Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Connie Chatterley writes her husband and tells him she has fallen in love with another man, is staying at Duncan Forbes's flat, and wants him to divorce her. She tells him she is sorry but she is not the right person for him and hopes he will see it is for the best because he "didn't really care about [her] personally" anyway. The news does not come as a surprise, but it still hits Clifford hard. He calls for Mrs. Bolton and has her read the letter. In an attempt to prevent Clifford working himself into hysteria, she begins weeping. This prompts Clifford to cry. Mrs. Bolton draws him to her bosom as if he were a baby, strokes his hair, and offers soothing words to calm his self-pity. Clifford has a good cry, and Mrs. Bolton rocks and kisses him until he falls asleep. From this point on Clifford develops an infantile relationship with Mrs. Bolton. He often rests his face in her breasts, touches her breasts with a strange perversion, holds her hands, and seeks out her kisses—which she gives all over his body.

Clifford writes Connie and demands she keep her word and return to Wragby to talk things over with him. Connie tries to avoid meeting with him as she is now afraid of him, but Clifford writes a letter saying if she does not come, he will expect her to return someday and will act accordingly. Thus in order to get a divorce and be free of him forever, she is forced to meet with him. Connie goes to Wragby with her sister, Hilda Reid. When she talks with Clifford privately, he rips into her for not keeping her word, but she is unapologetic. He is filled with rage, mostly because she refuses to submit to his will, has destroyed "the fabric of his daily existence," and is trying "to cause this derangement of his personality." They discuss why Connie wants to leave—she loves another man—and Clifford says he refuses to believe she loves Duncan Forbes. Connie argues he does not have to believe it, he only has to divorce her, and he should divorce her because she no longer wants to live with him and he doesn't really want her anyway.

Clifford objects to giving her a divorce. He gives two reasons to support his case: Since she is his wife, he wants her to "stay under [his] roof in dignity and quiet," and he does not want any disruption in his "order of life" or daily routines. Connie argues she is not in love with him, must be away from him, and "must live with the man [she] loves." Clifford dismisses what she wants and says what he wants is all that matters. He also dismisses her love for Duncan Forbes and says he doesn't believe in that love. He insists she cares more for him than for Forbes.

Connie then tells him whom she does love. He responds by saying she "ought to be wiped off the face of the earth." He is stunned she wants to marry Oliver Mellors, bear his name, and have his child. He tells her she is "one of those half-insane, perverted women who must run after depravity." And he declares he will not divorce her. Connie packs up her possessions and makes arrangements for them to be shipped. Before leaving, she talks to Mrs. Bolton and asks if she will notify her if Clifford agrees to grant her a divorce in the future. Connie then moves to Scotland and lives with Hilda. Mellors is living in the country and works on a farm. He is still planning to get a divorce, even though Connie will not be getting one soon. Once he gets the divorce, he plans for Connie to join him. He hopes to have his own small farm sometime in the future.

In late September Mellors sends Connie a letter. He expects to be divorced by March and plans to keep quiet until then. He tells Connie not to worry about Clifford as hopefully he will leave her alone and change his mind about the divorce in the future. He describes the farm, gives his opinions of industrial problems, and expresses his feelings for Connie and his hopes for their future. Despite being frightened because of all that is wrong with the world and the complications related to his personal situation, he is confident nothing can extinguish his wanting her. He expects they'll be together in the New Year. He trusts and believes in what they share and considers the "little flame between us ... the only thing in the world," their love based in sex, that matters to him. Even though they are physically apart, they are still very much together.

Analysis

The phrase the lady in Tennyson is an allusion to "The Lady of Shalott" (1832) by British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. In that poem a cursed woman is forbidden from directly looking at the world. Miserable with her inability to actively participate in life, she attempts to break the curse and dies before that can be achieved. In this case, relating the figure to Clifford further demasculinizes him.

In this final chapter Connie Chatterley and Oliver Mellors take additional actions to uncomplicate their lives and be free to be together. They also reaffirm their love and commitment to each other. Connie's attempts to be free of Clifford are thwarted by Clifford Chatterley's refusal to give her a divorce, but it does not deter her from her plan to live with Mellors once his divorce is finalized.

Clifford regresses into a childlike dependency on Mrs. Bolton, revealing his inability to develop a healthy, mature relationship with a woman. While he appears to be competent as an industrialist, he lacks what it takes to have an emotional relationship. His expectation is that his wife should exist to fulfill his wants and desires and he need not give anything in return. There is no spark or flame between them, nor does Clifford believe one is necessary. He is emotionally barren, the opposite of Mellors. He does, however, change in terms of his desire for physical touch, but he seeks the physical intimacy a mother gives to her child, not the sensual touch of two adults.

Connie gives up her pretense of Duncan Forbes as the father and is honest about her emotions and actions. This reveals her lack of shame about her feelings and involvement with Mellors. She considers her longing to be with Mellors not so much a desire but a need—something vital and essential to her life. Mellors also has the same conviction. Both exemplify the theme of the restorative power of sex. Lawrence believed warm tenderness and physical touch were necessary to make a person feel fully alive. Both Connie and Mellors have transformed from individuals with huge voids in their lives into vibrant people who have been healed through the warm tenderness of sex so their lives have meaning. The strength of their love is stronger than the obstacles they face and the loss of the thing they once cherished, such as the creature comforts at Wragby or the comfort of solitude and privacy of life as a gamekeeper.

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