Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover Summary and Analysis of Chapter 13

Chapter 13

One Sunday Clifford and Constance go out into the wood together. He jokes that his wheelchair, as his "steed," is like riding on the achievement of mankind's mind (179). The couple discusses the possibility of a strike by the workers in the coal mines. Clifford says he believes it will not happen, because the people do not want to ruin the industry that feeds their bellies. (He does not think that people can give up their essential necessities in order to demand a better life.) He believes the form of industry itself will be kept alive. According to his view, they will realize that industry comes before the individual, and that the structure of such industry must be kept intact for them to receive work.

He goes on to expound on a larger view of class. According to him, one is not born with any natural disposition for a class, but one is only a product of one's environment. However, social life must be divided into a ruling class and an obedient one for it to function. The rulers become responsible for keeping the mechanism of society running. Individuals may make up the aristocratic ruling class, but they function as a whole. Where an individual lands - either in the masses or in the aristocracy, is a mere matter of fate for him.

Constance tries to argue against him, but she finds that words and logic fail her. She knows there is something true in something he said, but she also thinks that such a truth kills (183).

The keeper appears nearby as Constance and Clifford are trying to get his wheelchair up a hill. Constance wants to help the chair along but Clifford insists on letting the chair do the work itself - it is, after all, supposed to have an electric motor that can work on its own. Mellors (the keeper) comes to assist them. Clifford continues to insist on repairing the motor, and not pushing the chair. They finally get the chair going, but Clifford then realizes it is all through Mellors' manual effort and he gets upset. In the end, they end up compromising such that the motor does about fifty percent of the work and Mellors the other half. Constance jumps in and helps push the chair up the hill, realizing how much work it is for Mellors. He also mentions that he has had pneumonia so manual labor is difficult for him.

When they finally reach the top of the hill, Constance realizes that these two men "mutually exterminate" each other (190). She is very angry with Clifford, and realizes that she hates him for the first time. Later, at dinner, Constance scolds Clifford for making Mellors, a sick man, do so much work. She asks what he would have done for Mellors had the situation been reversed. She accuses him of not actually being an aristocratic ruler, but merely someone who happens to have more than his share of money. And, with this money, she adds, he makes people work for him so that they can feed themselves.

Later, she finds Clifford reading a book by Proust. He says that he enjoys Proust because he has a "well-bred anarchy" (194). Constance retorts that she finds Proust boring, and that he doesn't have real feelings, just a lot of streams of words about feelings. Instead, she says, Proust is full of self-important mentalities.

That night, Constance slips out of the house with anger and rebellion in her heart, to be with Mellors.


The difference between an idea and its practical realization is depicted in this chapter. Clifford asserts the belief in a kind of order that simply exists, and to which man must subjugate himself. During Lawrence's time, social science was a rising field, and it was attempting to assert itself as a kind of science itself. It was based on the belief that from observing society, one could deduce what laws are at work in it. One could then come up with the natural laws of all social order. Clifford's own ideas are based off of his observation of how things are, and he deduces particular laws from this existing order. However, Lawrence's critique of this idea is that such a devotion to law is a devotion to a pure, empty form with no real connection to a satisfying life. He believes that man needs to constantly evaluate whether or not a societal structure is really fulfilling to him -- he needs to make sure that forms are always engaged with life. Otherwise, one ends up like Clifford, making a god of order itself without any sense of what one's true emotions are. One ends up serving a machine without any sense of what that machine is any good for.

Clifford's wheelchair is a symbol of the kind of formal structure that man builds in society and which is supposed to operate on its own. Lawrence is hinting at the fact that such a mechanism does not at all work on its own - and instead, it exploits the very people who created it in the first place. It uses their energy and pretends to function on its own, much as Clifford momentarily believes that the motor is working and Mellors is not at all putting his labor into the machine. This is a commentary into the working classes' situation at the time. He is showing how society saps the energy from the working class people, trapping him into a particular situation that deprives him of his humanity.

Lawrence's reference to Proust indicates how Lawrence differentiated himself from more mainstream modernists. Proust was interested in depicted consciousness, and the way in which man endows the world with meaning through memory, and the reflection of lived temporal experience. Lawrence is against reflection, and he is against trying to impose a meaningful order on the pure experience. He wants to encourage a naturally lived life, a reconnection with one's inner impulses, rather than an overly conscious distortion of one's experiences into well-ordered constructs.