Lady Chatterley's Lover

by: D.H. Lawrence

Section VIII: Chapters 17-19

Summary Section VIII: Chapters 17-19

This is not a novel that ends with an epiphany, nor a climactic scene of action and emotion. Rather, it fades away. Instead of a revelation, there is a careful summary of the novel's central ideological messages; instead of tragedy or triumph, there is a certain measured circumspection, a tenuous promise of hope in a vague future. The English author Lawrence Durrell held this anticlimactic ending against the novel: "The book falls away rather sadly at the end. It had all the ingredients for a big tragedy, but it ends on a whimper."

Perhaps, however, the ending of Lady Chatterley's Lover should be evaluated remembering that the novel is as much an ideological tract as a work of living fiction. One way of reading Lady Chatterley's Lover is to view the narrative as the means rather than the end of the novel. This approach to the novel implies that in Lady Chatterley's Lover, the plot and the dialogue serve the purpose of conveying more effectively the novel's ideology, its set of social messages. Only secondarily do the characters assume depth and fictional reality; their primary function is to enact scenes that dramatize the novel's agenda. Thus it could be argued that Mellors is less a three-dimensional character in his own right than an embodiment of D.H. Lawrence's principles of sensuality and irreverence.

Lawrence Durrell faults Lady Chatterley's Lover for avoiding the "big tragedy" that might have brought a satisfying and dramatic ending to the narrative. But this sort of ending would not have been in keeping with the social purpose of the novel. Throughout, Lady Chatterley's Lover--most explicitly through the character of Mellors, in his role as the author's spokesman--expresses a deep pessimism about the future of English society. Mellors is reluctant to bring children into the world, which he feels is bound for disaster. In the postwar world of Lady Chatterley's Lover, tradition has been discarded, men have been emasculated and dehumanized by industry and greed, and women have forgotten sensuality.

There may be little room for optimism, but Connie convinces Mellors that there is room for hope. And the novel ends with Mellors writing Connie a letter that balances its condemnation of English society with a proposal for a massive societal transformation, and that ends both "droopingly" and "with a hopeful heart." Mellors awaits his divorce, while Connie is left in limbo, awaiting Clifford's consent for a divorce. A child will be born, but it remains to be seen whether Mellors and Connie will be able to live together and raise the child under the protection of their love, or whether circumstances will come between them. Thus the future of the protagonists is uncertain, just as the future of the English society portrayed in Lady Chatterley's Lover remains uncertain. A great tragedy, or a happy reunion, would run counter to the perspective of the novel on the broader future of society.

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