Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Connie Chatterley goes up to her bedroom, takes off her clothes, and stares at her body in the mirror for a long time. Her once good figure to her is now dull and slack. She feels she looks "with no gleam and sparkle in the flesh." She cries herself to sleep, and her feelings about Clifford Chatterley harden and turn bitter. She feels he, and all the men like him, have "defrauded a woman even of her own body" and "the sense of deep physical injustice burned to her very soul."

The next morning she gets up and carries on as if nothing has changed. Deep inside, though, the sense of injustice continues to burn. In one way Connie does not blame Clifford for his lack of warmth because he has a war injury. In another way she very much does. Clifford simply is not a warm person. He extends no warmth or physical contact of any kind. Although he is thoughtful and considerate, it is "in a well-bred, cold sort of way." He and his whole ruling class consider warmth in bad taste, and she considers them cold.

One of Clifford's aunts, Lady Bennerley, comes to visit Wragby. Connie likes her, and they have a frank conversation about Connie and Clifford's relationship. Lady Bennerley thinks Connie has done wonders with Clifford and is responsible for his literary success. She wonders, though, what Connie is getting out of it. She advises Connie to go after something or she will regret it when she is older. She says Clifford's friends are fine for him, but not for her, and she needs to get out and about more.

Other houseguests include Tommy Dukes, Harry Winterslow, Jack Strangeways, and his wife, Olive Strangeways. Olive is reading a book about the future, and she shares a comment that sparks a discussion about women and childbearing. Olive hopes in the future babies are bred in bottles and women are immunized. She would love being free of the child-bearing functions of her body. Clifford chimes in that a more civilized society where babies are bred in a bottle would enable all the love business to go, which would be a great thing. Olive disagrees, saying if women were freed from having children they would have "more room for fun." Lady Bennerley thinks if the love business disappeared, morphine or something else would replace it.

The conversation segues into how a good civilization needs to help people forget their bodies, or get rid of the physical side of human nature. Dukes interjects that will never happen. He asserts the present civilization is going to fall into a deep pit and the phallus will be the only thing to bridge the chasm. Lady Bennerley agrees the present civilization is going to collapse. Dukes postulates the next civilization might have real men, who are intelligent and wholesome, and real women, who are wholesome and nice. He believes the current men and women aren't real but are a "little lot of clever-jacks, all at the intelligence-age of seven." He advocates for a future civilization based on the resurrection of the body, with more emphasis on physical touch and less on cerebral matters.

After the houseguests leave Connie's sense of nothingness grows. She becomes thinner and glummer. Recognizing she is falling apart, she writes her sister, Hilda Reid. Hilda comes to visit in March. She is alarmed at Connie's appearance and blames it on Wragby. Hilda tells Clifford Connie is unwell and needs to see a doctor. She demands to know what he has done about Connie's condition—nothing—and gives him two options: get a manservant or nurse to look after him or she will take Connie away for months. Clifford fumes at her demand. He hates nurses and dislikes having a male personal aide. He thinks any woman is better than a manservant, so "why not Connie?"

Connie and Hilda go to London, and the doctor examines Connie. He confirms nothing is organically wrong with Connie, but her vitality is low and she has no physical reserves. He attributes it to nerves and says she needs a change, telling her she needs to be amused: she is "spending [her] life without renewing it." He suggests a month at Cannes or Biarritz. Michaelis hears they are in London and shows up at their father's house with roses and an invitation to Nice and Sicily—or Africa. He is dismayed at Connie's appearance, telling her she is just a shadow of herself. He rants against Clifford and the beastly Wragby and urges her to divorce Clifford and marry him. Connie rejects his proposal because she cannot fathom abandoning Clifford.

After Hilda and Connie return to Wragby, Hilda tells Clifford everything the doctor said. She gives him an ultimatum: get a personal aide or she will contact her father and they will take Connie away. Clifford agrees to hire Mrs. Bolton, a former parish nurse who has just started taking on private nursing jobs. Ivy Bolton is a pleasant, self-confident, and well-respected member of the village. Used to giving orders to sick patients, she is, in a way, "one of the governing class in the village." She also has an association with Clifford's father. Her husband, Ted Bolton, had worked in the pit owned by Sir Geoffrey Chatterley. An explosion killed her husband 22 years earlier, and she raised her two young children alone. Ted Bolton was the only miner to die. The formal inquiry blamed his death on his own actions—he had tried to run from the explosion rather than following the command to lie down quickly. As a result the mine gave her only a meager compensation and doled it out over four years rather than letting her have it all at once so she could open up a little shop. The Tevershall Colliery Company later gave her the parish nursing job. She is grateful for what the company has done for her but deeply resents "what they said about Ted," feeling they had pretty much called him a coward. Mrs. Bolton has conflicting feelings about the upper class. She considers herself superior to the colliers, but she has a deep resentment of the ruling class, especially the Chatterleys, the mine masters.

Mrs. Bolton brings a new perspective on the topic of intimacy and marriage to Wragby, which interests Connie. Mrs. Bolton has never stopped loving her husband and thinks of him as if he were still alive. She frequently comments about the three years they had together and cherishes the closeness they shared. Whereas Mrs. Bolton is used to bossing the colliers about, she is unable to do so with Clifford. He treats her very much like a servant, a member of the lower class, and it makes her feel small. She does not mind too terribly much, though, because she's now in the upper-class world. Plus she's very good at her job, and she knows it's just a matter of time before she has Clifford under her control.

