Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
The outlook for English society at large, as depicted in this novel, is bleak and desolate. World War I, with its immense human sacrifices, has brought suffering and despair; neither gentry nor commoners have been spared. The German lovers of Hilda and Constance were both killed during the first year of hostilities; Clifford’s brother fell later on, and Clifford himself came so close to death, and was so severely maimed, that he could never again seem lighthearted or flippant. Most of the men in the novel knew someone who was killed or wounded in action; some years after the armistice, ugly wounds remain in the nation’s psyche from the “false inhuman war.”
An older but equally insidious destructive force is the transformation of the countryside by industry, which has left sooty, blackened villages and towns to mark the passing of the old England. The pollution of the landscape imparts a darker tone to all that takes place in the nation’s heartland: “The utter negation of natural beauty, the utter negation of the gladness of life” accompany the onward march of industrial growth. Human relations in some ways are still transfixed by the old bonds of class and property. The Reids and the Chatterleys continue to regard themselves as scions of the aristocracy; Sir Clifford’s family ranks somewhat higher among the well-bred families of the kingdom, and he seeks further to advance his position by combining his inherited estate with the new wealth...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
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