The Characters (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
This work has essentially to do with a love triangle that accentuates the diverse qualities and dispositions of those involved; other characters by their very shallowness heighten the contrasts that are developed in the novel’s major encounters and confrontations. The romantic and sexual concerns of Constance Chatterley determine much of the action; it is a sense of self-discovery that impels her to pursue affairs that to many would be unthinkable for a woman of her social position. In the beginning, she is described as “full of unused energy” and not quite certain of what she wants. Nor does she realize immediately how stifling her marriage with Clifford will become. At the age of twenty-seven, she takes on extramarital lovers. After the affair with Michaelis, her sexual wants become identified with her longing for a child; with Mellors there are more openly sensual stirrings. Much of the narrative, albeit written in the third person, conveys Constance’s point of view; her thoughts and impressions at many junctures are shared with the reader. Her reactions to sexual climax, as much as those of the men, are evoked in bright metaphorical language. More than the others, she is torn between the older ties of family, social class, and the life of the mind, on the one side, and on the other her own felt needs for affection and sexual gratification. The initial disharmony of the two spheres is great, and the realignment of her physical and moral selves is...
(The entire section is 866 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sir Clifford Chatterley
Sir Clifford Chatterley, the owner of an estate at Wragby in the Midlands of England. He has a considerable income from coal mines that his family has controlled for generations. His father, Sir Geoffrey, baronet of Wragby, reared him with the expectation that one of his sons would carry on the family tradition of service to England. When Clifford’s older brother Herbert is killed in World War I, Clifford is encouraged by his father to marry; after a brief courtship, he marries Constance Reid. A war injury paralyzes the lower half of his body. At the age of twenty-nine, though his physical handicap is devastating, he is a handsome man, with a ruddy face and broad shoulders, and always dresses in expensive clothes. Big and strong, with a quiet, hesitating voice, he is extremely dependent on his wife, who supports his ideas and assists him in the physical functions he can no longer manage by himself. In an effort to make his mark on the world, he attempts to write short fiction and is moderately praised by critics and social commentators. This work proves to be an unsatisfactory outlet for his energies and ambitions. He had studied the technicalities of coal mining in Bonn before the war and now turns his attentions to improving coal production in his mines. Although he describes himself as a “conservative anarchist,” he is interested in the working class only in terms of theoretical speculation and is very much a man of...
(The entire section is 1332 words.)
Lawrence's hero Mellors, the gamekeeper, is an outsider, a man of natural intellect and superiority who has chosen to abstain from conventional society lest it corrupt him. In his hut in the woods of the Chatterley estate he lives according to his sympathetic life. Unlike the heroes of Aaron's Rod (1922) or The Plumed Serpent (1926), however, Mellors has no hope of political reform; he is closer to modern-day "back-to-the-landers," and wishes only to live in close communion with nature, apart from society, seeking balance and harmony. In "A Propos of "Lady Chatterley's Lover,'" an essay Lawrence wrote in defense of the censored and pirated novel, Lawrence argues that "we must get back into ... vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos and the universe. The way is through daily ritual, and the reawakening." Mellors, he goes on to say, is in relation to the universe, but without the relation to a woman he will lose his vital meaning, for modern society is managing to destroy him.
Clifford Chatterley, on the other hand, undergoes a process of dehumanization. In Lawrence's system, he has no sympathy. During World War I he is paralyzed from the waist down. This paralysis is symbolic of a deeper spiritual paralysis. As the book progresses Clifford first pursues success as a writer of "rather spiteful ... yet ... meaningless" stories admired by a small coterie. Then he becomes enamored of his coal-mines, which are depleted but can be resuscitated...
(The entire section is 438 words.)