Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay

Current book: Sons and Lovers
Pages read: 388 - 464 (end)

There isn't really a bar fight; Dawes just gets kicked out of the pub for provoking Paul and then it's over. A few weeks later, though, he tries to confront Paul at work (Dawes works in the same stocking factory where Paul is a clerk) and loses his job as a result. In the process of trying to fight Paul, he accidentally knocks a manager down some stairs, and they end up in court to settle the matter. When the judge finds out that Paul was stepping out with Dawes's wife, he dismisses the suit and sends everyone home with a wink and a nudge. (Man, has the justice system changed. Modern litigation would have dragged the thing out for weeks and fined everyone several thousand dollars.) Dawes does eventually beat Paul up in a field one night, but that's really the end of it.

Anyway, Paul keeps going out with Clara, and everything's sort of at a standstill; they can't get married, of course, but Paul doesn't really want to anyway, so they just keep dating and sleeping together and it's all fine and good. (Apparently unintended pregnancy is not a plot issue that D. H. Lawrence is worried about. I mean, you know, Paul only slept with Miriam for a week, so sure, but he and Clara have been dating for quite some time and now are having sex regularly. Maybe she's infertile, but jeez.)

Eventually, Paul's mother gets sick. (I don't know about you, but I'm thinking, "Thank God," pretty much.) It turns out she has cancer, and also a bad heart, so she can't have surgery. Weirdly, while she's in the hospital, Paul goes to see Dawes, who's also ill, and they become friends of a sort, seeing each other and chatting on a regular basis. (I have no real explanation for that. I mean, sure, Paul wants to assuage his guilt, by why does Dawes tolerate it? They seem to understand each other somehow, since they both romanced and failed Clara, perhaps. It strikes me as odd when I read it, though.) The doctor sends Paul's mother home to die, but since she's ornery and obnoxious until the last, it takes months and months, and she finally snuffs it right at Christmastime. While she's dying, Paul breaks it off with Clara, recognizing the futility of the whole thing, and she goes off and reconciles with Dawes, which doesn't make any sense at all.

After Paul's mother dies, he's all whiny and lost and suicidal. For a brief moment, he thinks of marrying Miriam, and she offers, because she has no self-esteem at all, but he can't make himself do it, even to be taken care of. In the end, though he wants to follow his mother into death and turn away from the world, he decides that he has to keep going, and there's a little metaphorical scene at the close of the book where he turns away from his contemplation of a dark field toward the lit-up town.

I'm going to formulate thoughts about the whole thing and conclude tomorrow, I think. There's a lot going on, and I want to give it its due, so there'll be a wrap-up post for this one before I start on Orlando. I'll just say this to be getting on with: I think Lawrence has some issues with finishing what he's started.

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