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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

One Sunday spring morning Clifford and Connie Chatterley go for a walk in the woods. They discuss philosophical ideas, coal miner strikes, social class and labor relations, and economic systems, among other things. Clifford opposes giving to the poor. Instead he supports an economic system in which industry is encouraged and creates job opportunities for poor people. He does not mind income disparity, believing it is only inevitable some people have more than others. Plus he believes someone needs to be in power, and the best persons for that are "the men who own and run the industries."

Connie challenges his stance, saying the bosses "don't take their boss-ship seriously enough." Clifford throws back at her that they take their responsibilities more seriously than she takes her ladyship. Connie defends herself, saying her ladyship was forced on her and she does not want it. Clifford tells her she is fated to it and that it is his family and similar ones who have given the colliers everything they have. Her responsibility is to make sure they continue to have access to education, sanitation, political liberty, and work opportunities. Connie does not object to giving, but she disputes these things are being given to people. She believes they are being sold and paid for, as aristocratic families have "taken away from the people their natural life and manhood, and given them this industrial horror." They debate the influence of the ruling class on the workers—Clifford professing all people have the freedom to work for and create their own lives and Connie arguing people are not as free as he says because of industrialization's power.

Their discussion grows more heated when Connie tells Clifford it is "no wonder the men hate you." Clifford protests they don't and claims the workers are not even men. He thinks they are animals. He asserts the colliers are no different from Nero's slaves or men who work in assembly-line car factories. They are the masses, the unchangeable, and, for the most part lack individuality. Furthermore they lack the ability to rule themselves. Clifford considers himself their ruler, and he intends for his heir to rule them also. Connie blurts out the heir may not be of the ruling class, as he won't be Clifford's biological child. Clifford asserts as long as the child has normal intelligence and health, he can make him "a perfectly competent Chatterley."

After spouting off his ideas Clifford starts up his wheelchair, rolls over some flowers, and they continue their walk. They notice how beautiful everything is, with the new spring growth appearing everywhere. Clifford decides to go on to the spring, hoping the chair will make it. The narrator describes his movements as if he is on a great journey, saying, "Whither, O weird wheeled ship, your slow course steering" and "Clifford sat at the wheel of adventure: ... motionless and cautious. O Captain, my Captain, our splendid trip is done! Not yet though!"

When they pass the path to the hut, Oliver Mellors whistles and asks Connie if they are going to the hut. He reminds Connie he will meet her at the park gate that night and brushes her breast before she runs off to catch up with Clifford. On their return trip Clifford's wheelchair struggles to get up the climb, and he rolls it over some flowers. It gets stuck, and he decides to rest the engine before starting again. Connie suggests Mellors can push the chair, but Clifford is determined to get it started without help. He keeps trying to restart the engine but gets nowhere. He finally sounds the horn for Mellors. Mellors takes a quick look and tells Clifford he knows nothing about mechanical things. He sees nothing broken and urges Clifford to run the engine hard. After numerous attempts and rude orders to Mellors, Clifford gets the chair to move raggedly, and Mellors pushes it. When Clifford learns Mellors is pushing it, he demands he stop and let the chair work on its own. Mellors complies and watches as Clifford keeps trying to use his power to make the chair move. All his efforts fail, and Mellors ends up pushing the enraged Clifford back to Wragby.

Connie realizes she definitely hates Clifford. Pushing the chair with Mellors makes both of them feel closer. Connie later rips into Clifford and asks why he was so rude to Mellors. They fight about whether Clifford should have any sympathy or consideration for the gamekeeper, especially considering his frail state. Connie states Mellors is as much a man as Clifford. Clifford replies he pays him for his work and gives him a house and thus Mellors owes any services he demands of him. Connie points out Clifford is not a ruler. He merely has more money than others, and he bullies them into working for him by threatening them with starvation. Connie is ashamed of Clifford and tells him so before going to her room, muttering Clifford cannot buy her and she needn't stay with him any longer. She calls him a "dead fish of a gentleman," possessed of a "celluloid" soul. She decides to stop fighting with him about servants and to keep her emotional distance from him so he does not detect her feelings for Mellors. Her plan does not work out so well. When she goes to dinner Clifford uses Proust to start an argument with her. Now she visualizes him as a skeleton, clutching at her and trying to impose its will on her. Later that night she goes out with the intent to stay the entire night with Mellors.

Analysis

In this chapter Lawrence provides a very brief overview of his ideas on economic systems, specifically socialism and capitalism, and attitudes toward the ruling class. Clifford Chatterley has an undemocratic view of society and believes the masses are inferior to other humans and exist to serve the industrialists and business owners. This attitude represents a Capitalist view and denies equality of human beings. In contrast the Socialist view holds the government has a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of all people within a society.

The scene with the wheelchair highlights flaws with industrialization and class divisions. Clifford belongs to the ruling class, but his dependence on a machine puts him at its mercy. When the machine fails he is limited in what he can do. It is not Clifford but Oliver Mellors, a member of the working class, who has the power of movement. It is not Clifford but Mellors who has control over his body. Clifford believes he—and others of his class—have the inherent right to rule, but he cannot even rule his own body. Despite these limitations Clifford values machines more than members of the working class, believing it is the function of the working-class people to serve the ruling class and their machines.

The narrator's description of Clifford as an adventurer includes allusions to Robert Bridges's and Walt Whitman's poetry. The line "Whither, O weird wheeled ship, your slow course steering" closely resembles the opening line of Bridges's poem "A Passer-By": "Whither, O splendid ship, thy white sails crowding." The sense of Clifford as the master of a great vehicle is reinforced with the reference to "O Captain, my Captain, our splendid trip is done!" which closely resembles lines in Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" In this poem the captain safely brings his ship into port but then dies on the deck, where he lies "fallen cold and dead." This image of Clifford as something dead represents how Connie Chatterley now sees him and the incongruity of the epic poetry with the image of the crippled man.

Lawrence uses nature imagery to show how machinery is destroying life. When Clifford first starts out, he steers his wheelchair carefully through a cleared path, but the wheels roam off the path and flatten several flowers. When Clifford is trying to get his wheelchair out of the ditch, he pays no heed to the plants and tramples them recklessly—just a short while after noting their beauty. As far as Clifford is concerned, the plants are like the serving class. Their function is to serve the ruling class. The ruling class can appreciate their beauty or destroy them if they stand in their way. The flowers stand in Clifford's way when he wanted his wheelchair to move, symbolizing the destruction of Earth's natural resources in favor of industrialization.

In this chapter Lawrence portrays Clifford as a bully and a snob. This unflattering picture makes him a very unlikeable character, which makes it easier for the reader to accept Connie's adultery. Clifford lacks consideration for other people, considers himself superior to others, and fails to see the need to treat others with basic human decency. Connie comes to hate him, and Lawrence wants readers to understand the despicable aspects of his character so they will not fault her for her decision to have sex with someone other than her husband or her intent to leave her marriage.

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