Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11 - 12

Chapter 11

Constance is sorting through some old things of the Chatterley family in the lumber-room with Mrs. Bolton. She mentions to Mrs. Bolton that Clifford might still be capable of giving her a child. Mrs. Bolton is very surprised but excited to hear this. As they are sifting through the lumber-room things, Constance finds a japanned box full of brushes, mirrors, and other small trinkets. She gives it to Mrs. Bolton.

Mrs. Bolton begins to spread the rumor around town that there might be a baby Chatterley soon - and that she is sure that it would be Clifford's if so. Clifford hears the rumor and supports it - beginning to believe the baby might even be his. Meanwhile Clifford comes up with a plan to sell electric power from his new fuel invention. Constance hears the rumor from Clifford and is horrified. She nevertheless suggests that she go abroad in July and August, to Venice with her family. (The indication is that she will get a lover there and then get pregnant.)

Clifford agrees to let her go for three weeks.

Meanwhile, Constance ventures into the towns of Utherwaite and Tavershall. She feels as if the whole town is a negation of natural beauty. She wonders what could become of such a people in whom the living faculty is so dead. She feels that Tevershall is producing a new race of mankind, of people with an overzealous political side, and without a real spontaneous, intuitive side. She asks herself what man has done to man, feeling there is no hope. But then she returns to the idea of Mellors, and comforts herself with thinking that he has managed to come out of such devastation. Yet then she realizes that he too is alone, and that if one manages to get out, there is only apartness. She visits Shipley, the house of Winters. She notes that England has changed a lot, and that one England blots out another. Right now the aristocratic homes of places like Shipley and Wragby Hall are in the process of being blotted out by the modern housing of the coal miners. She can't imagine what would come next in history. She imagines that there is no next at all -- and she thinks the colliers are only half men. Constance feels afraid fo the industrial masses, thinking of them as creatures from another reality.

When she returns home from this short outing, she feels as if the mining has infected her as a kind of influenza.

The next morning, she notes that the keeper is doing some business in the office with Clifford. They have an awkward greeting, and she notices that Clifford thinks of him as a mere hireling. She wonders if she too is a hireling.

One day she is planting things in the garden with Mrs. Bolton. She asks about Mrs. Bolton's husband. Mrs. Bolton responds that obstinacy had killed her husband. She describes him as the kind who did not take care, but who was caring. (In other words, he was absent-minded, but generous with others.) She felt that he wanted to die sometimes. She then refers to a vague "they" who would like to "kill the thought of the touch of him" (163). Constance thinks to herself that "the bonds of love are ill to loose!"

Chapter 12

After lunch, Constance goes to the cottage of the keeper, where the door is open. He is eating a late lunch. She asks if he is sad, and if he enjoys being a gamekeeper. He responds that he likes being left alone as a keeper, and that he has to work, or he would die. She tells him that she is going away, and asks that he not forget her. He responds that no one forgets. He asks if she wanted to have sex with him so as to get impregnated. She responds that she does not know. He replies that it was not the first time he had been used. She says she didn't want to make use of him -- that she enjoyed his touch.

Constance leaves him and feels resentment towards his insinuation that she had used him. But she also wants to make up to him for making him feel used. She goes to a short teatime at Wragby Hall.

After tea, Constance goes to the hut again. The keeper and her discuss the hens that he is breeding near the hut, and he tells her that the hens do not have a self -- they are either all in the eggs, or all in the chickens. Constance feels sorry for the hens in their blind devotion. Constance and the keeper then go into the hut where they begin caressing each other. The first time, Constance cannot climax because she feels that the keeper's thrusting into her is ridiculous. She thinks of the whole act as farcical performance. She thinks to herself that if mankind were truly to evolve, they would get rid of this act.

When he finishes, he says that it was no good; he knew that she was not fully there. She weeps inside. Constance feels tormented by a double consciousness (her devotion to him and her desire to maintain her critical distance). She cries because she says she cannot love him. He says that no law says that she has to. He is about to leave, but she begs that he stay. She wants to be saved from herself, the narrator tells us, yet she also feels an inward resistance to being saved.

He takes her into his arms and she melts into them. She overcomes her resistance. She yields to him with a "quiver like death" (173). She feels entirely open to him, helpless, as if he might thrust her with a sword. But when he finally enters her, she feels that the act is peaceful. She had dared to let everything go. She has an orgasm, which is described by the story as if she were the sea itself. "She was gone, she was not, and she was born -- a woman," the narrative tells us (175). When he leaves her, she feels it is a pure loss.

She thinks of his body as being beautiful, as both full of potency and constituted of flesh, as life within life. His phallus rises again. They have sex again and they are both left in a state of unknowing.

Afterwards, she tries to get a verbal assurance from him that he loves her, but he says that she already just now knew that he did. However, he finally says, "I love thee that I can go into thee" (177). He though is cautious because he says he does not know what will happen once they start thinking about what they've done.

On her way home, Constance feels as if the landscape is alive.


Notably, when Constance goes to the gamekeeper to bid him farewell, he does not exactly say that he will not forget her, but rather that "no one forgets." This is again indicative of the impersonal nature of their love. Constance and the keeper still think of each other as general universals rather than specific individuals. Every time Constance tries to think of herself as an individual during their lovemaking, she starts to see the whole sexual act as ridiculous.

Not all the sex that Constance and Mellors have is all that great. Instead, there is a struggle of the self that takes place for Constance to really feel pleasure from the act. This struggle of the self though, is contradictorily, an effort of overcoming the self, being willing to lose one's sense of individuation from others. Before Constance and Mellors have sex three times in a row in the hut, they observe the mother hens outside of the hut. Constance feels sorry for them because they are blindly devoted to whatever function they are serving in the moment. However, this is the very devotion that she must learn to feel in order to obtain sexual pleasure. This is the reason she feels an "inner resistance" -- her desire to protect her own individuality keeps her from feeling her continuity with her own womanhood, with her natural self.

The first time they have sex here is not very good for Constance because she is trying to protect her own ego. This manifest as self-consciousness: she has a sense of herself as if she is watching herself from outside, seeing herself engaged in a performance, rather than acting from her own genuine feelings. This self-consciousness is associated with the intellect and rationality, and is represented in the figure of her husband, Clifford, who is always critically examining his own position in a scene. Lawrence is suggesting that this kind of consciousness is antithetical to sensual pleasure and the natural instincts of mankind.

Constance though has not entirely achieved a purely impersonal consciousness that would be capable of sexual ecstasy all the time. Instead, Lawrence is presenting us with a model in which the self constantly struggles to obtain this impersonality so as to have a true connection with mankind, but that cannot last in this state. After they finish having sex, Constance tellingly wants to hear the keeper say in words that he loves her. This desire for a verbal confirmation is antithetical to the impersonal, vague achievement of sex, which is depicted as a mystical sense of continuity with the world, a submission to formlessness at the cost of the self.