, so I'd like to quote a particularly illustrative section to give you an idea of what's going on:
"Instinctively, he realized he was life to her. And after all she was the chief thing to him, the only supreme thing...As he stooped to kiss his mother, she threw her arms round his neck, hid her face on his shoulder, and cried, in a whimpering voice so unlike her own that he writhed in agony:Are you with me here? Mrs. Morel is messed up. "I've never had a husband, so don't marry the girl you're clearly in love with, because she'll make you abandon me?" How's that inappropriate attachment to your child going? Living vicariously through his youth? Both good? Awesome.
'I can't bear it. I could let another woman - but not her - she'd leave me no room, not a bit of room - '
And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.
'And I've never - you know, Paul - I've never had a husband - not really -"
He stroked his mother's hair, and his mouth was on her throat.
'And she so exults in taking you from me - she's not like ordinary girls."
'Well, I don't love her, mother,' he murmured, bowing his head and hiding his eyes on her shoulder in misery. His mother kissed him a long, fervent kiss." (251-252)