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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.