Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a novel with a message.
That message is “you are living life wrong”.
So, the novel is most famous for its sex scenes. These, and the fact that the main characters swear, led to it being a banned book. This led to the most famous British obscenity trial ever, in which it was claimed that the novel is not obscene.
In my mind, that does not prevent Lady Chatterley’s Lover from being really truly horrible.
The novel focusses on Lady Chatterley, also known as Connie. She married Lord Chatterley because she found his mind interesting, and he was then disabled in WWI (and can no longer have sex). She grows depressed, then has affairs – first with a playwright and then with the gameskeeper. She and the gameskeeper fall in love, and she leaves her husband.
Connie is originally built up pretty well. She is a young woman interested in getting interesting experiences in life, and not that interested in sex. Her marriage to Clifford (Lord Chatterley) keeps her from anything new – she is more or less trapped in an industrial part of the country which horrifies her, and has little access to anyone other than her husband, who she realises that she doesn’t care for. Once she starts her affair with Mellors, the gameskeeper, however, she changes to become somewhat selfish and unfeeling, not appreciating anything in life and thinking that everything and everyone is fake and tacky.
The character of Mellors is almost impossible to like, from my point of view. It is also a bit of a problem: he is supposed to be a Real Man, unlike most other men. So far, so good, but that means that he must express himself as he pleases – and he generally wants to be unwelcoming. I can understand that the point is that he is not subservient to those who consider themselves above him, but when this means being generally standoffish and speaking in his vernacular rather than the more generic English he normally speaks, it feels as though he is trying to put peoples’ backs up and thus make himself superior to them. And is that the point? He also gives endless speeches on how no real men or real women exist anymore, and people fool themselves into thinking that things are real. He alone knows the secret to be happy, and despite that he himself is not happy, nor is he trying to improve anyone else’s life. Also he never tells Connie that he loves her, not even when she asks him to say it.
Finally, a word on the sex scenes, since they must be mentioned.
They are not very sexy. Unless you like the idea of naming your genitalia and chatting to it (his is called John Thomas), and unless you think that sex should be quick and animal-like, this may not be the book for you. Oh, also, if you have any friends who are fans of Sean Bean and want to torture them, you can find extracts of the adaptation in which he plays Mellors on Youtube.
Reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover made me quite sad. It has such a gloomy vision of the world, one in which the human race is only getting worse, where the working classes care about nothing but money and the upper classes care about nothing at all, one in which only this one couple truly care about one another. It may be a great work of art, but I just can’t see it.