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Lady Chatterley's Lover

D.H. Lawrence

Section V: Chapters 11 & 12

Section IV: Chapter 10

Section VI: Chapters 13 & 14

Summary

While sorting through a storage room with Mrs. Bolton, Connie finds the Chatterley's family cradle, and tells Mrs. Bolton that she is thinking of having a child. Mrs. Bolton is surprised, as Clifford Chatterley is impotent because of his paralysis. Still, she spreads the rumor throughout the village. Even Squire Winter hears the rumor. Clifford himself begins to speak of technological advances that will enable him to impregnate Connie. Connie, of course, has no intention of having a child with Clifford. She will soon travel to Venice to spend a month, and she plans to give birth to Mellors' child and tell Clifford--who has permitted her to have a child by another man--that she had an affair with a nobleman in Venice.

Connie travels to the coal-mining village of Uthwaite, and is deeply disturbed by what she sees: a landscape corrupted by the mines, men twisted and dehumanized by the work. The new industrial England is eclipsing the old England of countryside and manor-houses. All seems grim, gritty, hopeless. On her return, she has a conversation with Mrs. Bolton about the nurse's dead husband, killed in a mining accident. Mrs. Bolton reveals her bitterness towards the mining bosses and owners whom she holds responsible for her husband's death, and she speaks movingly of the memory of her husband's touch, the way that his physical love has stayed with her for the years since his death.

Connie goes to visit Mellors at his house. He seems uncomfortable to have her visit him there, reminded of the class-difference between them. As usual, he speaks to her curtly, and drops quickly into a bad mood. She tells him that she would like to bear his child, and he acts as if she had been using him for her needs. He will not touch her in the house. Instead he insists that they first go to the cabin, where they have sex. As in the beginning of their relationship, she keeps him at an emotional distance. She is a little bit afraid of sensual abandon, and she sees them as if from above, as if she were separate from the ridiculous act of lovemaking. She begins to sob, lamenting, "I can't love you." Yet when he gets up to go, she finds herself clinging to him, and in her need for him she receives him again. They once again have sex, and this time she comes to orgasm. The sex that from an emotional distance seemed ridiculous now seems warm and wonderful. Afterwards, she asks if he loves her, and he says that he loves her in that she opens herself to him. This satisfies her. Playfully, they speak to each other in his Derbyshire dialect, which she cannot quite master.

Commentary

In describing Connie's trip to Uthwaite, Lawrence issues one of the strongest indictments of the English industrial economy since Dickens. It is a portrait of a village filled with "half-corpses," whose "living intuitive faculty was dead." This section is one of the few places in the novel where Lawrence's emotion so overpowers him that he directly addresses the reader, and in which his explicit political stance comes out: "England my England! but which is my England?" Lawrence--for here there is no separation, one senses, between Lawrence himself and the narrator of the novel, and one might argue that this is one of the novel's failings--bemoans the transformation of old England, with its cottages and its stately manors, into the new England, choked by soot.

This hatred for the mining economy should not, however, be mistaken for a particular concern for the plight of the working man; Lawrence was not Dickens. Lady Chatterley's Lover certainly detests the coal mines, but it has curiously little sympathy for the men whose lives are degraded by working in the mines. (Just as, incidentally, it seems to have little sympathy for Clifford, a war-hero who was paralyzed in combat; human sympathy for victims is unusual here.) These men have been dehumanized, and as such Lawrence extends to them very little human sympathy. Critics of Lawrence's work have often noticed a kind of self-hatred in Lawrence's unsympathetic approach to the coal miners. There is a certain poignant force to Connie's horror at the coal-miners, as she imagines bearing a coal-miner's child: "Children from such men! Oh God, oh God!" Lawrence himself, of course, was the child of a coal-miner.

In an introduction to the novel, the American poet Archibald MacLeish points that, in Lady Chatterley's Lover, "One is never left in doubt as to what Lawrence is against in the modern, industrialized world, but it is less clear what he is advocating in its stead." Lawrence is no socialist, spending time in this novel mocking socialism. Indeed, he lays the blame for the coal-miners' dehumanization squarely on their own shoulders. And yet he seems to propose no alternative social ordering. What he evidences is a profound nostalgia for England's past, without real concern for the past's social and political imperfections. When Connie goes to Uthwaite, the reader will notice that one of the novel's chief complaints is the destruction of the old, aristocratic manor houses. The new King, Lawrence comments bitterly--for this is no longer the voice of Connie or of the narrator--occupies himself chiefly with opening soup-kitchens, not with preserving England's past. Lady Chatterley's Lover seems to advocate a return to an English heyday with a King concerned for the health of the aristocracy rather than the feeding of the poor, a heyday in which the aristocracy--with its lovely manors and perfect manners--reigned supreme.

Lady Chatterley's Lover does, it should be noted, make some provision for the health and sustenance of the coal-miners, who would be jobless in a return to pre-industrial England. This provision comes in the form of a plan by Mellors to restore the humanity and the dignity of the coal-miners, given in chapter 15. If Mellors had his way, he says, he would tell the coal-miners to stop working so hard: "no need to work that much." He would dress them in red pants and white jackets. Within a month, women--inflamed, presumably, by these outfits--would begin to act like women, and men would be real men. They could pull down the mining village and erect a "few beautiful buildings" to house everybody. What is remarkable about this plan is that Mellors seems quite passionate about it; Connie takes it seriously; and it is actually repeated in Mellors' letter to Connie which comprises the final pages of the novel. It is, indeed, one of the thoughts on which the novel ends. It may be understood, it seems, as a proposal that this novel takes seriously as an ideal vision for the future of the working classes. The reader must determine whether the serious proposal of this plan is a failing or strength in this novel; it should be evident, however, that this the novel is one which draws its power as a social critique not from its vision of a better future, but rather from its condemnation of a corrupted present. Still, the reader should not confuse baby with bathwater; at heart--however impractical and even ridiculous the specific plan might be--this novel and Lawrence believe that the social order will be improved when people learn to trust and appreciate their bodies and their sensual urges.

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