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Lady Chatterley's Lover

D.H. Lawrence

Section VII: Chapters 15 & 16

Section VI: Chapters 13 & 14

Section VIII: Chapters 17-19

Summary

Connie learns that she will be leaving for Venice soon; Clifford makes her promise that she will come back to him, but she is secretly planning her final escape. She meets with Mellors in the cabin during a rainstorm, and they discuss running away to the British colonies. He also tells her about his time in the army, and about the colonel who became his surrogate father. He explains his theory of social decline: English society is faltering because technology and industry have emasculated English men. Eventually, men will be drawn in their despair to wipe each other out. It would be a shame, he says, to bring a child into this world. Connie--planning to bear his child--begs him for a sign of hope, and he talks about the way society can be repaired. The working classes will have to stop subjugating themselves to the industrial machine, and recover the life of the body. Machines will have to be destroyed, and manhood restored.

Connie suddenly leaves the cabin, and runs outside. He joins her, and they dance naked in the rain, and have sex on the ground. They go back into the hut and warm themselves before the fire. Running his hand over her "secret places," he tells her she has a beautiful body, that he adores her in all of her base physicality. They discuss the future, planning to run away together and have a child; they will both pursue divorces. They agree that she will spend the night before she leaves for Venice with him in his cottage. They fall into a lover's game, intertwining flowers in each-others' pubic hair, playfully referring to the wedding of their genitals, Lady Jane marrying John Thomas.

It is late, and raining. On her way home, Connie runs into Mrs. Bolton, who has been sent to look for her. They return to Wragby, where Clifford scolds Connie for impetuously running around outside in the rain. That night, Clifford reads to her from a book that predicts the spiritual rise of man, and his physical decline. But Connie has been converted to the worship of the sensual and physical. She decries the spiritual life, the life of the mind, and valorizes instead the human body, predicting a future blessed by the realization of the body's preeminence. Clifford is taken aback. After a conversation with Mrs. Bolton--who sometimes serves as her expert on male psychology--Connie realizes that Mellors was probably depressed in the hut because he was angry with her for going to Venice.

Hilda arrives to pick up Connie for the trip. Connie explains her plan: they will leave Wragby, acting as if they are departing for Venice, but Connie will spend the night at Mellors' house. The next day Hilda will pick her up and they will make good their departure. Hilda is appalled to learn that Connie is having an affair with a common gamekeeper; nevertheless, she agrees to abet Connie in her subterfuge. That night, Hilda drops Connie off at Mellors' cottage, and Mellors and Hilda confront each other. She treats him with contempt and condescension; he responds by reverting to his Derbyshire dialect--asserting himself as a common, earthy man--and accusing her of sexual frigidity. They do not get along. Connie spends a night of pure sensual passion with Mellors, in which she reaches new heights of sexual pleasure through passivity before his masculine will, learning in the process to discard shame and convention. In the morning she leaves for Venice.

Commentary

In his essay "A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover, Lawrence explained at length the mentality he was trying to combat with his frank sexuality and worship of the body. "The mind," he writes, "has an old groveling fear of the body and the body's potencies." He observes that even the likes of the great poet and satirist Jonathan Swift seemed afflicted by a terror of the body: "The insanity of a great mind like Swift's is at least partly traceable to this cause. In the poem to his mistress Celia, which has the maddened refrain, "But--Celia, Celia, Celia s---s" (the word rhymes with spits), we see what can happen to a great mind when it falls into panic." According to Lawrence, even a great wit like Swift could not see how ridiculous he made himself. "Of course Celia s---s! Who doesn't? And how much worse if she didn't. And then think of poor Celia, made to feel iniquitous about her proper natural function, by her "lover." It is monstrous." Lawrence was appalled at the idea of people feeling shame about their bodies. Shame, for Lawrence, was simply a manifestation of fear. Chapters 15 and 16 in Lady Chatterley's Lover are, to a great extent, the chronicle of Connie's loss of shame, which disappears during her passionate night with Mellors before her departure for Venice. And these chapters contain what almost seems a direct response to Swift's unhappiness at acknowledging physicality in his lover: "An' if tha shits an' if tha pisses, I'm glad," says Mellors.

It is during that night between Connie and Mellors that the reader gets the clearest picture of their relationship. Throughout their affair, Connie has asked him whether or not he loves her. He always responds with a qualified answer: he loves that he can touch her; he loves sex with her; her loves her for her physicality. And here it is confirmed with crystal clarity: "It was not really love. . .It was sensuality."

Love, it seems, requires the interaction of minds. Connie and Mellors rarely speak, and when they do it is rarely real, intimate conversation; either Mellors fulminates, losing his individuality in acting as a spokesperson for Lawrence, or they engage in a kind of meaningless love-prattle. Their attraction instead grows out of sex and sensuality, an attraction more bestial than personal; she is a "bitch," he is a "wild animal." The entire point of the relationship between Connie and Mellors is that it is shaped not around their personalities, but around a kind of wild, depersonalized, primordial sex-force. It is telling that, as Connie reveals to Hilda, the paramours never refer to each other by name: they only call each other John Thomas and Lady Jane, pet-names for genitalia. Indeed, Lawrence called the penultimate draft of this novel "John Thomas and Lady Jane." And in Mellors' letter to Connie with which the novel ends, the final sentence is a salutation not from one person in love with another, but from John Thomas to Lady Jane. In the language of the book, he has become a "phallus," she a "cunt": and this is--for this novel--the highest, and the purest, human aspiration.

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