Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover Quotes and Analysis

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

p. 5

D.H. Lawrence is considered to be a modernist. This aesthetic movement is characterized by a recognition of the early 20th century as a transitional time, the preparation for a radically different future. Old traditional values were being questioned, and traditional social hierarchies were losing their authority. Modernists were interested in redefining human relationships and values based on the model of aesthetic form and experimentation. The above quotation shows Lawrence's aesthetic approach that recognizes his particular "age" as such a transitional period. Because of the first World War, he sees his generation as living amongst "ruins." These ruins represent the Enlightenment and the promise of rationality and the intellect.

But it was all like a dream: or rather, it was like the simulacrum of reality. The oak-leaves to her were like oak-leaves seen ruffling in a mirror, she herself was a figure somebody had read about, picking primroses tat were only shadows, or memories, or words. No substance to her or anything--no touch, no contact. Only this life with Clifford, this endless spinning of webs of yarn, of the minutiae of consciousness, these stories, of which Sir Malcolm said there was nothing in them and they wouldn't last. Why should there be anything in them, why should they last? Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Sufficient unto the moment is the appearance of reality.

p. 19

Constance's connection to nature is a symbol of her connection to herself. This passage shows how she perceives the world around her: it feels like a "simulacrum," or a fake reality. She does not feel like she is really experiencing nature directly, and instead she feels like everything has to go through mediation by her consciousness first. In this case, Clifford becomes a symbol for her intellect. He is the one who puts everything into names, into intellectual ideas, rather than experiencing them directly. Lawrence here wants to point to a lack of sensuality, a missing experience that Constance would like to have of the world.

All the great words, it seemed to Connie, were cancelled for her generation: love, joy, happiness, home, mother, father, husband, all these great dynamic words were half-dead now, and dying from day to day.

p. 62

This quote reflects a critique by Lawrence of modern language. Why are these words - supposedly representative of the greater values of life -- now "dead" for his time period? First, Lawrence is suggesting that family relationships were no longer valuable in themselves. In prior ages, kinship often determined the social networks in which one participated, as well as the functions one had in society. So one was born into a family of artisans, for example, or one was born into the aristocracy. Because of one's position in a family, one already had a pre-ordained position in the world. However, with the rise of capitalist opportunity in which many industrial jobs were available to a wider array of people, the future was not so strictly determined for individuals. Thus the condition of the times has created a "hollowing out" of the usual concepts by which we understand the world. This is important because it shows Lawrence has a sociohistorical perspective of his world. In understanding Connie as part of a "generation," he thinks of the unique time period in which she lived as central to understanding her identity. Historical experience becomes more important than any other social structure for a determination of meaning and the function one has in the world.

Her body was going meaningless, going dull and opaque, so much insignificant substance. It made her feel immensely depressed and hopeless. What hope was there? She was old, old at twenty-seven, with no gleam and sparkle in the flesh. Old through neglect and denial: yes, denial. Fashionable women kept their bodies bright, like delicate porcelain, by external attention. There was nothing inside the porcelain. -- But she was not even as bright as that. The mental life! Suddenly she hated it with a rushing fury, the swindle!

p. 71

Lawrence is proposing a version of health in which sexual and sensual expression is fundamental for a person. This conception is quite modern; it was very taboo during his time. The early 20th century was characterized by the remnants of Victorian moralism, in which sex was considered a private act -- a bodily urge that one needed to be ashamed of, much like going to the toilet. This idea resulted from a division of the lower functions of the body from the "higher" mental functions. The lower functions were considered unworthy of humanity, thought to be only a remnant of man's ancient animalistic lineage. In the novel, Clifford puts forth the idea that evolution would truly take place when man had no more body; then man would realize his full potential as a rational being. Lawrence makes Clifford the representative of a sterile version of life. Clifford's body represents the inherent decadence of such an attitude: he is in a state of physical disability because of his so-called mental facilities.

And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone bad. Therefore the novel, properly handled, can reveal the most secret places of life: for it is in the passional secret places of life, above all, that the tide of sensitive awareness needs to ebb and flow, cleansing and freshening.

p. 101

Lawrence inserts this meta-commentary in order to reflect on the form of the novel as medium of the times. The novel is a medium that is usually characterized by its prose and realism. It only came to be considered a "higher" art form in the early 20th century, whereas previously it had bordered on being mere entertainment literature. It was also a medium that dealt with the private lives of people, comprehending their relationship to life in terms of their own individualistic perspectives and particular experiences. Here, Lawrence is putting forth his own idea of what this medium can accomplish. He thinks that the novel can revivify the world by making experience feel new once more. The idea of a novel is not to observe the world like a scientist -- rather, Lawrence wants to create a true experience for his reader, one that would surpass the reader's conscious ability to boil down the content of a novel into knowable material.

