Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover Summary and Analysis of Chapters 15 - 16

Chapter 15

Upon returning from Mellors' cottage, Constance receives a letter from her sister Hilda at breakfast. Clifford hates that Constance is leaving because he does not feel safe about her trip. Meanwhile he tells Constance about his new project to sell his new fuel source. Constance thinks about the fact that to keep industry alive, there must be more industry created. She thinks of this as the insanity of the world.

At night, Clifford has been playing pontoon with Mrs. Bolton. This card game makes him intoxicated, giving him an intoxication of blankness.

The next time Constance sees the keeper, in the hut, she tells him she wants to go abroad with him. He tells her he ought to be divorced first. She asks him about his time as a lieutenant. He talks about his officer, who thought the English middle classes were a very narrow lot. He saw the way of the world as killing off the human thing, and worshipping the mechanical. The keeper also believes that modern people like killing off human feeling. He has an apocalyptic vision about the end of the world: everyone will end up being insane. For him, he declares, the root of sanity is "in the balls" (217). In the end, everyone cut off from their sensuality, will eventually kill one another, lovingly wiping each other out.

Constance declares that this is a nice vision. The keeper says it is calming to think about the end of the human species. He believes that killing off human instinct will end up killing the human species. He thinks it is wrong to bring a child into this world. Constance wants him to want a child though. He thinks about the future: he would want to have people not live for money, and he would wipe machines off the earth if he could. He believes men have been turned into labor insects.

She begins to feel he is talking to himself as he goes on and on. She takes off all of her clothes and goes outside, where it is raining. She dances naked in the rain, and the keeper joins her. He then has sex with her "like an animal."

They return to the hut and start a fire, where they dry off. He threads some forget-me-nots into her "mound of Venus" (her pubic hair). She asks him how he feels about her leaving. He asks why she is bothering to leave twice. He thinks she wants to take time to get some perspective on the situation, and he would not blame her if she wanted to stay married to Clifford, and mistress of Wragby. She tells him that they'll know better where they are when she has returned. There is a curious gulf of silence between them.

He tells her he has seen a lawyer about a divorce, and that it should go through as long as his wife does not return. He tells her he must live an exemplary life during the proceedings. Constance makes a plan to come visit him one last time before she leaves for Venice.

The keeper then goes outside and returns with several kinds of flowers. He threads some into her pubic hair, and he wraps one around hie penis. He says he is marrying Lady Jane and Sir Thomas.

Constance then returns home, feeling bothered by a comment the keeper has made about her having a lover in Italy. She bumps into Mrs. Bolton who has been searching for her in the wood.

Chapter 16

Constance arrives home only to be cross-questioned. Clifford is in a nervous frenzy because she had gone out during the storm. He is upset she did not even come home after the rain stopped. He had wanted to send two men after her, but Mrs. Bolton convinced him to send her instead.

Constance returns to Clifford, furious. She tells him that she danced naked in the rain and made a fire in the hut. Clifford is shocked, and is surprised that she was not wary of someone coming along. She tells him that said person would've had the fright of his life. Clifford then begins to discuss the book he is currently reading. He quotes the idea that the universe has two aspects: it is physically wasting away and it is spiritually ascending. Only a ripple will represent the physical world in the future. Constance thinks the idea is silly, and she thinks that the man who wrote the book must have been a physical failure, and wanted to dub the whole universe a failure. She personally declares that she would like to have her body, to remain there physically, as the greater reality. Clifford retorts that woman does not take part in the life of the mind. He believes that God is eliminating the functions of the body, slowly evolving out things like the alimentary system. Constance says that that is contrary to the feeling she has in her guts.

Clifford thinks about how Constance will soon be meeting new people and forming new bondages. Constance declares that she won't be entering any bondage. She feels her bonds with Clifford snapping. That night Clifford takes to gambling, unable to sleep.

