In the introduction to the Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sarah Scott writes that it was, “banned as pornography, an uncensored version was not allowed in Britain until 1960.” The idea that the novel was once thought scandalous and remains popular today, makes it a book many people would like to read. Even those who have not yet read the text are familiar with its premise; Lady Constance Chatterley finds herself in a sexually unsatisfactory marriage to Lord Clifford, a paralyzed World War I veteran, and she seeks comfort in the arms of Clifford’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. Thus, a reader of the novel finds within its pages the story of a woman experiencing the travails of her intellectual, physical, and moral relationship with her husband in opposition to her desires for another life. Through his depiction of the Chatterley’s, Lawrence encourages his reader to consider what makes a happy marriage: Is it love or lust that satisfies in the end? How can a person remain content when her partner’s actions and ideas vastly contradict her own?
After Clifford returns home from the war unable to perform the act of intercourse, he decides that sex in a marriage is only necessary to create children, and he and his wife, Connie, can live a satisfying life without it. At first, Connie thinks her acts of nurturing and providing intellectual stimulation for Clifford prove her love. Soon, due to the societal and economic pressures involved in carrying on the Chatterley name, Clifford convinces Connie she should find a lover and produce an heir. At first, Connie dismisses the notion. But, in pondering treatment of the aristocracy by lower class people and the way the Chatterley’s make their fortune off of the suffering and labor of poor coal miners in Teversall, Connie begins to understand that even on an intellectual level, she and Clifford are dissimilar. His arrogance and lack of empathy drive her away.
When Connie begins visiting Mellors’ cottage on the Chatterley property, Wragby, she does it to escape her depression and loneliness from attempting to meet Clifford’s needs day and night while receiving nothing in return. She realizes that although Clifford asked her to produce an heir, the child of a man from Teversall is an unacceptable alternative. Although the unhappily married gamekeeper, Mellors, shows little interest in becoming involved emotionally or sexually with another person, as Connie continues to pursue meetings in the woods with the mysterious man, he begins to notice her. There are hints that Mellors does something for Connie that Clifford never will. “A strange weary yearning, dissatisfaction had started in her. Clifford did not notice: those were things he was not aware of. But the stranger knew. (47)” There is a hopelessness that abates for Connie and Mellors when they are together. As she continues to analyze her role as Lady of Wragby Hall and Clifford’s treatment of others, including Mellors, she feels more emotionally tied to Mellors than Clifford.
What starts out as lust and longing in both Connie and Mellors slowly blooms into feelings of attachment and love. Clifford disregards Connie’s opinions and needs in exchange for his ambition. Connie refers to the desire for success, money, and respect she views in Clifford and his contemporaries as “the bitch-goddess,” which, over time increases her disgust in her own life and the one Clifford leads. On the other hand, Mellors, a former member of the Royal Army, does all he can to escape all that goes along with the “bitch-goddess,” by living alone with few possessions and little money. It becomes obvious that Connie and Mellors are truly in love when both are willing to sacrifice the lives they have worked for only to be persecuted by society in order to be together. What would happen if they ran away together? How would the world view their relationship?
The raw and unedited nature of the sexual relationship between Connie and Mellors exposes them completely. Lawrence shows how feelings and actions drive humans to make decisions they might not choose without the prospect of a body and soul connection. He conveys their need to be together through the pleasure and happiness the two receive from each other. In this way the text is truthful, meaningful, and beautiful.
Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars