Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Chapter 16 | Summary



A nervous Mrs. Bolton explains to Connie Chatterley that Clifford Chatterley was ready to send two servants to the woods to find Connie since she was gone so long. She persuaded him to send her instead. Connie realizes Mrs. Bolton knows she is involved with Oliver Mellors. When Connie gets home, she and Clifford have a heated exchange. Connie tells him she was sitting in the hut and went out in the rain with no clothes on. He is shocked and tells her she is mad. She throws back at him it was merely a rain shower bath. Clifford continues to quiz her, asking if Mellors had been there. Connie calmly states he came later to feed the pheasants. The eavesdropping Mrs. Bolton is impressed with Connie's ability to act so nonchalant.

That evening Clifford tells her ideas from a scientific religious book he is reading, whose author believes the universe is spiritually ascending and the physical world is on its way to extinction. Connie gives her view: it's garbage. Clifford asks if she likes her physique, and she tells him she loves it, all the while hearing Mellors's comment of how she had the "nicest woman's arse." When Clifford tells her he supposes "a woman doesn't take a supreme pleasure in the life of the mind," she tells him she prefers the body, as it is "a greater reality than the life of the mind: when the body is really wakened to life." She fails to persuade Clifford, as he retorts, "The life of the body is just the life of the animals." Connie throws back that the life of animals is better than the "life of professional corpses." She mentions how the Greeks, Plato and Aristotle, and Jesus progressively extinguished the life of the human body but come back to life. Clifford thinks she is excited about having sex on her trip to Venice and tells her not to be "so indecently elated about it." They debate God's views on the body: Connie says she believes God has awakened her body and is "rippling so happily there, like dawn."

The next morning Mrs. Bolton helps Connie pack. They talk about men and how they are big babies who need coaxing so they "think they're having their own way." Mrs. Bolton admits her husband needed some coaxing, but "he always knew what I was after ... [and] he generally gave in to me." Mrs. Bolton gives her treatise on will, saying neither she nor her husband acted like the master of the relationship. She gave in about some things because she did not want to "break what was between us." And they talk about love. Mrs. Bolton believes once a woman really loves one man, she cannot really love anyone else.

When Hilda arrives, Connie tells her of her plan to postpone leaving so she can spend the night with her lover. She confides her lover is the gamekeeper, which is met with disgust from her sister. Although Hilda dislikes Clifford and wants Connie to leave him, she disapproves of her having a relationship with someone in the lower class. Hilda caves in to Connie's threat to skip the trip if she cannot stay with Mellors for the night, but she is furious about it. They depart Wragby, and Hilda books a room in a nearby town. There the two sisters continue their discussion about Mellors, with Hilda trying to talk Connie out of being involved with him. After dinner Hilda drives a disguised Connie to her meeting place with Mellors. Hilda joins them in Mellors's cottage for a short visit. Mellors refuses to put on airs and speak in proper English despite Hilda's derogatory comments about his mannerisms. This annoys Hilda, who thinks he should act graciously to her because she is honoring him with her visit. She warns him against being involved with her sister and making a mess of her life. Mellors points out her own mess, as she is getting divorced. A furious Hilda demands to know what right he has to talk to her like that. He throws it right back at her, asking what right she has to harass other folks about their lives.

The visit ends after Hilda insults Mellors by implying she is not at all concerned about him, and men like him "ought to be segregated" because of their justification of "vulgarity and selfish lust." Mellors lets her know she's missing out as there are "few men left like [him]" and she deserves to be "left severely alone." After Hilda leaves, Connie chides him for being so horrible to her sister, but she is so glad to be with him she lets it go. They spend the night in "sensual passion." Connie gives up her will completely and lets Mellors do whatever he wants. The "reckless, shameless sensuality" makes "a different woman of her." The next morning they reaffirm their love and plan to be together sometime after the trip. When Hilda's car arrives at the designated meeting place, Connie runs to it with tears streaming down her face. Her sister greets her by saying it's good she's leaving Mellors for a while.


This chapter continues Connie's and Mellors's attempts to get out of their current situations and prepare for their future together. Connie is more active in attempting to extradite herself from her marriage. She speaks her mind freely to her husband, saying things she has never said before, such as that she ran around in the rain naked. She is unconcerned what he thinks of her; she is confident in her actions and no longer needs or wants his approval. She also no longer finds the life of the mind at all appealing and considers the physical world superior to it, and she wants Clifford to know that.

Connie is still a novice at love, though, and welcomes Mrs. Bolton's insights about the need to bend one's will and be flexible with one's partner. With Clifford she often was willing to relinquish her will because she had no strong sense of herself and it was easier to just go along to get along. Now she is finding herself and strengthening her individuality, she wants to hold fast to her own will. Her talk with Mrs. Bolton makes her understand how she can bend her will for the greater good of the relationship and still be true to herself.

Connie and Mellors get a taste of what is in store for them once they make their relationship known. Hilda Reid rejects their relationship and reproaches her sister for carrying on with someone of the working class. She considers Mellors rude and lascivious. Mellors refuses to be intimidated by her and answers her directly. Her higher-class standing means nothing to him. He believes he has as much right as she to speak his mind and more of a right to decide how he is going to live his own life. Their interactions, though, are a kind of rehearsal. Mellors could not be so outspoken with his employer or someone aligned with him. To do so would jeopardize his current situation and risk his and Connie's future together. In this way his interactions with Hilda reveal the trouble that lies ahead of him and Connie and what he would like to tell the world at large, if he could.

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