Hilda comes to pick Constance up. Constance confides in Hilda about her plan to overnight in a nearby town but to return to the Wragby estate to spend the night at the keeper's cottage. Hilda is angry about the affair but she hides it. She dislikes that Mellors is not of their class. Hilda even begins to think of Clifford sympathetically, even though she had not liked him previously. Constance points out that Hilda is a socialist. Hilda responds that it is impossible to mix one's life rhythm with working class people. Constance responds that love can be wonderful. Hilda compares the feeling to how a mosquito must feel.

The evening Hilda meets Mellors when she drops Constance off. Hilda smokes some cigarettes at his place and they have some food. Hilda feels like Mellors is very affected, and that he is acting. She hates his dialect and tells him it would be more natural if he would speak normal English. He responds that it would be natural if she just said she wished him to hell. She retorts that good manners are natural. Mellors tells her that he is very weary of manners. They eat in silence. Then, Hilda asks if Mellors thinks that the affair is worth the risk. She tells Constance that she has to have some continuity in her life. Mellors points out that Hilda is in the middle of a divorce, and that she ought to leave folks to their own continuities. He tells her she deserves what she gets -- to be left alone. Hilda, upon leaving, declares that she does not think the affair will have been worth it.

That night, Constance and Mellors have plenty of tenderness, passion and sensuality. The narrator describes it as a "searing" sensuality that "burns" the soul (247), and manages to burn away all the shame that Constance might have felt by being an adulteress. She feels that the phallus alone could explore the deepest recesses of her shame. She thinks to herself that everyone was a liar, and that they claimed that one wanted sentiment from a relationship. Instead, she thinks that one needs sensuality.

The next morning, Constance leaves her nightdress at Mellors' place because it has split in two. She also makes him promise to live with her when she returns. A postman comes by early before Constance leaves and drops off a letter from British Columbia for Mellors. He tells Constance that they might run off to British Columbia, where he has a friend.

Hilda then comes to pick Constance up for their trip to Venice.


Mellors paradoxically has something of a 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. Constance's sudden desire to go dance naked in the rain is a better demonstration of his philosophy than talk itself is capable of. It is telling that they then have sex "like animals," because this corresponds to how Mellors approaches his own being in the world, as first an animal within nature.

Constance finally begins to break free of Clifford's controlling nature by asserting her disagreement with his philosopher's ideas. The irony of the scene though is that her rejection of the ideas in his book is a rejection of his self, because he is a physical failure, being paralyzed from the waist down. Clifford does not see this personal insult and takes everything as an idea.

When Hilda and Mellors meet, they are brutally honest with each other. Their conversation is evidence of the insanity of the class-based behavior of the British during this time period. While Hilda believes in socialist ideas -- that lower classes have a right to demand better working conditions, and to protect their humanity -- in practice, she fails miserably at treating a working class person as an equal human being. This is a typical move for Lawrence's literature: people act contrary to their beliefs all the time, and they are hypocritical because their ideas do not come from their life experiences. It is not that Lawrence is against all philosophy and all thought, but he believes that ideas need to revitalize themselves in sensual experience to retain their truth. Further, such ideas cannot be adequately expressed in words, but must also be acted out in life. When an idea divorces itself from life, for Lawrence, it becomes a dead thing, a display of hypocrisy.

It is notable that Hilda compares Constance's feeling of love to the kind of feeling a mosquito would have. A mosquito is a parasite, and only spreads disease. Hilda's comparison then implies that love is useless for society, and is only about filling one's belly. Lawrence wants to make the point though that it is not so bad to be compared to an animal. So when Mellors and Constance have sex, the comparison to "animals" is not that bad. One might also explore the function of dogs in Lawrence's works. Many of his characters have pet dogs, and they manage to treat their pets more humanely than the people around them.

During their last night together, Lawrence envisions that the power of their sensuality will be enough to destroy the last vestiges of Constance's ascription to false cultural norms, such as shame. He wants to believe in the hope that sensuality offers as a way of making peace with others and with the world, without being bolstered by false ideals.