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Lady Chatterley's Lover

D.H. Lawrence

Section III: Chapters 7-9

Section II: Chapters 4-6

Section IV: Chapter 10

Summary

Some of Clifford's friends, including Tommy Dukes, are at Wragby, and they have a discussion about the relationship between the body and the future of civilization. Clifford looks forwards to civilization's utter elimination of the physical, to the extent of birthing babies from bottles. Tommy Dukes, always theoretically correct despite his personal sexual frigidity, believes that the salvation of civilization is in "the resurrection of the body" and the "democracy of touch." Connie, as always, agrees with Dukes. Meanwhile, however, her own body is fading. At 27, isolated so long from physical passion, Connie has lost the bloom of youth; her body is slackening and withering. She begins to feel a sense of injustice, as if she has been wronged, and the blame falls on Clifford, with his cold, aristocratic reserve.

Connie's depression continues unabated, and her sister Hilda comes to comfort her. Together, they decide that Connie can no longer be shackled to Clifford as his sole caretaker; instead, they hire Mrs. Bolton, a local nurse, as Clifford's caretaker and companion. Mrs. Bolton's husband was a coal-miner who died in the mines owned by Clifford's family. She thus resents him as an oppressor and an industrialist, a member of the upper class, but, at the same time, however, she worships his wealth and nobility.

Freed from the responsibility of caring for Clifford, Connie's physical and psychological health begin to improve. In her walks in the woods, she seems inexorably drawn to the gamekeeper, Mellors. She comes upon him one afternoon at a hidden hut, where he is raising pheasants for Clifford to hunt. Although he is attracted to her, Mellors resents her presence; having been wounded in the past by love, he jealously guards his solitude. Connie asks him for a key to the hut so that she can come frequently, and Mellors becomes sullen and disdainful, shifting from English into the crude local dialect to mock her for her aristocratic pretensions. This happens a second time: they meet again at the hut, and he again dodges her requests for a key to the hut, trying to keep her at arm's length in his desire for solitude. Still, in contrast to Clifford, Mellors seems an improvement.

Indeed, Connie is developing a deep distaste for Clifford. Walking with her husband, Connie is struck by his insensitivity, by his inclination to intellectualize every physical sensation. She believes that, in his pursuit of success, he has become single-mindedly maniacal. And although Clifford still feels attached to her, he is transferring his attention to Mrs. Bolton, becoming completely reliant on her. Even as he treats her with aristocratic contempt, he is like a small child in her care; and she is thrilled by her contact with the upper-class. Mrs. Bolton incessantly shares the local gossip with Clifford, who begins for the first time to think seriously about the local villages, and about the coal mines in which the local men work, mines which Clifford owns but ignores. He decides to pursue success through revitalizing the dying local coal industry. And the tension between him and Connie continues to grow.

Commentary

Lady Chatterley's Lover diagnoses the illnesses in English society, and--although less precisely--suggests a cure. One of the chief social concerns of the novel is the problem of the English class system. In this novel, the nobility-- represented by Clifford Chatterley-- is portrayed as hopelessly emasculated and consumed by greed. The aristocrats are the self-appointed guardians of the land and of English tradition. But they seem to care little about the common people who live on their land and work for them. Coal miners become cogs in Clifford's industrial machine, and he has no sense of them as individuals; the irony, of course, is that Clifford himself becomes a servant of the machine, prostituting himself for success. But this novel by no means glorifies the working man. In a particularly wrenching passage in chapter 11, in which Connie drives into a mining village, she finds the people utterly degraded and dehumanized, forcing themselves into industrial servitude in their mindless pursuit of money.

It is noteworthy in this context that Oliver Mellors, this novel's ideal sensual man, seems to be neither aristocrat nor working class. Certainly, he was born into a working-class family, and worked for years as a blacksmith. But Lawrence is quite explicit on several occasions that Mellors seems to have an innate nobility that makes him the equal of any aristocrat. And Mellors earned a lieutenant's commission in the army, usually the preserve of noblemen. Mellors is capable, the reader will note, of shifting between the high-English accent used by Connie and the broad, coarse, Derbyshire accent used by the coal miners. He uses this Derbyshire accent, it seems, to mock Connie when she acts too condescendingly towards him, resorting to it whenever he is forced to recall his social inferiority; the question of whether this is an obnoxious habit, and whether Mellors is himself an obnoxious person, is wide open. Mellors' position outside the class structure makes him Lawrence's idealized man--in Lawrence's mind, graceful and noble enough for philosophizing, and savage enough to appreciate sensuality--but it also has the negative effect of making him something of an idea, rather than a man. He seems, as the writer Lawrence Durrell observes, something of an "abstraction," a man created in a laboratory perfectly to conform to the author's needs. He is an unnatural addition to the world of Lady Chatterley's Lover, a world riven by class barriers: a man without class allegiance, but partaking of the strongest qualities of every class.

Perhaps the most fascinating relationship in this novel is the relationship introduced in this section between Clifford Chatterley, the crippled aristocrat, and Mrs. Bolton, the working-class nurse who becomes his sole companion and caretaker. It is probably Lawrence's most honest grappling with the question of inter-class relationships. Mrs. Bolton is no classless abstraction, like Mellors; rather, she is deeply rooted in the working class, and it is a complex tangle of emotions that connects her to Clifford. He depends upon her, but disdains her; she serves him, but also controls him, for he is powerless on his own. And she has an awe of aristocrats, while despising them for their treatment of the working class. As the novel progresses, their relationship assumes something of the quality of a romantic love affair, even as it remains a master-servant relationship; a companionship between friends; and a mother-child relationship, with Clifford completely dependent on Mrs. Bolton.

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