Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
I started this book with curiosity, knowing that it had been extremely controversial–and banned, in places–in it’s time (the late 1920’s) due to Lawrence’s explicit descriptions of sex. After the first 50 pages, I almost put it down. My interest was spiked with the introduction of, ahem, Lady Chatterley’s lover, but not by much, and after finishing it, I still kind of wish I had just put it down.
After a short honeymoon, Clifford Chatterley goes off to fight in WW1 and comes home shortly thereafter paralyzed from the waist down. This is, of course, terribly depressing. He and his wife Connie make do for a while, living in intellectual and domestic intimacy and relative solitude. But over time, Connie gets tired of the “life of the mind”, of her husbands’ musings about industry and impersonal philosophy. She comes to crave something new, something carnal, something she can’t quite verbalize…and starts sleeping with the gamekeeper. Here, I thought, we were starting to get somewhere. But no! The affair was no less depressing to me than the suffocating life Connie led before it started!
So here was my biggest problem with the book: the whole thing is about sex, but the sex that Connie has with Mellors, the gamekeeper, is so unsexy. I mean, to me, anyway. Obviously I can only speak for myself here. But really, she practically sleeps through their entire first encounter. She “resigns” herself to him, because she is so tired and sad, and only seems to enjoy herself like, less than half the time, and cries a lot. It seems like the only sex they have is missionary-position intercourse in which she just lies there not moving, until Mellors “comes to crisis”. She doesn’t want to keep him going afterward, because of a previous jerky lover who complained about having to do it. Mellors is perfectly happy with this arrangement, and about halfway through the book even says out loud that he doesn’t like having sex with women who orgasm before he does, or after, either. His ideal woman would orgasm exactly at the same time as he does, and that’s that, which begs the question of why he bothers sleeping with women at all.
Of course, I know that such sexist and limiting sexual attitudes and practices were standard when this was written, and arguably still are to a large extent. But isn’t this book supposed to be about a sexual awakening? Aren’t sexual awakenings supposed to be fulfilling? I know that Connie does suddenly feel wonderful about the sex they have toward the end of the book, but I don’t really understand why or how she came to feel that way, as nothing really seemed to change between her and Mellors. Maybe all of this could have remained interesting had there been some other sort of chemistry between the two of them, but I wasn’t attuned to any. Their attraction seemed like a mild distraction from everyday life built up completely in their minds at best, but certainly not passionate or real in the way I think it was supposed to be. It didn’t have a whiff of romance to me at all, and it wasn’t enough for me that it was supposed to be huge improvement for Connie just because it wasn’t her life with Clifford. Their relationship was so unappealing! And, again, this was the ENTIRE BOOK. So you can see why it didn’t work for me.
I guess it might be a worthwhile read just to see what it was that could stir up such a fuss back in the day, if that’s your interest. The theme of industrialization and intellectualism vs. emotion and physicality was interesting, and I liked the way it was touched upon throughout the story. There were also some interesting implications about class, since the Chatterley’s are wealthy aristocrats and Mellors is a “commoner”, but my interest in these things was obscured by my upset over all the bad sex.
Has any one else read this? What did you think of it?