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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Motifs



One of the ways D.H. Lawrence uses nature imagery—of both flora and fauna—is to reveal various characters' emptiness followed by transformation as they become sexually and emotionally mature. In Chapter 5 dead and crumbling leaves are metaphors, or representations, for the barrenness of Clifford Chatterley's life. The big sawn stump in that same chapter is a metaphor for the destruction of virility and vitality. Taken literally, the stump is all that is left after a tree is cut down. It also stands for all the young men and women injured in the war, for veterans like Clifford who were crippled and became impotent or lost limbs. It also represents society and humanity, which is just a remnant of its one vibrant self. When Connie and Clifford go for a walk in the woods in February, frost covers everything, showing the barrenness of their relationship and selves. It is winter, and nothing can grow.

Connie begins to spend more time in the woods alone in March, or early spring. She is restless, dissatisfied with the cerebral life, and becoming more aware of her own sensuality. In Chapter 8 she ventures into the woods while flower buds are just starting to appear. The early spring growth represents her emerging sensuality. The nature imagery shows how spring is unfolding, like her growing awareness of her sensuality, but it is not yet at full force. For example, the narrator describes how "little gusts of sunshine blew" rather than full-on sunshine, and there is only a bit of new spring growth, such as "the first windflowers were out."

In Chapter 10 the day after Connie first has sex with Oliver Mellors, the nature imagery reflects her wakened sensuality. The plants in the woods seem to pulsate with their own life force. The imagery of "the huge heave of the sap in the massive trees, upwards, up, up to the bud-tips, there to push into little flamey oak-leaves, bronze as blood" is a metaphor for sexual arousal and an erect penis. That night she walks through the woods where "all trees glistened naked and dark as if they had unclothed themselves, and the green things on earth seemed to hum with greenness." She, too, had unclothed herself and was pulsating with the sense of being alive and something growing within her.

The brooding chickens represent reproduction, motherhood, and new life. Connie is enamored of the chickens, and for some time they seem to be the only thing in her life that matters. This represents her desire to become pregnant, to fulfill the feminine nature of her body, and to have a child. It also is a metaphor for the new life she is creating for herself through her growing sensuality and the relationship she is forming with Mellors.


The word flame appears 33 times in the novel. It is used to describe a sexual awakening or urge and something that ignites, or makes things come alive, such as love and other emotions. Oliver Mellors first experiences this flame in Chapter 10 when he sees Connie Chatterley crying and suddenly becomes "aware of the old flame shooting and leaping up in his loins, that he had hoped was quiescent for ever." The flame is not just sexual desire. He also feels "compassion ... in his bowels for her."

Later in Chapter 10 the narrator compares the physical sensations Connie experiences during her first mutual orgasm with Mellors to flames, saying they rippled "like a flapping overlapping of soft flames, soft as feathers, running to points of brilliance, exquisite, exquisite and melting her all molten inside." Flame also represents her renewed desire for life, something that had almost been extinguished in Connie but that is reignited after she begins an affair with Mellors. She discovers "the old hard passion," and she becomes less concerned about Clifford and his meaningless because "the soft warm flame of life was stronger than he."

The flame also represents the transformations Connie and Mellors experience. For example, Connie gradually recognizes the importance of the physical body and her sensuality, as demonstrated in Chapter 12 when Mellors strokes her buttocks, causing "a sudden little flame of new awareness" to go through her. Mellors had always had a high respect for sex, but he devalued it in order to avoid personal pain. He gradually reconsiders his stance and slowly allows himself to consider an emotional involvement with Connie, as demonstrated in Chapter 14 when he looks at her with "eyes darkened with another flame of consciousness" and tells her not to ask him then if he wants to come live with her. This was immediately followed by "the invisible flame of another consciousness," which unsettles him and causes him to get out of bed. He is not yet ready to accept an emotional involvement, but the flame is making itself heard within him.

In Chapter 19 Mellors writes Connie and compares the flame to their love and relationship, something they created through sex. He tells her, "I believe in the little flame between us." He considers it "the only thing in the world" he cares about, and he is determined no one will blow it out. He describes how sex created this flame: "We fucked a flame into being."

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