Discussion Post: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Hey, kids, it’s the last LT Summer 2010 Classic Challenge discussion post! While this is surely sad enough, it also means that this is your last opportunity to be entered in a drawing to win a stunning Penguin Clothbound Classic. So please do comment below with your thoughts about D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover!
As with all our Classics Challenge discussions, feel free to pick and choose from my questions, add your own, take the discussion to your own blog, or yell at me for totally misinterpreting your favorite book ever (if it so be). Thus, without further ado, to the discussion!
1. In Clifford and Oliver Mellors, we have two men representing the future and the past, the upper class and the lower class, the feminized male and the macho man, the intellectual and the ordinary thinker, the incomplete and the perfect. They are created as complete opposites of each other in almost every way. What do the choices Connie makes between these two from the start to the end of the novel say about her? And what point do you think Lawrence was trying to make?
I was actually quite surprised when I thought about the two men after I finished reading and realized that beyond the obvious physical opposition they presented, they were really as close to pure opposites in every way as is possible! All throughout reading the book, Lawrence seemed to be commenting on how modernization is not necessarily a good idea and I think that Connie’s choice of the more “ordinary” man was a device to underline this.
Rather than stay with Clifford, who seeks to modernize an old-fashioned system of mining and drag his properties into modernity, Connie chooses to run off into scandal with Mellors, who has tried out every traditional career path known to British man (starting as a teacher, then becoming an officer in the army in India, and then a groundskeeper!) before settling on being a farmer by the end of the novel. Aside from all the other arguments about society Lawrence presents, I think he personified Connie’s choice to make his point narratively as well.
2. How does Connie change over the course of the novel? How are her core values altered and why do you think they are?
I was quite disappointed with the way Connie changed from someone who valued intellectual compatibility and interest above physical desires to someone who throws away everything in pursuit of some hunky lovin’. (Not that I think she should have necessarily stayed with Clifford; he seemed to be uninteresting from the very start of their courtship and he only got worse after his accident in the war.) She seemed like an unusually intelligent heroine at the start who then dissolved into some Radcliffian girl prone to say things like “Oh, you’ll never leave me, would you? Say you never would!” or “You do love me, don’t you?” while “silently weeping.” Bah. Humbug.
3. Why do you think Mellors constantly switches back and forth from “proper” English to some form of brogue? Does it represent something more about him or is it merely an affectation or an act, as Connie seems to think?
Why indeed! I hope some of you have something to say about this since I just found it frustrating at all times (as usual). The only exception was the rather endearing episode in the middle where he switches to brogue and then Connie imitates him. I found that little bit to be probably the most genuine interchange in the entire book!
4. This is a novel that is best remembered for its raunchiness, but it seemed to me that it was more a social treatise with the saucy bits thrown in to garner readership. In between the sex and thinking about sex, the characters are far more likely to monologue about social ills or how society is changing than anything else. What did you make of this?
I was surprised, that’s for sure! All you ever hear about this book is how it’s terribly dirty and that you shouldn’t read it in public places (yes, I did have a few cheek-flaming moments on the bus with this one), but it actually has a lot of social commentary in it. I think it was written during an interesting movement away from the traditional country estates run as they had been for centuries (resident gentry at the top running things and ordering the nearby workers about, exacting rents, etc.) and towards more of what we have today (admittedly my knowledge of 20th century English country life is extremely limited, but I’m willing to bet the above way of life no longer survives). On the whole, it was fun to have this sort of discussion thrown in, particularly since it was tied back into Connie’s choice between the future-man and the past/traditional-man.
Favorite Part: I’m not sure I had one, actually, although if I had to choose I did like that little goofy Mellors/Connie scene with the brogue I mentioned above. I also liked Connie’s father and their friend the artist so it was nice whenever they entered into the thing.
Least Favorite Part: I really did feel pretty ambivalent about this book, so I didn’t really have a least favorite part, either! I guess I didn’t like that Connie and Mellors’ relationship had no basis in anything beyond each thinking the other attractive. Even as they “fell in love,” their conversations were still short, inane, often weepy, and almost always culminating in sex. Quite the relationship. I roll my eyes at them!