Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
In this story Constance Chatterley is married to Sir Clifford Chatterley, a wealthy older man whose paralysis from war wounds has left him sexually impotent. As Lady Chatterley enters into a passionate affair with the gamekeeper, the novel focuses on their passionate couplings, often describing them in graphic detail, and using language considered taboo in literature when the book was published.
Opponents of this novel have identified four aspects of the book that they regard as “obscene”: its portrayal of a woman as a sexually aggressive being; its depiction of an interclass relationship in which an aristocratic woman couples with a man “beneath her station”; its coarse language, which includes words such as “fuck” and “cunt”; and its depiction of “unnatural” (anal) intercourse.
In defending his book, Lawrence called attention to industrial England’s negative and paralyzing influence on people. He argued that his novel contrasted the cold anti- intellectual bent of his fictional Sir Clifford and his friends with the warm passion of Lady Chatterley and her lover, describing their acts not in moral, scientific, or judicial terms, but in sincere and “accurate” ways.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published in Florence, Italy, in 1928 by Guiseppe Orioli. It was banned almost immediately in Great Britain, whose home secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, declared it...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Dresden. German city known for centuries as one of Europe’s most beautiful and culturally refined cities. It serves as the place in which the novel’s protagonist Constance Chatterley gets her first taste of the delights of social interaction and sexual awareness. Constance’s father sends her there to summer at age fifteen, and it is in Dresden that Constance acquires a taste for art and politics, as well as the view that her burgeoning sexuality is an essential facet of her identity. In Dresden’s shaded parks and secluded alcoves she has a number of brief but passionate sexual encounters and returns to England a mature young woman in full command of her sensuality.
Tevershall. Fictional village in the center of England’s coal-producing region where most of the novel is set. Like many of the early twentieth century English coal towns on which it is modeled, Tevershall stands in ironic contrast to the traditionally idyllic, pastoral depiction of the English countryside offered in most nineteenth century Romantic literature. Lawrence describes the village as “trailed in utter hopeless ugliness . . . and willful, blank dreariness.” After Constance marries landed aristocrat Sir Clifford Chatterley, whose emotional and sexual indifference to her fuels the novel’s central conflict, Tevershall serves as a fitting backdrop for the emotional impoverishment she suffers while living there. She...
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Several critics have pointed out the allegorical nature of the book, which uses four-letter words, Clifford Chatterley's paralysis and the Sleeping Beauty motif to tell a fable about the fate of the modern world. Lawrence almost always argued for a blood-connection, for togetherness and organic intimacy rather than apartness and industrial manipulation. In Lady Chatterley's Lover the old social contract between the social classes has been destroyed, and all that is left is bullying between the working class with their unions and the industrial barons with their power of life and death over the laborers. Lawrence uses four-letter words to give the "phallic reality" its own "phallic language," he says; such words also serve to break the social contract, for according to it a "lady" would be aghast at such language. But the social contract is broken in this instance to create togetherness rather than apartness; the phallic language finally binds Mellors and Connie closer together.
Although Lawrence claims that he did not deliberately set out to paralyze Clifford, this lame heartless representative of the upper classes stands, Lawrence wrote, for "most men of his sort and class today," just as Mellors stands for the predicament faced by a man of spontaneity and real feeling in a false world. To typify the difference between the two men, Lawrence uses contrasts of nature imagery and mechanized description. Mellors, for instance, compares Connie to the...
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Lady Chatterley's Lover is both an extension of and an opposition to the novels of social criticism Lawrence wrote in the 1920s. Realizing that society would never be reformed through the political and spiritual leadership of superior men, Lawrence returned to his earlier themes (in The White Peacock , Sons and Lovers , and Women in Love ), and emphasized a kind of sexual relationship which expresses love and natural passion as the only salvation for a mechanized society. Had the book been published without fuss when it was written, no doubt it would now have a respected place in the Lawrence canon, for it is one of his final visions of social dissolution and individual regeneration, but in style and sweep it is not quite the equal of books like Sons and Lovers, Women in Love or the best of his short fiction.
Lawrence chose to experiment with four-letter words in the book, however, and it was censored in England and the United States. In the minds of some, the novel (available in the U.S. only in pirated editions until 1959) became an infamous mother lode of pornography, a paean to infidelity and obscenity. To others it represented the fate of true feeling and prophetic vision in a world given over to bureaucratic repression. The unexpurgated third version of the novel was not published in the United States for thirty-one years; it reached the bookshelves even then only after a series of court battles and much...
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Lady Chatterley's Lover was released as a movie in 1982 (Cannon Films, directed by Just Jaeckin). The cinematography effectively renders the English countryside and the imposing nature of Wragby Hall, the Chatterley family estate in the industrial Midlands. In that respect, the screenplay unclutters the novel, eliminating Lady Chatterley's family history and Clifford Chatterley's artistic and intellectual pretensions. That is, the movie treats the novel respectfully, but it also turns the book into a simpler story of a young vigorous woman burdened with a crippled husband. It is filmed with a restraint which violates the book's tone and passion; the simplifications make the characters two-dimensional, so that any prophetic resonance in the book is lost.
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Balbert, Peter. D. H. Lawrence and the Phallic Imagination. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. A group of essays on “sexual identity and feminist misreading,” including an extensive examination of feminist critiques of the novel.
Britton, Derek. Lady Chatterley: The Making of the Novel. Winchester, Mass.: Unwin Hyman, 1988. Traces Lawrence’s life from 1925 until the completion of the novel. Much detailed data.
Holbrook, David. Where D. H. Lawrence Was Wrong About Woman. Cranbury, N.J.: Bucknell University Press, 1992. Discusses Lawrence’s depictions of women characters in the major fiction, with a long, concluding chapter that argues that Lawrence fails in his attempt to portray Connie Chatterley as a free woman.
Squires, Michael. The Creation of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. Very detailed discussion of the development of the novel through the three versions that Lawrence wrote.
Squires, Michael, and Dennis Jackson, eds. D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady”: A New Look at “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985. Twelve essays covering the social and intellectual significance, the artistic techniques, the historical context, and the relationship to other works by the author of...
(The entire section is 193 words.)