Lady Chatterley's Lover

Themes

In Lady Chatterley's Lover, Lawrence comes full circle to argue once again for individual regeneration, which can be found only through the relationship between man and woman (and, he asserts sometimes, man and man). Love and personal relationships are the threads that bind this novel together. Lawrence explores a wide range of different types of relationships. The reader sees the brutal, bullying relationship between Mellors and his wife Bertha, who punishes him by preventing his pleasure. There is Tommy Dukes, who has no relationship because he cannot find a woman whom he respects intellectually and, at the same time, finds desirable. There is also the perverse, maternal relationship that ultimately develops between Clifford and Mrs. Bolton, his caring nurse, after Connie has left.

Mind and body

Richard Hoggart argues that the main subject of Lady Chatterley's Lover is not the sexual passages that were the subject of such debate but the search for integrity and wholeness.[3] Key to this integrity is cohesion between the mind and the body for "body without mind is brutish; mind without body... is a running away from our double being."[4] Lady Chatterley's Lover focuses on the incoherence of living a life that is "all mind", which Lawrence saw as particularly true among the young members of the aristocratic classes, as in his description of Constance's and her sister Hilda's "tentative love-affairs" in their youth:

So they had given the gift of themselves, each to the youth with whom she had the most subtle and intimate arguments. The arguments, the discussions were the great thing: the love-making and connexion were only sort of primitive reversion and a bit of an anti-climax.[5]

The contrast between mind and body can be seen in the dissatisfaction each has with their previous relationships: Constance's lack of intimacy with her husband who is "all mind" and Mellors's choice to live apart from his wife because of her "brutish" sexual nature.[6] These dissatisfactions lead them into a relationship that builds very slowly and is based upon tenderness, physical passion, and mutual respect. As the relationship between Lady Chatterley and Mellors develops, they learn more about the interrelation of the mind and the body; she learns that sex is more than a shameful and disappointing act, and he learns about the spiritual challenges that come from physical love.

Neuro-psychoanalyst Mark Blechner identifies the "Lady Chatterley phenomenon" in which the same sexual act can affect people in different ways at different times, depending on their subjectivity.[7] He bases it on the passage in which Lady Chatterley feels disengaged from Mellors and thinks disparagingly about the sex act: "And this time the sharp ecstasy of her own passion did not overcome her; she lay with hands inert on his striving body, and do what she might, her spirit seemed to look on from the top of her head, and the butting of his haunches seemed ridiculous to her, and the sort of anxiety of his penis to come to its little evacuating crisis seemed farcical. Yes, this was love, this ridiculous bouncing of the buttocks, and the wilting of the poor insignificant, moist little penis."[8] Shortly thereafter, they make love again, and this time, she experiences enormous physical and emotional involvement: "And it seemed she was like the sea, nothing but dark waves rising and heaving, heaving with a great swell, so that slowly her whole darkness was in motion, and she was ocean rolling its dark, dumb mass."[9]

Class system and social conflict

Besides the evident sexual content of the book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover also presents some views on the British social context of the early 20th century. For example, Constance's social insecurity, arising from being brought up in an upper-middle-class background, in contrast with Sir Clifford's social self-assurance, becomes more evident in passages such as:

Clifford Chatterley was more upper-class than Connie. Connie was well-to-do intelligentsia, but he was aristocracy. Not the big sort, but still it. His father was a baronet, and his mother had been a viscount's daughter.[10]

There are also signs of dissatisfaction and resentment of the Tevershall coal pit's workers, the colliers, against Clifford, who owned the mines. By the time Clifford and Connie had moved to Wragby Hall, Clifford's father's estate in Nottinghamshire, the coal industry in England seemed to be in decline, although the coal pit was still a big part in the life of the neighbouring town of Tevershall. References to the concepts of anarchism, socialism, communism, and capitalism permeate the book. Union strikes were also a constant preoccupation in Wragby Hall. An argument between Clifford and Connie goes:

”Oh good!, said Connie. “If only there aren’t more strikes!”

“What would be the use of their striking again! Merely ruin the industry, what’s left of it; and surely the owls are beginning to see it!”

“Perhaps they don’t mind ruining the industry,” said Connie.

“Ah, don’t talk like a woman! The industry fills their bellies, even if it can’t keep their pockets quite so flush,” he said, using turns of speech that oddly had a twang of Mrs. Bolton.

[11]

The most obvious social contrast in the plot, however, is that of the affair of an aristocratic woman (Connie) with a working class man (Mellors). Mark Schorer, an American writer and literary critic, considers a familiar construction in D.H. Lawrence's works the forbidden love of a woman of relatively superior social situation who is drawn to an "outsider" (a man of lower social rank or a foreigner), in which the woman either resists her impulse or yields to it.[12] Schorer believes the two possibilities were embodied, respectively, in the situation into which Lawrence was born, and that into which Lawrence married, therefore becoming a favorite topic in his work.

Familiar, too, to much of Lawrence's work is the nearby presence of coal mining. While it has a more direct role in Sons and Lovers and in Women in Love, it casts its influence over much of Lady Chatterley's Lover too. Lawrence's own father was a miner, and the author was intimately familiar with the region of the Derby/Notts coalfield, having been born at Eastwood, Nottingham. The significance of coal in the background to Lawrence's novels cannot be overstressed, when considering his treatment of social class issues. Involved with hard, dangerous and health-threatening employment, the unionized and self-supporting pit-village communities in Britain have been home to more pervasive class barriers than has been the case in other industries (for an example, see chapter two of The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell.) They were also centers of widespread non-conformist (Non-Anglican Protestant) religion, which tended to hold especially proscriptive views on matters such as adultery.


This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.