Lady Chatterley’s Lover

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

The Work

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 obscene. This banning overlooked a British law permitting books with tendencies to “deprave and corrupt” to be reconsidered if they could be shown to serve some “public good,” such as a contribution to literature or learning. The British banning was imitated in the United States, where the book did not publicly surface until 1957, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roth v. United States ruling, defending “obscene” publications with “redeeming social importance,” was made.

Grove Press published the first unexpurgated edition of...

(The entire section is 827 words.)

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*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 regards the “soulless ugliness” of Tevershall as “unbelievable and...

(The entire section is 630 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Several critics have pointed out the allegorical nature of the book, which uses four-letter words, Clifford Chatterley's paralysis and the...

(The entire section is 406 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Lady Chatterley's Lover is both an extension of and an opposition to the novels of social criticism Lawrence wrote in the 1920s. Realizing...

(The entire section is 278 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Lady Chatterley's Lover was released as a movie in 1982 (Cannon Films, directed by Just Jaeckin). The cinematography effectively...

(The entire section is 114 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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 Lady Chatterley’s Lover.