Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

One spring day Connie Chatterley goes for a walk in the woods. She discovers a hut near a spring and sees Oliver Mellors building a coop for some pheasants. She goes into the hut with Mellors. He ignores her, while she watches him without speaking. Mellors resents the intrusion because he wants his solitude. He considers her presence "a trespass on his privacy," but he is powerless to tell her to go away. She is one of his masters, and as a hired man he cannot tell her what to do. But more than that, he wants to avoid all contact with women. He has been burned before and has "a big wound from old contacts." All he wants in life is to be left alone. These woods are his "last refuge," and he wants to hide from the rest of the world there.

As she watches him Connie's womb stirs. She notes his solitude and patience and is intrigued by it. She thinks Mellors has far deeper and wider experience than her own. When Mellors glances up at her, he sees an expectant look on her face. This ignites a fire in his loins and he groans. It is the last thing he wants. He wants to avoid all close contact with a woman, and especially an upper-class woman.

Before Connie leaves she says she plans to come back as she finds it so nice and restful. She asks Mellors if he has another key, and he tells her he knows of only one. She asks if it is possible to get another. He tells her to ask Clifford Chatterley and refuses to offer to have one made. They stare at each other in a silent showdown, and she sees "how utterly he [dislikes] her." He considers her a strong-willed female and is angered to feel the "sleeping dogs of old voracious anger" awaken in him.

When Connie returns to Wragby Mrs. Bolton is waiting outside for her. Clifford is upset she is not home to make his tea. Connie brings the tea tray to Clifford and asks why he did not have Mrs. Bolton make it. He says he doesn't really consider her the person to preside at his tea table, to which Connie retorts "there's nothing sacrosanct about a silver tea-pot." That draws a curious look from Clifford. She tells him about her walk and puts some violets she picked—now "hung over, limp on their stalks"—in a glass. She tells him they'll revive, and he quotes a verse about the lids of Juno's eyes, much to her consternation. She does not see the connection of Elizabethan poetry to real violets.

Then she asks if a second key to the hut exists and explains she wants to sit there sometimes. Clifford immediately asks if Mellors was there. She replies he was, but he did not like her being there and was almost rude when she asked about another key. Clifford wants to know how he was rude, and Connie says she thinks he did not want her "to have the freedom of the castle." Connie asserts Mellors should not mind her being in the hut as it is not his home and she should have the right to sit there when she wants to. Clifford agrees and says Mellors "thinks too much of himself." Clifford talks about Mellors, saying he considers himself exceptional. He's skilled with horses, and after he joined the military in 1915 he was sent to India, then worked as a blacksmith to the cavalry in Egypt. An Indian colonel took an interest in him, and he was promoted to a lieutenant. After Connie asks about his broad Derbyshire accent, Clifford explains Mellors can speak properly but chooses to speak vernacular at times, probably because "he's come down to the ranks again."

One day Connie and Clifford go for a walk in the woods. The wood anemones are "wide open, as if exclaiming with the joy of life," and Connie picks a few and gives them to Clifford. He quotes a line of poetry about the "still unravished bride of quietness." Connie expresses her strong dislike of the word ravished, and this leads to a discussion about the word. The discussion disgusts Connie as she feels words are "always coming between her and life." The walk ends with Connie and Clifford being very tense, though they pretend not to be. Connie wants to distance herself from his self-absorption and obsession with words.

A few days later Connie returns to the hut and Mellors gives her a key to it. She is growing more attracted to the hut and clearing and wants to spend more of her time there. Mellors plans to move the pheasants to another place so he won't disturb her when she comes to the hut. She persuades him that is not necessary: she won't bother him and he won't bother her. They get in a heated discussion about it. It ends with Mellors reassuring her she can do whatever she likes; he does not want to be considered insolent.

Analysis

This chapter marks the beginning of Connie Chatterley's and Oliver Mellors's attempts to escape their current lives. Connie's distance from her husband grows, and she starts to free herself from the sense of security marriage offers. Mellors begins to free himself from his desire for solitude and emotional distance from others.

The nature imagery represents the beginning of new life and growth. Connie Chatterley recalls the sight of Mellors's "thin, white body" and thinks of it as "a lonely pistil of an invisible flower." A flower's pistil is the female reproductive organ, and for some reason Mellors's body immediately conjures associations with female reproduction, suggesting the beginning of a consideration of him as a contender to impregnate her.

The spring flowers are budding, at least in the patches of sunshine where the sun provides the right environment for their blooming. Connie compares herself to a crocus, thinking she "too will emerge and see the sun." The plants symbolize Connie's growing connection to the physical world. The unfolding yellow buds represent Connie's emerging receptiveness to the physical world. She is still fairly cold, not yet warmed by touch as indicated by the cold anemones with "naked white shoulders over crinoline skirts of green." The pine tree, however, pulses with life. It is an "erect, alive thing, with its top in the sun," symbolizing an erect penis aroused by touch and desire. The daffodils bravely face the wind but have "nowhere to hide their faces," unlike Connie who puts on a mask and hides her true face when she is with Clifford. Nature, though, has no such duplicity. It is physical; it is real. It is not a life of the mind.

Connie's affinity for the hut represents her desire for a place unlike Wragby. It is peaceful and restful, and she wants to appropriate it as her sanctuary. She seems oblivious to the fact that it is Mellors's sanctuary and fails to understand why he would mind her being there when he works on the coops. She knows she would not mind his being there, which strongly suggests her growing desire to form a relationship with him, even if she is not consciously aware of it.

Connie seems to be an innocent without guile, but her talk with Clifford about Mellors shows she is crafty. She plays on Clifford's upper-class attitude of privilege by asserting she has a right to be at the hut. In this way she deflects her interest in Mellors and makes it appear she is asserting her right to be Lady Chatterley and take what she wants. This is something Clifford fully embraces, and it squelches any suspicions he has of his wife having a personal interest in the gamekeeper. Lawrence uses nature imagery to show the state of their relationship and Clifford's lack of virility. Connie brings a few violets into the house and sets them on the tea tray. By the time she puts them in water, they are "hung over, limp on their stalks," which describes both their relationship and Clifford's penis. Connie optimistically tells Clifford the violets will revive, reflecting her desire for a change. Clifford responds with a line from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, telling her the violets are "Sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes." She is totally turned off by his comment because he is ignoring the real violets for words in a play. She is sick of words and wants the hands-on connection with the tangible world.

Connie and Clifford's walk together in the woods provides additional evidence of their increasing rift. Connie is drawn to the spring growth and shares her joy by giving Clifford some flowers. He responds as an intellectual, citing a line from John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Again he is "sucking all the life-sap out of living things" in favor of the life of the mind. Connie decides she is done with him. She hates his self-absorption, his life of the mind, and his words.

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