Modernism: Sexuality in 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'


Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H Lawrence centers upon Connie Chatterley, whose marriage to paralyzed Clifford is driven by intellectual means rather than sexual expression. Upon the arrival of gamekeeper Oliver Mellors, an instant attraction culminates in a passionate love affair that awakens Connie's sexuality. Prior to modern times, the dynamic of a relationship was of an intellectual one, barren of desire and to accommodate class and societal demands. Lady Chatterley's Lover confronts readers with scenes of illicit passion, attraction, and sex to establish a sense of normality and their prominence in a romantic relationship. The emergence of modernism abolished traditional ideas and structures, diving into a new wave of cultural identity that enabled authors such as Lawrence to explore sexual relations within his novel. Henceforth, Lady Chatterley's Lover is paramount in accessing new concepts of feminine sexuality without punishment of the narrator, enabling readers to witness a more organic romance through sexual relations.






Lawrence stresses the loveliness of sex and its power to unify people on a spiritual and physical level. Sexuality should not remain dormant but explored with uttermost excitement; females especially should not shy away from their desires and yearning for intercourse, nor be shamed, for it is a natural part of human growth. Due to the controversy that Lady Chatterley's Lover has received, it has often been referred to as pornography and therefore was banned in the U.S for some time; however, Lawrence was quick to dismiss such tastelessness by stating, "pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it" (Lawrence 1929). The novel's impetus was to represent sexuality as essential for human exploration of not only their bodies but also other people too, being the ultimate connector of the mind and body, which challenges the hierarchy that previously separated the two, for intellect was deemed more acceptable than the sensuality of another. Throughout the novel, Lawrence highlights how the connection of the mind and body creates a physical and spiritual awakening, hence why Clifford's "relationship with Connie" was "barely spiritual and passionate like the deadwood" (Wang p. 26) since during his service in World War I he became paralyzed from the hips and therefore unable to satisfy his wife. Because of his deadened existence throughout the novel, Clifford and Connie barely share intellect, let alone their bodies, ultimately being strangers to one another and instantiating the theme of loneliness. Connie's marriage is similar to Mellors´; however, Mellors and Bertha have a sexual relationship, though Bertha's selfishness spoils it. Henceforth, Mellors is spiritually disconnected from his wife and is "like the deadwood in nature" (Wang p. 25) like Connie and Clifford.


Additionally, Lawrence's language does not overtly disguise its content with metaphors and symbolism, employing illicit words and scenes that in those times were deemed inappropriate by readers, such as the constancy of the word 'penis.' Lawrence does not hide genitalia, calling it what it is with no apology. He attempts to normalize the body but also emphasizes the beauty of its capabilities. An example can be viewed in chapter twelve, where a scene of passion occurs between Connie and Mellors. The language is raw and honest, explicating the undeniable passion between both characters. However, this does not suggest that their sexual encounters are perfect. There is a sense of awkwardness built from the realistic portrayal, take, for example, the removal of clothes and setting up of blankets, "he sat down, taking off his shoes and gaiters, and undoing his cord breeches." (Lawrence p. 251). This highlights how sex in its commencement can be mutually decided and prepared for, being a natural form of expression that has the ability for a person to be roused to life, granting them a new identity and "a serious attempt to bring them [body and soul, the male and the female] back into a balanced relationship" (Lawrence p. 256). Accordingly, Lawrence represents sexuality in a way that ought not to be taboo but instead an awakening for the individual and a way to bind the mind and body together, epitomizing the passion, imperfection, and liberation attained from exploration.


Lawrence symbolizes the sexual relations of Connie and Mellors as organic, for his love for nature and repellence of the Industrial Revolution can be reflected in Clifford's symbolization of the dead and mechanical world in which he exists. He represents barren sexual intercourse where its implications can be discerned through Connie's flammable restlessness that took "possession of her like madness" (Lawrence p. 26). The themes of isolation, confinement, and repression demonstrate to the reader Connie's attempt to co-exist with a life that fortunes no life. This links with Lawrence's feelings of disgust and repression by the industrialization that feigned England; the mechanized life confines him with a hunger for the natural world as Connie yearns to experience love, companionship, and sex. As Lawrence acknowledges, "sex is a very powerful, beneficial and necessary stimulus in human life, and we are all grateful when we feel its warm, natural flow through us, as a form of sunshine." (Lawrence 1929). Lawrence refers to the Industrial Civilization as a cataclysm, inducing him to search for alternative ways to reconnect with nature as evinced in "his criticism of modernity and industrialization has led man to find salvation and hope from harmonious nature and harmonious sex." (Wang p. 26). This is done by Connie seeking a natural relationship rather than the mechanical marriage she finds herself restrained in, allowing her and Mellors to connect through the isolation that they experience. It is an instrument that brings them together and, in doing so, sparks undeniable attraction and hopes that are lost with both their marriages.