Clifford cannot forgive Connie for relegating his personal care to a stranger. He thinks it has killed the "real flower of the intimacy between him and her." Connie does not care. She considers their intimacy like an orchid, a parasitic thing on the tree of life, not something vibrant or life affirming. She also is glad to be free of the "bonds of love" and is fed up with talking about his writing and ideas. She loves being alone and spends more time by herself, up in her rooms.

Analysis

This chapter brings to the forefront issues related to the conflict between the mental life and the physical life. Clifford and the young intellectuals who hang out at Wragby believe the life of the mind is superior to that of the body. Sex may foster the life of the mind, but it is not viewed as something to value for its own sake or as something superior to the life of the mind. Lawrence strongly disagrees with this attitude, which prevailed among many young people after World War I. Lawrence believes sex is essential to being fully alive.

Connie is beginning to question the supremacy of the life of the mind. She views her naked body and notices it lacks the bloom of her youth. It is flat and old looking even if she is still young. If she fully embraces the life of the mind, as her husband does, then what would it matter what her body looks like? Yet she is displeased by its loss of vitality and feels she has lost something and is in the process of losing even more. She blames this loss, in part, on her childless state, and on Clifford for failing to impregnate her. She clearly thinks a woman's body is meant to bear children. She views her body as sapless, her breasts as "unripe" and "without meaning hanging there." Her belly no longer looks expectant like it did when she was young and with her German boyfriend. The parts of her body that still please her are her haunches and buttocks. This foreshadows what Oliver Mellors thinks of this part of her anatomy, as he later tells her she has the most beautiful "arse" in the world.

Lady Bennerley's appearance at Wragby basically sticks a thorn in Connie's complacent acceptance of her unhappy life with Clifford. Bennerley insists a woman must have a life, too, and she tells Connie her life at Wragby is too limited. While Connie has no interest in living the type of life Bennerley promotes, this is just one more exposure to something that challenges the superiority of the life of the mind and one with no physical warmth.

The discussion about the future again brings up the topic of childbearing and of sex. Olive Strangeways very much opposes the natural functions of a woman's body; that is, giving birth to babies. But she is one of the few persons to advocate for women engaging in sex for its own sake. Tommy Dukes is another person who believes in the importance of sex, believing future generations will be saved from total failure by the phallus. Lawrence believes this also, but he believes it will not be saved by the phallus alone but by the tenderness of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. When Dukes calls out "give me the resurrection of the body," he is expressing Lawrence's theme of the restorative power of sex to heal individuals—and society. Connie also believes in the importance of sex, and she thinks to herself "give me the democracy of touch, the resurrection of the body." These words foreshadow what she will receive in the future. "The democracy of touch" is the physical contact she has with the gamekeeper, a person of the lower class. It is democratic because their physical union is one of equality, of classlessness. The physical contact, or sex, resurrects her body and makes her come alive again physically, mentally, and emotionally.

When everyone leaves Connie gets mired in her depression, and she turns to her sister. Despite the great intimacy Clifford thinks he shares with her, he knows little, or nothing, of what she is feeling, thinking, and experiencing. Nor does he seem to be aware of her physical state, despite her visible weight loss. Connie does not feel she can share these feelings with her husband. Instead she reaches out to someone beyond Wragby. Her sister arrives at Wragby and takes charge, demanding things of Clifford and forcing him to acknowledge Connie's poor health and well-being. She is much different than Connie, who seldom demands or confronts Clifford. Clifford doesn't understand why Connie can't continue to provide these personal services to him. He doesn't want a male assistant or hired help. He thinks, Why not Connie?—demonstrating his self-centered absorption and total lack of respect for her as an individual with her own needs and desires. He views her primarily as what she can do for him. And up to this point Connie has been passive, totally willing to let everything revolve around what he wants, with her satisfying his needs.

When Connie remeets Michaelis in London, she has a chance to escape the stultifying life at Wragby. She is unwilling, however, to abandon Clifford. When she returns to Wragby, she alters their relationship. She stays at Wragby, thus not abandoning Clifford, but she frees herself of attending to his personal daily needs. She stops the pattern of everything revolving around Clifford. She gains time for herself, and she spends it doing things she wants, such as playing the piano or just thinking. It is a huge step forward. She knows she is entering a new phase in her life, even though she is unwilling to make a total break with him or consider the thought of leaving him.

D.H. Lawrence uses the imagery of tangled roots to show the connections that both bind and stifle people. This imagery reflects the changes in various characters' individual development and personal relationships. At this point Connie feels a relaxing of the tension holding her roots with Clifford's so she can breathe more freely. This might not seem like much, as she is still very much enmeshed with Clifford, but it is very important. If the tension had not been relaxed, the roots would hold on to her tightly, and she would not be able to free herself of their grasp. She would not be able to breathe at all and would never be able to separate her roots from his. Once she does separate those roots, they can take hold elsewhere and she can grow.

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