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Lady Chatterley's Lover

D.H. Lawrence

Section IV: Chapter 10

Section III: Chapters 7-9

Section V: Chapters 11 & 12

Summary

Wragby is virtually abandoned now. Clifford has withdrawn into his mining plans, listening to the radio, and talking with Mrs. Bolton. He maintains a sort of fearful worship of Connie, who increasingly despises him. With springtime, and the resurrection of the forest, Connie's misery seems all the harsher. She goes more and more to the hut in the woods where Mellors, the gamekeeper, is breeding pheasants to hunt. One day, in a spasm of hopeless tenderness for the young chicks, she has a breakdown at the hut. Mellors is there to comfort her; as he does so, his physical desire for her grows. She is mute and unresisting as he takes her into the hut and sleeps with her, but she stays separate from him in her mind, receiving no pleasure from the sex. They leave each other, and Mellors--now torn from his solitude--muses about the importance of desire and tenderness, and the evils of the mechanized industrial world. For her part, Connie is confused: she knows that she does not love Mellors, but is happy that he has been kind not to her personality--to her mind and intellect, which she is coming to believe are meaningless--but to "the female in her."

The next day, they meet once again at the hut. Reverting to his Derbyshire dialect, he asks her whether she is not worried that people will find out about her affair with a commoner, but she throws caution to the wind; they have sex again. Mellors deeply and sensually appreciates her body, but again she remains distant; during sex, she notices only how ridiculous his thrusting buttocks look.

For several days after, Connie does not go to meet Mellors in the cabin. Instead, one afternoon she takes tea with a friend of hers, Mrs. Flint, who has a newborn baby. Leaving tea, she runs into Mellors in the woods. Although she says she does not want to have sex, he lays her down on the forest floor, and she complies. This time, she has an orgasm simultaneous with his second orgasm, and the impact on her is profound. She feels that her body has awakened to him, that she adores him with all of her physical being. She spends that night in the company of Clifford, but the bond between them has been irrevocably broken. She is in a dreamworld, truly conscious only of the warmth inside of her. Clifford, on the other hand, is empty inside, beginning now to resent the distance between them.

That night, Mellors cannot sleep; he replays his life in his mind. On a late-night walk through the woods, he recalls his years as a soldier in India, and his unhappy marriage to Bertha Coutts. He reflects on the difficulty of his position: entanglement with Connie will be emotionally taxing, and will create any number of logistical difficulties. Where will they go? How will they live? He reflects also on his own loneliness, and realizes that loneliness is fundamental to the human condition. Standing outside Wragby in the darkness, thinking of Connie, he is seen by Mrs. Bolton, who--having guessed earlier by Connie's actions that she was having an affair--realizes that Mellors must be the man.

Commentary

This is the--no pun intended--climactic chapter in Lady Chatterley's Lover. It is here that Connie's sexual awakening begins, catalyzed by her powerful and revelatory orgasm on the forest floor. It is worth spending some time discussing the nature of her revelation, and the way in which this becomes the basis of the relationship between her and Mellors.

What should be noted first is that the novel's approach to the significance of sex and sexual relationships is quite vague. At times, it is almost opaque. This owes something to Lawrence's difficulty or reticence in clearly describing sexual scenes. In its time, Lady Chatterley's Lover was considered radically graphic; the difficulty with Lawrence's depiction of sex scenes is not quite a failure of graphic description, but rather a tendency towards the obscure and mystical. Thus, during the first sex scene between Mellors and Connie, Lawrence refers to Mellors entering "the peace on earth of her soft, quiescent body." In a novel that appears to flaunt its bold contempt for euphemisms, this is a strange euphemism, to say the least. The reader will also recall Lawrence's contortions when trying to describe Connie's naked body at the beginning of chapter seven; I, at least, have no idea what "glimpsey" thighs or "meaningful" breasts look like.

What seems evident is that Lawrence believes some mystical power to reside in the human body, and in the sex act, which cannot precisely be described. There is no real distinction, for the reader, between the three sex scenes depicted in this chapter, and yet the third scene, on the forest floor, proves orgasmic and profoundly meaningful. Lawrence gives the reader very little idea why this might be. It is simply taken for granted: Mellors brings Connie to orgasm simultaneous with his orgasm, and what results is the deepest of human connections. She begins to adore Mellors. Her increased passion even seems to guarantee her pregnancy: the physical stimulus of orgasm triggers a reaction of such psychological importance that it, in turns, stimulates her physically to pregnancy. "It feels like a child in me," Connie thinks. Surely, this is not a scientific but a mystical--a pseudo-pagan, even--explanation for her pregnancy.

Lawrence's mysticism makes it difficult for the reader to trace the evolution of love in Connie and Mellors; it is difficult to identify with them or understand their emotions, because their response is sensual, with sensory stimuli triggering deep emotion. In this sense, this is a very difficult chapter for the reader. Lady Chatterley's Lover refuses to act like a typical novel, familiarizing the reader with its protagonists.

I have observed that in many ways Lady Chatterley's Lover is a conservative novel. What information one can glean from the sex scenes between Mellors and Connie seems to support this assertion. The reader will notice that Connie is purely passive in all three of these sex scenes. It is in the third scene--the one where she successfully reaches orgasm with Mellors--that her passivity, even docility, is most explicit. She does not want to have sex with Mellors, but she yields to the force of his passion: "She was giving way. She was giving up." It is only through utterly surrendering herself to Mellors that she arrives at her sexual awakening. The reader will remember that the great sin of Mellors' wife, Bertha Coutts, is that she was sexually aggressive. Lawrence seems to exalt female passivity; women in his system become merely receptors. It is through passivity, through yielding to the male urge, he indicates, that women can be fulfilled. The reader will remember that on the night before Connie leaves for Venice (in chapter 16), when she is transported by sensual pleasure, she needs first to subject herself: "she had to be a passive, consenting thing, like. . .a physical slave." The contemporary reader may find this troubling; I certainly do. What must be said, I think, is that, however radical are Lawrence's graphic depictions of sex, his approach to the sex-act itself, and the roles of the sexes within it, is hardly progressive.

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