Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover Literary Elements


modernist novel

Setting and Context

post-WWI England, in the Midlands

Narrator and Point of View

Third person omniscient, typically taking on Constance's point of view, but sometimes taking on those of other characters. Seems to know more than the characters know themselves about their own thoughts.

Tone and Mood

Ironic, but also lyrical. Sometimes the narrator likes to state in a very matter-of-fact way how a person is feeling, and there is a sense that he is ironically distancing himself from that person. At other times, the narrator effusively tells about the emotions of a character, as if he were experiencing it with that character (this is called "free indirect discourse").

Protagonist and Antagonist

Constance is the protagonist, and the antagonist is Clifford.

Major Conflict

Constance and Clifford, who are married, do not have a physical sexual life together because Clifford is paralyzed from the waist down. Constance initially believes she can serve as his intellectual partner, but this wears on her soul. She ends up starting an affair with the gamekeeper, and eventually decides to leave Clifford. However, Clifford wants to assert all of his power over her.


When Constance is in Italy, she receives a letter from Clifford explaining the scandalous occurrence between Bertha Coutts and the gamekeeper. This is the climax of the novel because Constance is faced with her initial disgust with the whole social scandal, and her memory of her love for the gamekeeper. She must choose whether she will really run away with the gamekeeper or stay married to Clifford.


Oftentimes the landscape foreshadows events in the novel. For example, the blooming of the flowers that Constance notices in Chapter 8 as she goes on a walk alone symbolize the blossoming of her sexuality. This is juxtaposed with her leaning on a pine tree, which is erect. This foreshadows the event of her copulation with the gamekeeper, which will help satisfy her sexual yearnings.


Oftentimes the narrator will not provide us with much information on a character, merely stating in a matter-of-fact way an event that occurs. For example, when Clifford's sister leaves, he says only that she "departed." The style of understatement reflects the insignificance of Clifford's sister.


For a full list of literary allusions, see the explanatory notes in the Cambridge University Press edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover, cited in this ClassicNote. Here are key selections: on page 36, there is an allusion to the Greek philosopher Socrates. He is known for using a dialogic form of philosophical question, the Elenchus, in which he refined ideas through conversation with others. On page 36, there is an allusion to the bible, Matthew xii: "Ye shall know the tree by its fruit." This refers to the idea that good fruit comes from a good tree, and bad fruit from a bad tree. On page 268, there is a reference to Marquis de Sade, a French aristocrat who wrote violent sexual fantasies. Clifford compares Mellors to the Marquis de Sade, perhaps unwittingly emphasizing the power that his sexuality has over others.


There is a lot of imagery that is used to describe the landscape as reflective of the characters within it. Lawrence's depictions are often impressionistic: they are about how people are feeling and perceiving the landscape, rather than a realistic depiction of what the surrounding world really looks like. For example, when Clifford and Connie go for a walk in chapter 5, the landscape is not depicted romantically (it is not a wonderful harmonious natural environment) and these two don't feel particularly connected to nature. Instead, the landscape is described as being coated in the industrial remnants of sulphur, and the gravel of the driveway has recently been done up by Clifford. It gives off a feeling of being in an enclosure in that it is stifling - this does not seem like a place for freedom of the imagination, or connectivity to nature. Clifford connects to the woods through a sense of duty to his own class and history, and the implication is that he is connected to the past of the English aristocracy here. This is shown through the way in which he thinks about having a son, and the way in which he also notes how the generations of his family have gone on living on this land.


Mellors has a paradoxical philosophy of sensuality. He believes that the hope of mankind resides in his animal-like nature as human beings, in their sensual impulses and desires. Yet he thinks that the "mechanistic" nature of the world, as symbolized by the non-human functions of money, is killing off man's ability to connect to this natural instinct. However, the very fact of his talk about sensuality is the very denial of his philosophy, since he is turning his feelings into ideas about how things should be. Likewise, there is a paradoxical use of intellectual discussion by Tommy Dukes, when he tries to intellectually represent the possibility that human kind is made by his "heart and penis" rather than his mind.


One case of parallelism can be found in Chapter 8 between Clifford's labor and Mellors' work. Clifford's work is described as a kind of tapping, whereas Mellors' work is described as the hammering of a woodpecker. The fact that they are both at work, but one is described in terms of a useless tapping and the other is an efficacious hammering, shows how the two men are being compared in Constance's mind.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

One example of metonymy, the substitution of an attribute for a thing, is the moment when Tommy Dukes says: "Then we'll get a democracy of touch, instead of a democracy of pocket" (75). 'Touch' stands for feeling and emotion, and the physical life, whereas 'pocket' stands for financial gain and wealth.
One example of synecdoche, the substitution of a part for a thing, occurs when Tommy Dukes says: "One has to be human, and have a heart and a penis, if one is going to escape being either a god or a Bolshevist--for they are the same thing: they're both too good to be true. (39)" The heart and penis are made to stand in for the human: those things that makes the human what it is.


When Constance and Mellors "wed" their genitals to each other, the former set being named Jane and the latter Sir Thomas, they are personifying their body parts. This act, on the one hand, ridicules the act of marriage. Bu, on the other hand,t it also is a surprisingly accurate depiction of marriage, because marriage is ultimately about copulation.