How can I analyze in detail Chapter Seven of Sons and Lovers, particularly the passage that begins with, ''He resented that" and ends with, ''The two sisters did not talk much to each other?"

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two passages in question center on the relationship between Paul and Mrs. Morel, Paul and Miriam, as well as Miriam and Agatha.

Paul and Mrs. Morel

Paul and Mrs. Morel have a dysfunctional relationship. Mrs. Morel depends on her son for emotional sustenance and self-validation, so she sees Paul's developing relationship with Miriam as a threat. On the other hand, Paul finds himself torn between two impassioned rivals, both capable of emotionally castrating him if he fails to live up to their feminine expectations.

When Paul is late coming home from excursions with Miriam, Mrs. Morel often castigates him in the tone of an injured lover. For his part, Paul is torn between the Oedipal complex and his own emerging sense of self. Because he feels that his right to autonomy is threatened by sustained feminine manipulation, he resents the women in his life. In the passage you quote, Miriam's sneering response to Paul's request is deeply emasculating to him. After all, no grown, young man wants to admit that he is still under the maternal thumb. So, despite his loyalty to Mrs. Morel, Paul rebels against his mother in order to avoid displaying any form of masculine weakness to Miriam.

Paul and Miriam

Miriam's religious intensity is equal parts intimidating and suffocating to Paul. Her eager tendency to inundate others with cloying affection prevents her from forming satisfying relationships. For example, Miriam wants 'her little brother of four to let her swathe him and stifle him in her love...' Her sentimentalism and sense of moral superiority distort her understanding of true love. She objectifies Paul; he is the defenseless and fragile male she must save.

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!

In Miriam's mind, she must fashion Paul into the image of the perfect, submissive male in order to be able to love him. After all, her brothers will never be able to earn her esteem, as they are 'brutal louts,' insensitive to her fragile, feminine sentiments. Miriam's response to her brothers in the 'burned potato' incident is significant. She quarrels with them bitterly, deeply disappointing her mother, who habitually indulges 'the brutality of manners' in her sons by 'over-gentleness' and an 'apologetic tone.' Failing to command respect in her matriarchal role, Mrs. Leiver compounds the dysfunctional nature of her relationship with her children. From her dismal example, Miriam resorts to manifesting a martyred superiority and combative intractability in all her dealings with her brothers. She has learned that religious intensity is a weapon: with it, she can attain a measure of satisfaction by patronizing those she despises.

The sons resented this; they felt themselves cut away underneath, and they answered with brutality and also with a sneering superciliousness.

The boys loathed the other cheek when it was presented to them. Miriam was often sufficiently lofty to turn it. Then they spat on her and hated her. But she walked in her proud humility, living within herself.

In the passage you quote, you will notice the sentence: 'They were both late in coming to maturity, and psychical ripeness was much behind the physical.' Because of Mrs. Leiver's dysfunctional example, all her children are 'late in coming to maturity' in terms of identity and self-awareness. To Miriam and her brothers, 'ordinary folk seemed shallow to them, trivial and inconsiderable.' Their 'insolent...superiority' prevents them from attaining 'soul intimacy' with anyone; they are 'too dumb, and every approach to close connection' is blocked by their 'clumsy contempt' for others. Thinking themselves superior, they do not realize how their condescension and their scorn for the 'triviality' of human intercourse prevents them from developing satisfying connections.

To put it plainly, Miriam and her brothers are so focused on the spiritual plane that they are unable to recognize the authentic humanity in themselves and in others. So, their 'psychical' development trails that of their physical maturity.

There was no looseness or abandon about her. Everything was gripped stiff with intensity, and her effort, overcharged, closed in on itself.

Paul, for his part, is so accustomed to bending to the feminine will, that he takes 'his pitch' from Miriam. This is why their intimacy continues in 'an utterly blanched and chaste fashion.' Despite her desire for it, Miriam has been taught to disavow the place of carnal desire in relationships; the result can only be dysfunction in her relationship with Paul.

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

More on Paul, Miriam, and Agatha

Paul's close relationship with Mrs. Morel is evident in the flower incident. Mrs. Morel shares her excitement about the three blooming scyllas with Paul alone; in her moment of happiness, she looks not to her husband, but to her son.

Similarly, in the excursion to Hemlock Stone, Miriam learns the true depth of her feelings for Paul. Interestingly, Miriam feels closest to Paul in the manor garden.

He had not seemed to belong to her among all these others; he was different then—not her Paul, who understood the slightest quiver of her innermost soul, but something else, speaking another language than hers.

A feeling of stillness, almost of ecstasy, came over her. It felt almost as if she were alone with him in this garden.

Lawrence juxtaposes the individual bucolic scenes to highlight similarities in temperament between Mrs. Morel and Miriam. Both look to Nature to realize their lofty ideals of happiness. Within this construct, they can only admit one other human: Paul. However, Paul must be subject to the ideals of their utopia in order to satisfactorily co-exist with either of them. He must preserve his benign 'gentleness' and his 'weakness.' Like Mrs. Morel, Miriam cannot fathom how love 'might be a very terrible thing.' This conversation is actually an ominous foreshadowing of the novel's resolution. Neither Miriam nor Mrs. Morel can admit that the wrong kind of love can be destructive.

By the time the excursion ends, Miriam is sure that Paul is the embodiment of everything she desires in a man. His 'purest manner of chivalry' appeals to what she believes is her higher self, and she revels in her spiritual ecstasy. Her happiness doesn't last long, however, before she is seized with foreboding and a feeling of fearful ambivalence. She is shaken by the exchange with the independent Agatha, who insinuates that Miriam is shamelessly throwing herself at Paul.

Hope this helps!