In the short summer night she learnt so much. She would have thought a woman would have died of shame. Instead of which, the shame died. Shame, which is fear; the deep organic shame, the old, old physical fear which crouches in the bodily roots of us, and can only be chased away by the sensual fire, at last it was roused up and routed by the phallic hunt of the man, and she came to the very heart of the jungle of herself. She felt, now, she had come to the real bed-rock of her nature, and was essentially shameless. She was her sensual self, naked and unashamed. She felt a triumph, almost a vainglory. So! That was how it was! That was life!

p. 247

Shame is a cultural construct for Lawrence. It is something against which Constance has to constantly battle because it is deeply ingrained in her self-concept. For example, when Mellors is being terrorized by his wife, Constance feels ashamed. She wonders if she should just forget the whole affair. The social construct of shame impedes the ability of people to feel sensuously; ultimately, Constance realizes she prefers sensuality to shame.

This was a nasty blow to Connie. Here she was, sure as life, coming in for her share of the lowness and dirt. She felt angry with him for not having got clear of a Bertha Coutts: nay, for ever having married her. Perhaps he had a certain hankering after lowness.

p. 264

Even though Constance is supposed to be in love with Mellors at this point in the novel, she is not beyond a sensitivity to social norms. When she learns about the scandal of Bertha Coutts and Mellors, she starts to feel disgusted by Mellors by association. This shows her susceptibility to the idea of "respectability" (264). This is significant because it shows how Lawrence's characters to experience change in their identities. The love affair experience offers a potential for change in Constance, but this change is gradual in nature. Lawrence wants to show that it is a difficult process rather than a sudden revelation.

Any man in his senses must have known his wife was in love with somebody else, and was going to leave him. Even, she was sure, Sir Clifford was inwardly absolutely aware of it, only he wouldn't admit it to himself. If he would have admitted it, and prepared himself for it; or if he would have admitted it, and actively struggled with his wife against it: that would have been acting like a man. But no! he knew it, and all the time tried to kid himself it wasn't so. He felt the devil twisting his tail, and pretended it was the angels smiling on him. This state of falsity had now brought on that crisis of falsity and dislocation, hysteria, which is a form of insanity.

p. 290

Constance's analysis of Clifford is interesting because she conceives of him as a whole person beyond his conscious thoughts. Her evaluation of him is about the way he ignores his intuitive feelings. He is not attuned to the world, and instead he just uses his mind to try to rationalize the world. Lawrence wants to resist the understanding of the self as entirely within our conscious control: the self is not able to be divorced from the body's intuitions and emotions.

Anyhow I feel great groping white hands in the air, wanting to get hold of the throat of anybody who tries to live, to live beyond money, and squeeze the life out. There's a bad time coming... If things go on as they are, there's nothing lies in the future but death and destruction, for these industrial masses... But never mind. All the bad times that ever have been, haven't been able to blow the crocus out: nor even the love of women.

p. 300

Mellors has a pessimistic vision of the future, which is only saved by his optimistic hope that man's connection to woman can help save humanity. This pessimistic vision is tied to the rise of capitalism and the logic of capitalism, which is here symbolized by living according to money. Money is a means to an end; however, in a capitalist society, it becomes an end in itself. This makes society purposeless and "insane," as Clifford is often described: it is a lust for power, but without any idea as to how one ought to exercise that power. Man's natural connection to his feelings and his emotions seems to be the only resource left for Lawrence that would not be subjugated to this capitalist logic. He wants to present the hope for a different world, founded on human relations and real human need rather than a rationalized "logic."

"I believe in having a good heart, a chirpy penis, a lively intelligence, and the courage to say shit! in front of a lady." "Well, you've got them all," said Berry. Tommy Dukes roared with laughter. "You angel boy! If only I had! If only I had! No, my heart's as numb as a potato, my penis droops and never lifts his head up, I dare rather cut him clean off than sya shit! ... I'm only a mental lifer."

p. 39-40 (Tommy Dukes)

In this intellectual conversation at the beginning of the novel, the idea of sex is presented as a topic of debate. Why do men and women have sex? What is it good for? Clifford presents the idea that it is simply a bother, a primitive remnant of man's animal nature. Tommy believes that sex is something that actually shows a person's emotional liveliness and their "heart." However, the very act of discussing the subject - even if he believes the idea - does not seem to help Tommy find his own lively nature. This is probably why Lawrence chose to write fiction and poetry rather than philosophy. He believes that fiction presents the kind of experience that presents something beyond the intellect.