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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Chapter 3 | Summary



Eventually Connie Chatterley begins to feel restless. She loses weight; she has a general sense she is falling apart, and has "lost touch with the substantial and vital world." Feeling a strong need to get away from everybody at Wragby, she spends more time in the woods and away from her husband, Clifford Chatterley.

One of the young men Clifford invites to Wragby is Michaelis. An Irish playwright who is very successful in America, he briefly was popular in London until high society realized his plays were poking fun at them. They then scorned him. Clifford wants the publicity he thinks Michaelis can bring him. Although Michaelis is an outsider in England, he is well connected to people in America. Clifford hopes he will talk up his stories and help make him famous there.

When Michaelis arrives at Wragby for the first time, Clifford is polite to him but does not really accept him. Michaelis has the outward appearance of class, but his mixed Irish nature is evident in the way he carries himself: his flat, pale face, and a visible grudge any English gentleman would conceal. Connie likes him, though. She finds his lack of pretensions and genuineness appealing. His ideas aren't empty and meaningless. He knows he's being used, and he's okay with that. Unlike Clifford, Michaelis isn't writing to gain approval from the public—or anyone else—or to be popular. He's writing because he feels it is who he is, what he does.

As Michaelis and Connie converse, he frequently turns his full eyes on Connie. He does so with a "look of pure detachment" while he tries to read the impression he has made on her. And he has made an impression. Connie feels a mixture of compassion and repulsion, "amounting almost to love." She compares him to Clifford and finds Clifford more stupid and bounderish, or lacking in refinement and grace. Michaelis is used to having this effect on women, who sometimes fall in love with him.

The next day Michaelis visits Connie in her private room, which is lively and modern, "the only spot in Wragby where her personality was at all revealed." After a short conversation in which she feels increasing stirrings of attraction, Michaelis holds her hand and buries his face in her lap. They have sex. Michaelis is gentle but detached. Connie attaches no sentiment to the sex. Afterward he says he expects Connie to hate him, that most women do after sex—and that in fact "a woman is supposed to." Connie disagrees and says, "This is the last moment when I ought to hate you." He looks as if he is going to sob, and she doesn't understand why he is so miserable. She tells him she doesn't think there is anything wrong with what they have done, but she does not want Clifford to know about it. Michaelis agrees not to tell. He is thrilled Connie considers him nice as most people seem to use him and scorn him at the same time. He returns to her room that night, and they have sex again. He climaxes quickly, before Connie has the opportunity to. When they have sex again the next day, the same thing happens. Connie achieves her own orgasm by stimulating herself on his erect penis, which is still inside her.

They continue their relationship for some time and occasionally meet in London. Connie continues to use her own activity to achieve orgasm, and Michaelis accepts that. Connie considers the relationship similar to the one with her German boy, where she had "power over" a man. This is enough to give her a subtle sort of self-assurance, and it makes her cheerful. She turns that cheerfulness into her interactions with Clifford, and he writes "his best at this time," benefitting from the "sensual satisfaction" she derives from her sexual activity with Michaelis.


This chapter reveals the attitudes several characters have toward sex and the role it plays in their lives. Before starting her affair with Michaelis, Connie felt vague stirrings in her. These were undefined and made her restless. She craves something she is not getting from Clifford. When Michaelis appears on the scene, they begin a sexual relationship. And that is all it is, as neither wants a deeper commitment or love.

Michaelis, who has had many sexual encounters with women, has not had a sustained relationship with any. He knows how to appeal to women and does so almost artlessly. This makes them want to have sex with him, but the sex does not result in increased intimacy. He is so grateful Connie likes him, yet she is merely looking to him for the physical sensations she gets during sex. She likes him, but she knows he lacks something that prevents her from being really in love with him. Michaelis, for all his ability to attract women, lacks the ability to satisfy them sexually. In this way he is just as impotent as Clifford. The sensual satisfaction Connie gets is from her self-stimulation against his "male passivity erect inside her." Connie has the upper hand. He is, in a way, her "boy toy," and she enjoys having power over him as she did her former German boyfriend.

At this point in the novel Lawrence's descriptions of sex and sensuality reveal sex as a purely visceral thing, removed from sentiment or emotions such as love. When Connie first finds herself attracted to Michaelis, she feels it in her womb. Her womb is the source of her desire for sexual contact. Before she had sex with Michaelis, her body was crying out for sex. She would feel a thrill in her womb she could only relieve by swimming. Connie also is aware that without sexual satisfaction, she has a huge void within herself. She feels disconnected from others and out of touch with the world. This reflects Lawrence's belief in the life-affirming action of sex. He believes it is as vital to life as breathing and eating. Without it Connie's body and mind are stagnant and "going to pieces." Her father understands the need for sex, telling her to get a beau as it would do her all the good in the world. His urging is not for her to find a man she can connect with emotionally but merely to find a man with whom she can satisfy these basic needs.

Lawrence has already established the contrast of the cerebral and physical. Clifford and his young visitors represent the cerebral. They engage in talking, ideas, and intellectualizing. They consider this world superior to the physical, represented by touch and sex. The young men believe it is permissible to engage in sex as long as one keeps it of less importance than the world of ideas. In other words they could have sex without sentiment or emotional attachment.

In fact at this time youth throughout postwar Europe were making a break with the sexual mores of the past. Casual sex became popular. Michaelis's attitudes toward sex reflect this modern view, in part. He accepts the new openness of sex, but he still yearns for some type of emotional connection as shown by his pleas to Connie not to hate him and his trembling and near sobbing. He knows sex with Connie will not "change him from an ownerless dog ... into a comfortable society dog," but he welcomes the temporary comfort it provides.

Connie has no such internal conflict. She views the sex strictly for its physical and transitory benefits. She enjoys being with Michaelis but does not view him as a potential future husband. Having sex rejuvenates her, and she pours her new energy into her interactions with Clifford. To her intimacy is more important than sex. And she has intimacy with her husband.

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