Lady Chatterley's Lover | Study Guide

D.H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley's Lover | Plot Summary

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Constance "Connie" Chatterley and Clifford Chatterley marry during one of Clifford's leaves during World War I. Clifford is injured in the war and returns to England paralyzed from the waist down. The couple moves to Wragby, the Chatterley estate near the coal-mining village Tevershall. Wragby becomes a meeting place for young intellectuals who went to school with Clifford, and they often spend the evenings talking. Clifford takes up writing, and Connie types his stories and becomes his sounding board.

At first Connie is content with their life and believes they have a strong intimacy. Over time she grows restless and begins to wonder about the meaning of it all. Her life with Clifford seems to be missing something, and she has an affair with Michaelis, one of the young visitors. Michaelis is unable to satisfy her during sex, but she is able to achieve orgasms on her own. Michaelis is so pleased with how nice she is to him that he does not mind this. They sleep together when he visits, and sometimes they meet in London.

One day Clifford tells Connie he would like a child so he could pass Wragby down to him and preserve it as part of Old England. He tells her he would not mind if she got pregnant by another man. A few days later Connie and Clifford meet Oliver Mellors, the gamekeeper, when they are walking in the woods. Connie's affair with Michaelis ends when he returns to Wragby after an extended absence. Michaelis is puffed up with the success of his most recent play and thinks he has finally gained the social acceptance he has long desired. Connie and he sleep together, and this time he gets angry at Connie's inability to climax with him. He lashes out at her and calls her selfish. Shocked to the core, she swears off all men. Her restlessness increases, as does her discontent and distance from her husband, who is primarily concerned about his own needs and writing and barely notices his wife's deteriorating health or emotions.

Connie later sees a shirtless Oliver Mellors washing himself outside his cottage. The sight of his pale, white body stirs something in her, and she wants to know more about him. That night she undresses and stares at her naked body in her bedroom mirror. Her body is flaccid and no longer ripe. She cries herself to sleep and grows even more bitter toward Clifford. Eventually Connie reaches out to her sister, Hilda Reid, who comes to Wragby and is displeased with her sister's poor health and her husband's obliviousness of it. Hilda takes Connie to a doctor in London, who tells her there is nothing wrong with her, but she is suffering from nerves and needs to do something enjoyable to restore her health. Hilda demands Clifford get someone other than Connie to help with his personal needs. He hires Mrs. Bolton, a former parish nurse. After Mrs. Bolton comes, Connie is freed from caring for Clifford and begins to emotionally separate from Clifford by spending more time alone and by going out to the woods.

During one of her excursions in the woods she discovers a hut in a clearing where Mellors has built chicken coops. Connie finds the spot—and the chickens—very restful, and she enjoys just sitting there watching the chickens and Mellors. Mellors does not like the intrusion on his privacy. He, too, finds the clearing and hut a refuge from the world. Being a man who craves solitude, he dislikes Connie's presence, but he cannot order her to leave as she is his boss's wife. Connie asks for a key to the hut, which increases the threat to his carefully sheltered world, but eventually he gives her one. As Connie comes almost every day and he attends to the chickens every day, they start to communicate and get to know each other. Connie sparks a desire in Mellors he wants to extinguish. He knows from his unhappy past that being involved with a woman will only cause him more pain. He cannot dampen his desire, though. Connie also feels a physical attraction to him and is glad to have someone be attracted to her femininity, too long neglected by her husband, who prefers the cerebral to the physical.

Connie and Mellors soon have sex. They then experience several struggles in which they deal with their individual fears. Both initially have a great reluctance to embrace their relationship, despite their physical attraction. Mellors does not want to be open to a woman, fearing he will be burned as he has been in the past. At first Connie wants to keep the relationship strictly physical and resists any emotional entanglement. This proves problematic, and then she resists the physical because of the lack of emotions. They eventually resolve these conflicts and declare their love for each other. Now they face another conflict: How can they be together? Both are married and from different social classes. They need to divorce their spouses and find a way to live together. The question is not one of money, which both have, but one of vocation. Mellors needs to be engaged in some type of work to feel fulfilled, and his prospects are dim as he's sleeping with his master's wife.

Connie goes to Venice with her sister for several weeks in July. She plans to pretend she had an affair during the trip as she is pregnant. While there she receives letters from her husband, Mrs. Bolton, and Mellors. In his letter Mellors explains that after he filed for divorce his estranged wife, now enraged, demanded he take her back, breaking into his cottage and refusing to leave; Mellors went to live with his mother. His wife, Bertha Coutts, spread all kinds of information about Mellors with everyone who would listen. She relayed extensive details about their past sexual activity and reported another woman—Lady Chatterley—had visited Mellors at his cottage. Mellors informs Connie her husband, Clifford Chatterley, has fired him and he is moving to London.

Connie leaves Venice early and meets Mellors in London. They discuss the obstacles in their path and renew their commitment to each other. Connie contrives a scheme in which she will claim Duncan Forbes, a young man who had once been in love with her and who had vacationed in Venice at the same time as her, is her unborn child's father. She writes to Clifford and tells him to divorce her. Clifford says he needs to talk things over with her in person, so she reluctantly returns to Wragby. Her attempts to persuade Clifford to divorce her are unsuccessful, and she reveals Mellors is her lover and that she loves him and is going to live with him.

Connie leaves Wragby and lives with her sister in Scotland while waiting for Mellors to get his divorce. He expects it in six months, and until then they agree to be separate so as not to risk losing the divorce. Though separate, their love remains strong, and Mellors makes plans for a small farm where they can live together in the future.

Lady Chatterley's Lover Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Connie Chatterley and Clifford Chatterley move to Wragby.

Rising Action

2 Growing restless, Connie begins an affair with Michaelis.

3 Clifford tells Connie he wants an heir.

4 Connie and Michaelis end their affair.

5 Connie discovers the hut and spends much of her time there.

6 Oliver Mellors and Connie have sex for the first time.

7 Connie and Mellors experience full sexual pleasure.

8 Connie spends the night at Mellors's cottage.

9 Connie and Mellors plan how to be free of their spouses.

10 Connie and Mellors make an oath professing their love.


11 Connie goes to Venice for several weeks.

Falling Action

12 Clifford writes Connie about a scandal involving Mellors.

13 Clifford fires Mellors, who moves to London.

14 Connie tells Clifford she loves Mellors and leaves Wragby.


15 Mellors writes a letter to Connie about their future.

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