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Lady Chatterley's Lover

D.H. Lawrence

Section II: Chapters 4-6

Section I: Chapters 1-3

Section III: Chapters 7-9

Summary

Connie's attachment to Clifford survives her affair with Michaelis, although she realizes more clearly than ever that Clifford does not satisfy her. His success as a writer, however, brings many young intellectuals to Wragby. Among them are Tommy Dukes, Charles May, and Hammond, whose chief pastime is the discussion of love and the relationships between men and women. The men seem sexually progressive, espousing the idea of sex as a natural extension of conversation. The intellectual life seems to flow seamlessly into the sensual life. And yet there is something missing in these young intellectuals; their theory seems strangely divorced from practice. Tommy Dukes, the cleverest of them, believes in the importance of the intelligence coexisting with warmth of heart, sexual activity, and the courage to speak profanely. But he admits that he himself is incapable of this warmth and this open approach to sex and profanity.

One February morning, Clifford--in his motorized wheelchair--and Connie go for a walk in the woods on the Chatterley estate. The beauty of the untamed English countryside still survives in the forest, but the sulphurous smell of the coal mines encroaches on the wildness, and ubiquitous are places where the trees have been cut down to provide lumber for the war effort. Clifford speaks of his responsibility to preserve the woods as they were before the war. He is concerned also with preserving the Chatterley line and the aristocracy as guardians of tradition. To this end he urges Connie to have a child with another man, a child who could be brought up as heir to the Chatterley estate. Connie's having sex with another man, Clifford believes, would not be important, a momentary contact incomparable to the long marriage, the intertwining of lives. Connie agrees, although inwardly she foresees a time when she will become uncomfortable bound into a lifelong marriage. Immediately after Clifford and Connie's conversation, Mellors, the gamekeeper, comes into view. Clifford bids him accompany them to help the wheelchair up any hills. Mellors treats Clifford with cold respect, and utterly ignores Connie. He carries himself with a kind of innate nobility and aloof dignity.

Connie begins to realize, more clearly than before, that Clifford's injury in the war has also damaged his soul. His writing and his mental life, while clever, seem ultimately devoid of substance. Clifford's emotional vacuum spreads to his wife, and Connie begins to fear that her life will slip away into emptiness and indifference. In the summer, Michaelis comes to visit again, and they resume their affair. He offers to marry her if she divorces Clifford, and she, vulnerable, almost agrees. But later that night Michaelis becomes resentful and angry by their inability to achieve simultaneous orgasms. She is traumatized by his selfish anger, and their relationship falters; she feels that her sexual urge towards all men has been destroyed. In a conversation with Tommy Dukes, Connie laments the fact that men and women seem fundamentally incompatible. Dukes says that physical love and intellectual connection seem never to go hand-in-hand, and that men and women have lost their mystery, their attraction, their "glamour" to each other. Connie falls deeper into her depression, and further away from Clifford. She feels that love and happiness are unavailable to her generation. The only solace she takes is in the possibility of having a child.

Walking through the woods, Connie has a chance encounter with the gamekeeper, Mellors, who is yelling at his daughter. She intervenes, and takes the child back to its grandmother's cottage. Still later, she volunteers to bring a message from Clifford to Mellors. Walking up to the cottage, she sees him shirtless in his backyard, washing himself, and is struck by his warmth and vitality. When she speaks to him and delivers the message, she is again impressed--despite his aloofness, and the tinge of mockery that infuses everything he says to her--by the warmth and kindness of his eyes.

Commentary

This section establishes a clear contrast between the young intellectuals, with their clever but pointless theoretical conversations on love, and the gamekeeper Mellors, behind whose aloof facade there is a reservoir of warmth and passion.

Lawrence's portrayal of the young intellectuals is a devastating commentary of the English intelligentsia, the more effective for its subtlety. Tommy Dukes, especially, seems a sympathetic character. He is intelligent, funny and engaging. Moreover, he seems to have his heart in what Lawrence thinks is the right place, believing strongly in the importance of the sensual, and in sex as a vital means of communication between men and women. And yet Dukes himself is uninterested in women and in sex. His theoretical progressivism is empty and pointless; all of his conversations are without real substance, because they are without practical application. The failure of postwar intellectual thought, Lawrence believes, is not necessarily in its theoretical cowardice, but in its inability to go beyond words.

To a certain extent, then, Dukes serves as Lawrence's mouthpiece. Although ultimately he is exemplary of the effete intellectual, he voices the ideas upon which Lawrence would like to see society reconstruct itself. In this sense, Dukes fails as a novelistic character. He is a spokesman, not a man in his own right. At the beginning of chapter six, for instance, it is nearly impossible to take Dukes seriously as a man speaking his own thoughts and emotions. His words coincide too nearly with the general moral of the story: physical love has become incompatible with intellectual connection, and men and women lack allure, "glamour," to one another. It is one of the great failings of Lady Chatterley's Lover that the characters, on occasion, become subordinate to the social purpose of the novel. As the poet Archibald MacLeish writes in his introduction to the Modern Library version of the novel: "The characters are sometimes symbols rather than human beings and the propaganda purpose occasionally shows through."

The camera lens of the novel quickly changes focus. Immediately after Tommy Dukes' admission that he is unable to reconcile his theories on sensuality with his personal inability to feel sexual attraction, we are given a scene with Clifford and Connie in the woods. The contrast is striking. We are transported from the intellectual emptiness inside Wragby to the last remnants of an unspoiled, pastoral England. Mellors first comes into view in this setting, and we are told that he was dressed in "the old style." A gamekeeper familiar with the woods, he is a representative of wild England, and seems utterly incompatible with the bloodless intellectuals who congregate at Wragby.

Mellors' internal warmth, his sensuality, is inseparable from his connection to the forest, to old England. His ability to relate to Connie as a woman, then, cannot be distinguished from his ability to relate to the untamed land. By extension, it can be noted that the empty reliance on the mind and neglect of the body that characterizes Wragby, and that proves destructive to Connie's marriage, is the same illness that Lawrence believes afflicts the English countryside, manifesting itself in the soulless mining enterprises. Lady Chatterley's Lover observes that it is one pandemic illness that afflicts all of society.

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