Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a book that sparked controversy for decades after its initial publication because of its frank discussion of sex. Today it stills causes debate from readers. It seems that when reading D.H. Lawrence’s final novel you either love it or you hate it. Except, I’m still not sure where I stand.
It’s interesting coming to a book that had been so taboo in it’s heyday at a time where sex undoubtedly sells. The ‘c’ word isn’t as shocking anymore, neither are the scenes between the two lovers, Connie and the game-keeper, Oliver Mellors. We’re desensitized because we’ve been exposed to it so often, but as a contemporary reader, I can appreciate why this book caused the outcry it did, and why it was repressed. But I think it’s representation of class had something to do with that too.
I felt sympathy towards Connie at first as a young woman placed in an isolating position. She has no friends in the village of Tevershall, no confidantes but instead has to entertain the intellectuals her husband invites round to Wragby, who exclude her from their discussions. After suffering debilitating injuries in the war, her husband Clifford has become dependent on her for most things but the biggest threat to their relationship is that Connie realises the man she’s married to isn’t the man she married. Over time, Clifford seems increasingly desperate to clutch onto Connie, becoming more petulant and stubborn.
Connie makes a connection with an individual who seems equally alone and at odds with the world. Oliver Mellors is an ex-soldier, who comes to Wragby to distance himself from the town he grew up in, preferring to spend his time in solitude than with others. After several encounters the two begin an affair.
The relationship between Connie and Mellors felt unexpectedly uncomfortable. Connie’s attraction to Mellors seems puzzling when she doesn’t know him and doesn’t appear to enjoy their sexual encounters. Sexual awakening is a prominent theme in the novel, and as their affair develops, Connie becomes more sexually engaged, but what unconscious impulse drives her initially? Perhaps it’s the sensations in her womb that are frequently referenced (which can almost be overlooked considering the time Lawrence was writing in). And once their delicate relationship is established she continually demands reassurance of his love and their future, but he seems resigned to it.
Their romance shines more clearly in the moments when they are physically vulnerable. In their nakedness they are emotionally exposed and these are the times they seem the most harmonious with each other and were my favourite parts of the book.
Despite the bleakness of the industrial town and their situation, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has a surprisingly hopeful ending. It’s not the love story I expected.