In a conversation between Constance and Tommy Dukes, Constance asks Tommy why men and women don't seem to like each other during their times. Tommy claims that he does like women. He also says that liking and talking to a woman means that one cannot love and desire her at the same time, or at least that he does not feel like he can do both at the same time. Constance thinks that there's something wrong in this, and something wrong between men and women in general. Tommy Dukes claims that the sex compulsion is "artificial" and that people ought to just behave decently. Constance knows he is right, but she feels "forlorn" (57), feeling that these men are cold. In contrast to them, she feels her youth. She almost wishes she had gone off with Michaelis, the narrator tells us.
One day Constance goes for a walk in the woods. She comes across a child sobbing and a man yelling at the little girl. Constance tenderly addresses the girl and gives her a coin. The child points to a dead cat, and Constance sees that the man, the little girl's father, is a poacher who has shot the cat in front of the girl. Constance takes the girl, who is named Constance Mellors, to her grandmother's house.
Constance returns home to Wragby, but thinks to herself that "home" is a word that has lost meaning for her, as are "love" and "happiness" (64). They are words that have been cancelled for her entire generation, she thinks. The only word that has meaning is money, which one needs to keep mechanically going. She feels that she doesn't even really want money, and that it is some sort of mysterious nothingness. She thinks of how Clifford wants to be thought of as "really good" but she thinks that this desire for a good reputation is nonsense. She feels as if the mechanism of consciousness itself is going wrong. She herself decides she wants nothing from now on. She is repulsed by the idea of all men she knows - she cannot think about having a child with any of them.
However an idea comes to her. She thinks that she will find a real man. She has an idea he will have to be a foreigner.
Constance begins to go for walks every day, alone in the woods. She likes the inwardness and the silence of the woods, and their vital presence. She comes upon the gamekeeper's house one day, and she knocks on his door. When no one answers, she goes around the cottage, where she sees the gamekeeper naked to the hips. Constance backs away -- she feels shocked. She has seen him as a "perfect, white solitary nudity of a creature that lives alone, and inwardly alone" (66). She ridicules herself though for thinking that a man washing himself is some sort of revelation. She then sits down in confusion.
She returns to the house, and she knocks on the cottage door again. He invites her in and she delivers a message from Clifford. She then lingers in his house, asking him whether he lives alone, to which he responds that he does. Later Constance mentions to Clifford that Mellors, the gamekeeper, is a curious person. Clifford responds that Mellors has spent some time in India, but that he has had to fall back into his lower class position being in England. Constance wants Clifford to admit there's something special about Mellors, but he does not. Constance feels like the men of her generation are scared of life.
Constance returns to her bedroom and looks at herself naked, examining her body. She notices that she is getting thinner. She thinks of how her body is "going meaningless" (71), getting old, and she thinks that it is the mental life which has swindled her. She is now 27, and she thinks of how she once was so scornful of sensuality. She goes to sleep and feels bitterness towards Clifford, thinking of him as someone who has "defrauded a woman even out of her own body" (71). She feels a sense of injustice. She bounces back and forth between blaming Clifford and not blaming him, and rather blaming the "general catastrophe" (72). She wonders what is the good of her life and her sacrifice to Clifford. She feels that she is merely serving his vanity, and that Clifford was really a buffoon.
Clifford's aunt, Lady Bennerley, comes to visit. She praises Constance for aiding Clifford in attaining success. She encourages Constance to live her life. "A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it!" she tells her (73). She encourages Constance to go to London to live in the world, but Constance does not really like this idea.
Another set of visitors is at Wragby: along with Tommy Dukes, there is now Harry Winterslow, Jack Strangeways, and his wife Olive Strangeways. Olive is reading a book about how babies in the future will be fed by bottle and immunized, and she is glad that women will be released from their bodily function. Lady Bennerley professes that civilization is good because it helps one forget one's body. Dukes believes that man can never be released from his body, and that civilization is in a state of collapse. Lady Bennerley agrees that civilization will collapse, but has no idea what will come after it. Tommy believes that might be real men in the next phase, ones who do not just cerebrate.
Constance likes some of Tommy ideas, such as the idea that there might be a "democracy of touch" after the fall of civilization, but she also thinks of it as just talk. She feels bored and the days begin to grind away. She writes to Hilda to come visit her, as she is getting thinner and losing some of her vitality.
When Hilda visits her, she immediately notices something is wrong with Constance. She looks ill. Constance claims that she is just bored. Hilda tells Clifford that she will take Constance into London to see a doctor, which annoys Clifford. Hilda tells Clifford to get a manservant to look after him. Clifford hates this idea.
The doctor simply tells Constance that she needs to be amused, must renew her life. Michaelis visits them while they are in London and he also notes that Constance looks ill. He tells her to come away with him, but Constance feels she cannot abandon Clifford.
Clifford agrees to get a servant, a woman named Mrs. Bolton. Her husband had died when he was 28, and Mrs. Bolton is now 47. He had been killed in a coal pit in an accident. Mrs. Bolton received compensation but she was only allowed to collect it in small sums once a week. Nevertheless, determined to be independent and provide for her two children, she has become a nurse. When Mrs. Bolton speaks she shows that she likes the colliers (those who work in the mines) but she also acts as if she is superior to them in class. Mrs. Bolton has a very particular way of speaking and likes to ramble, and she rouses a "new ear" in Constance (82).
However when Mrs. Bolton waits on Clifford, she is very timid. He likes this, because he thinks of her as a "useful nonentity" (82). She accepts her class position vis-a-vis Clifford.
Clifford, although accommodating himself to Mrs. Bolton, feels he will not forgive Constance for giving up on her personal care of him. He thought it killed their intimacy, but Constance does not mind this. She feels as if she is untangling the threads of her consciousness from his. A new phase in her life is beginning.
When Constance comes into contact with the little girl, we can recognize that the girl is a manifestation of Constance's own consciousness. She has just thought about how her own youth is to be compared to the cold conversations of the men who are not interested in sex, and then she bumps into a little girl -- also named "Constance" -- who is crying. Constance's tenderness towards this young girl shows her own attraction to a part of herself that is not welcome in the intellectual conversations of these men.
After Constance's encounter with the crying little girl, she begins to think to herself about the emptiness of her situation. It begins with a critique of the meaninglessness of words ("home" and "love") and she realizes that she wants nothing in life. Noticeably, the narrator slips into second person narration to convey Constance's thoughts to us. This gives us first of all the impression that the narrator is generalizing her thoughts to a larger cultural situation: he is addressing our state of affairs. But it also gives the sense that Constance is lecturing herself, trying to exercise her will towards something, but is incapable of figuring out what exactly it is that she wants. She has an impulsion to command herself to do something, but nothing in society corresponds to a something that she would want. This is a critique of the superficiality of the intellectual life that Clifford lives, because it does not answer to her natural desires.
As Raymond Williams has pointed out (see bibliography, Williams 1970, p. 172) it is difficult to separate the personal from the cultural/social structures in Lawrence's work. For example, while Clifford feels personally angry with Hilda when she mentions his getting a manservant, it seems that he is really more unconsciously angry at his social position, and his inability to care for himself. Similarly, Constance's health seems to be ailing because of her lack of engagement with society, as Lady Bennerley advises her to go out and live life. But she is also quite personally suppressed by Clifford's dominance over her life. Thus two alternatives are being posed, neither of which will be pursued: either Constance can try to engage in social life, or she can continue to forge her intellectual union with Clifford. Neither of these seems like an appealing option to her, and thus she seems to want "nothing." Tommy Dukes, however, is proposing that the "phallus" is the way out. This foreshadows the novel's solution of using physical instinct as a way of reconnecting with one's own vital impulses that seem to be central to Constance's health.
While many different opinions are being presented in Wragby Hall, there is a consensus among these intellectuals that they are in a time of change or cultural crisis. This is a modernist sensibility: during the time of literary modernism (1910-1930), there was a sense that established cultural norms and forms were no longer relevant. The authority of old social structures, such as an established class hierarchy, had been undermined by the belief in democracy. Clifford, for example, is initially characterized by his belief that everything around him is ridiculous. He treats the world with irony. He no longer believed in the norms that his father had established for him - to carry on the family name and traditions, a remnant of aristocratic class superiority. Modernism, as an aesthetic and social movement, is characterized by the search for new cultural forms that would revitalize people's sense of their engagement with others, and their sense of the possibilities of their own selves.
At the end of Chapter 7, Constance finally begins to break free of Clifford's influence. This is described as a disentanglement of the "roots" of her consciousness from his. Such a vision is one of the more experimental elements of Lawrence's view of character: he seems to believe that characters do not exist as personalities in themselves in modern society, but rather that wills are entangled in one another. Lawrence seems to value individuality and the assertion of one's own, instinctual drives. However, he elsewhere articulates suspicion of this ideal (as in his novel, Women in Love).