Of Human Bondage: Chapters 63-68

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Summary of Chapters LXIII-LXVIII
 
Philip flunks his second examination in March, anatomy, though he had studied with Dunsford. He freezes up in the exam, but he does not care because he can only think of Mildred. He has his own theories of women and thinks he can get her by wearing her down. He tells her stories of the vibrant life of Paris. He does not show his pain or weakness to her. She relaxes and lets him give to her. He becomes content with very little from her.
 
Just when he thinks he is getting somewhere, she announces she is going to get married to Miller, the German. He is earning good money, and she is not getting any younger. He goes home exhausted, too tired to suffer.
 
He thinks about it and realizes it is a blessing for him to be done with it, for she needs to get married, and so he buys her a wedding present. Just then Hayward arrives for a visit, and Philip is relieved to have the company of someone intelligent. They go to museums and have discussions, and he feels happy to get his soul back again. He is deeply affected by the beauty and art around him, as he could not be for months.
 
He explains to Hayward that he hates doctoring, but he will like it better when he starts treating people, because he is interested in people. He could travel to the east as a doctor, set up anywhere. He doesn’t aim at a settled life. He feels born again as Lawson joins the pair in London to show his work. Lawson tells about his affair with Ruth and that Cronshaw is dying of pneumonia and alcohol. Cronshaw has left Philip a present: a Persian rug containing the meaning of life. Philip laughs.
 
Lawson introduces him to Norah Nesbit, a divorcee who earns her living on the stage and writing penny novelettes. She is not pretty but good company. She takes Philip in and is motherly to him, kind, and entertaining. He is interested in her life, for she makes the most of everything with her happy nature and sense of humor, though she is poor. She is not pretentious and knows she has no talent. She appreciates and falls in love with Philip and mends his broken heart, for she is everything Mildred is not. He is happy and spends all his spare time with her. He becomes lovers with her, but they remain friends. He comes into a stable and happy time of his life, though he is not in love with Norah. He regains his confidence, studies hard, and passes his exams in the summer.
 
Hayward is getting old and fat, and it is apparent his life is a failure, but he makes it seem that success is vulgar. Hayward tells Philip he is middle class because he wants to succeed. Hayward has blended idleness and idealism to such an extent that the offer of a job puts him in a panic. He discovers an old tavern in Beak Street with old paintings and divine rum punch. Hayward, Lawson, and a stock broker named Macalister meet regularly for conversation there, and Philip is content with his life.
 
Philip falls ill with influenza and is nursed in his rooms by Griffiths, a fifth year medical student upstairs. Griffiths watches him day and night, and they become good friends. Philip begins to worship the man the way he did Rose because he is handsome and good and has romantic affairs. Philip wants to invest his money with Macalister so he can buy Norah some furs for the winter.
 
Commentary on Chapters LXIII-LXVIII
 
With Mildred gone, Philip’s life becomes whole again. He renews old friendships, enjoys art and discussions, is successful at school, and a finds a new companion, Norah. Norah is everything a loving wife should be, and she gives Philip a sexual outlet as well as companionship. She heals his wounds and is genuinely in love with him. He comes into a contented period of life. He begins to make plans for his future, and he looks back on the experience with Mildred with loathing.
 
He has a new interest in people based on his own dark time, though. How does one struggle to express oneself? Clutton had gone off by himself to Spain, and Cronshaw was dying. Lawson is hard on Cronshaw, but Philip sees that one is not always in control. He becomes interested in how Norah manages to be so cheerful with all her challenges. Her belief is simple: “I don’t believe [God] minds much about what you do as long as you keep your end up” (Chpt. LXVI, p. 347). She gives Philip freedom, and explains that she has the gift few have, of learning from experience.
 
Once again, Philip has a chance to examine his evolving philosophy of life. Macalister is a student of Kant and tells him about the Categorical Imperative: “Act so that every action of yours should be capable of becoming a universal rule of action for all men” (Chpt. LXVII, p. 353).
 
Philip says this is nonsense, for it “suggests that one can choose one’s course by an effort of will. And it suggests that reason is the surest guide” (Chpt. LXVII, p. 353). Macalister says Philip seems to be a slave to passion. Philip by now has discovered that Reason is not what controls his nature, nor, he suspects, does it rule human nature.
 
This conversation and one other clue give a hint of what will follow this period of calm in Philip’s life. He thinks to himself that “When he was under the influence of passion he had felt a singular vigour . . . he was more alive” (Chpt. LXVII, p. 354). Passion is therefore addictive. Like a drug, it gives a greater high than contentment.  It is possible to throw away happiness for passion because intensity makes one feel more alive. Given a choice, Philip will choose passion, or, fall into its seductiveness again.
 

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