The Industrial Revolution. Getty Images.

Lawrence's love for Old England is exhibited by the symbolization of the wood, which represents "pure land." In the novel, Connie finds solace in her evasions to the wood, epitomizing the natural world. Lawrence purposefully establishes Connie and Mellors' relationship in the woods to shift away from Clifford's mechanical and futile relationship to something of organic essence. There is nothing forced, and the sexual desire mirrors a flower that blossoms into something more profound. Genuine love can be felt by the reader, which is potent, enriching, and natural. Henceforth, Lawrence personifies the relationship of Connie and Mellors as of natural essence in defiance of the industrial world that is full of pollution and opaque misery. He helps us revaluate the "anthropocentrism which has been the wrong idea in treating the relationship between man and nature" (Wang p. 27), embodying his natural ideals of sexual relations and how they should function.


BBC adaption of Lady Chatterley's Lover starring Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden.


Lawrence asserts that a relationship should be based on attraction, respect, and tenderness; in doing so, "restores humanity and joy to their lives" (Lawrence p. 24). This is the impetus for why Mellors is considered Connie's equal, for their sexual encounters enable them to consummate a relationship that deepens through the novel's progression, ultimately culminating in their desire to divorce their partners and go together. Their relationship is built of mutual support, "bonded by the vital and profound sexual relationship" (Wang p. 26) they have. This is a revolutionary notion, for it exhibited the shift in gender roles where a woman could be more than a quiet mouth and object, an equal to their partner, where sex can be explored without shame, only a beacon for passion, spiritual and physical connection. Their sexual relationship is of equal value and balance, each giving love and care to each other—Lawrence himself claimed these fundamental elements were the foundation of an organic romantic relationship. The dialogue between Connie and Mellors in chapter twelve communicates each other's curiosity, Connie's desire to touch him the way he touched her is an example of the changing roles of gender. It is her who is fuelling their sexual encounter and does not dare to be coy; something women were supposed to be prior to the modernist movement. She knows what she wants, and that becomes acutely powerful, as evinced in "I liked your body" and "I have never really touched your body" (Lawrence p. 249), in which Mellors response is of excitement, for she does not want their sexual relations to be only conceiving a child. Therefore a sexual relationship should be on equal grounds, giving and receiving pleasure in an almost cyclical nature. Additionally, despite class and societal constructs, the pair strives to end up together, thus exposing how their affair was not just a vice to attain pleasure for themselves but a tool that inaugurated an intense sexual relationship that would spawn into genuine love. Lawrence stressed that "there is nothing wrong with sexual feelings in themselves, so long as they are straightforward and not sneaking and sly" (Lawrence 1929), striving to present a modernist portrayal of sexual relations, one charged by the magnetism and equality for a solid partnership.


D. H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Love represents sexuality as a beacon for exploration and awakening, accounting for a rebirth in identity. Lawrence sought to normalize the body, claiming that it was a vessel to which individuals may enhance their spirituality and interrelation with their partner. He also employs his anguish with the Industrial Revolution, symbolizing Clifford as a machine rather than a male to signify that one must seek a natural relationship over something cold and artificial. Therefore, Lawrence distinctly applied his skills to create a modernist work that abolishes indignity with sexuality, creating a shift in genders and illustrating the importance of sexual relations to benefit our beings and romantic partnerships.


Resources


- Lawrence D.H. (1971) Lady Chatterley's Lover, New York.

- B, A. (1967) "Pornography and Obscenity" [1929] in D.H. Lawrence: Selected Literary Criticism, London, pp.32-51.

- W, Y (2016) "Harmonious Concordance of Men, Women, and Nature: A Study of Lawrence's Ecological Philosophy in His Lady Chatterley's Lover," Studies in Literature and Language, CSCanada, pp. 22-27

- D, G (2018). Lady Chatterley's Lover, WordPress, Retrieved from:

http://geoffdyer.com/forewords-afterwords/literature/lady-chatterleys-lover/.

- H, D. (2015) First- look photos for BBC1's Lady Chatterley's Lover, Retrieved: http://insidemediatrack.com/2015/08/first-look-pictures-for-bbc1s-lady-chatterleys-lover/

- N, E. (2019). How the Second Industrial Revolution Changed Americans' Lives, retrieved https://www.history.com/news/second-industrial-revolution-advances.


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Chelsea Woods

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