‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ is mostly remembered for its vivid depictions of sex. It was these that caused quite the stir when it was first published in 1928, and led to Penguin Books being put on trial for violating the Obscene Publications Act of 1959. Since then, the novel has been recognised as D. H. Lawrence’s masterpiece, and as well as sex, is known for tackling themes such as the conflict between the mind and body, and social class. While some people may just read the novel for the explicitly sexual passages, Lawrence uses the novel to convey his idea that people need sexual fulfilment as well as intellectual fulfilment, to become a fully ‘whole’ and enriched person.
Lawrence explains that Connie was attracted to Clifford because of his mind. It is explained that Clifford and Connie’s connection is not just about physical attraction, but is ‘deeper, much more personal than that’ D. H. Lawrence Lady Chatterley’s Lover (London: Penguin Clothbound Classics, 2009, p. 12). Their ‘passion’ comes from ‘mental attraction.’ This connection ensures that Clifford and Connie remain happy, until he returns from the war. He returns paralysed, and is described to be ‘in bits’ (p. 5). From this point on Clifford is not imagined as an actual person, but more as the remnants of one. Due to Clifford’s physical maiming, he and Connie do not have any sort of physically intimate relationship. It becomes all about their mind. The lack of sexual intimacy, coupled with Connie’s growing desire for a child, means that the two become more and more distant.
Clifford goes far enough to say that marriage is not about sex at all, but ‘companionship,’ and the idea of two people falling into ‘unison’ with each other (p. 8). Now, while what Clifford is saying is in part true, you do need an intellectual connection to have a partnership, this is not what love is totally about. In this conversation, Clifford also gives Connie permission to have an affair, with a man of high social standing, and should she fall pregnant, style the child as the heir to the Chatterleys’ estate. Not only is Clifford shutting down Connie’s hopes of any sexual contact, but also encouraging her to sleep with other men. ‘If the lack of sex is going to disintegrate you, then go out and have a love affair’ (p. 5). While Clifford, in his mind, is trying to tell Connie to be free and live as she chooses, for Connie it is not the nicest thing to hear, and she feels fairly rejected. Quite simply, Connie enters into an affair with Mellors because he wants her, and she wants to be wanted. Mellors sees her not as Connie, but as a woman, who has an untapped sexual desire. It is this that revives her, and essentially brings her back to life.
Connie’s attraction to Mellors is explained in her exclamation of ‘a body!’ (p. 66). When she first sees Mellors, she describes each aspect of his body, his arms, his torso, his loins. She is taken aback by his physique, and is also stunned because she has not seen he nakedness of a man in so long. Unlike Clifford, Mellors is a complete body, which is able to have sex with her. Mellors is able to give Connie everything that she wants at the moment, which is physical fulfilment.
Connie’s desire to be a mother also unconsciously propels her to have an affair with Mellors. While it is not in the forefront of her thinking, she is aware that her body feels ‘meaningless’ (p. 70) because she cannot bear Clifford’s child. While having sex with Mellors, Connie is aware that she ‘opened her womb to him’ (p. 121). So, not only does Mellors offer Connie physical fulfilment, but he also offers her the chance of having a child. This is hinted at when Mellors and Connie bond over Mellors’ chicks. The chicks resemble Connie’s own captivity, as she is trapped in her home with Clifford, as they are trapped in their pen. Mellors’ gentle control over the chicks hint at the tenderness of the relationship between Connie and Mellors.
While their affair is first based upon physical attraction, from this grows tenderness and a meeting of the minds. In each other, both Mellors and Connie find what they want in a sexual partner. Connie begins to feel whole when she is with Mellors, to the point at which she fears being apart from him. Connie fears the ‘terrible moment when he would slip out of her,’ and ‘clung to him’ (p. 133). Mellors and Clifford represent two opposing ends of the spectrum, and Connie throughout the novel toys and is thrown between the two. Mellors and Connie become so intimate that his sweat upon her becomes ‘holy’ (p. 137). Mellors becomes something that Connie covets, and desires. Me becomes essential to her being, she feels incomplete without him.
As Mellors ejaculates inside her, his ‘soul sprang towards her too’ (p. 239). Like Clifford describes, Mellors and Connie begin to fall into unison. However this unison is different to Clifford’s understanding of it, as Mellors and Connie fall into unison sexually, and intellectually. Lawrence’s use of the world ‘soul’ implies that Mellors’ and Connie’s connection goes beyond the physical world, and that the very essence of their beings have become intertwined. It is at this point, which occurs towards the end of the novel, that the reader is aware that Connie is supposed to be with Mellors, and not with Clifford. Being with Mellors is like being reborn for Connie, she is revitalised and renewed.
However, the two are separated at the end of the novel, as Clifford refuses to divorce Connie. Who should we feel sympathy for? It is difficult to say, considering that Clifford’s injury is not his fault, but his attitude and lack of understanding towards Connie is. Cheating should also not be condoned. Lawrence does not debate this at all really, and instead works to hammer home the point that the union of bodies and minds it what allows a person to feel whole and complete.
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