Saturday, April 16, 2011

ReadALong: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence: Post 1

I am participating in A Literary Odyssey's readalong of Lady Chatterley's Lover. I have never read a book by D.H. Lawrence but I did know that this book was controversional because it was banned when it was first published for its explicit dealings of a sexual nature.

So far we have read the first half of the book (the first ten chapters) and I can see why this book was banned in its time. While the sex scenes are tame by today's standards, the narration includes not only sex scenes but also characters discussing sex and the nature of personal relationships between men and women.

Lady Chatterley's Lover follows two main characters, Clifford and Connie Chatterley. Clifford was injured, shortly after his marriage to Connie, in WWI which left him paralysed from the waist down- creating a sexless marriage for him and Connie when he returned home. For many years, Connie was content to be Clifford's caretaker and asked nothing of him in return. After several years, Connie slowly drifts into a depression from a lack of entertainment and, we assume, sex and intimate relations. Connie takes one lover who is part of Clifford's social circle, but she ends up taking another lover who she feels more deeply about- the caretaker of their estate! A man below her rank!

For a classic novel, I think that it is a fairly easy read and moves along at a nice pace. What I'm not thrilled about are the characters. Through the beginning they all seemed rather distant and cold. It's hard to relate to characters who value their intellect above everything else. Clifford's friends sit around 'intellectualizing' sex by examining relationships between men and women. Their discussions are very frank, which I found a little uncomfortable because it was not stuff I would sit around talking about with group of people. They also downplay the intimacy and importance of marriage and sex:

"I believe that sex is a sort of communication like speech, and should be as free as speech. Let any woman start a sexual conversation with me, and it's natural for me to go to bed with her, to finish it"

"'Marriage might-and would-stultify my mental processes. [...] I'd be ashamed to see a woman walking round with my name-label on her, address and railway station, like a wardrobe trunk' [...] 'It's an amusing idea, Charlies,' said Dukes, 'that sex is just another form of talk, where you act the words instead of saying them. I suppose it's quite true. I suppose we might exchange as an sensations and emotions with women as we do ideas about eh weather and so on. Sex might be a sort of normal physical conversation between a man and a women.'"

Connie's lover, the gardener, is also a distant man who seems to like Connie just for her body-- which I suppose is the opposite of her husband and his friends who just admire her mind. I hope we learn more about him in the second half of the book.

I think one of the main themes in this book is the split nature that humans have created. Connie is split in two by the men around her- she is admired for intellect by her husband and for her body by her lover. Connie struggles with this though because she wants to be one, whole person. I hope she succeeds in integrating herself and regaining her happiness.

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