Civilisation, marriage and tenderness in D.H. Lawrence's novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover"

Seminararbeit, 2008

14 Seiten, Note: 2,0



1 Introduction

2 Civilisation
2.1 The First World War
2.2 The Class System
2.3 Industrialisation

3 Marriage

4 Tenderness
4.1 Connie and her Lover in Germany, Michaelis and Clifford
4.2 Connie and Mellors

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography

1 Introduction

When the first version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published in 1926, the readers had been shocked, because it was about sex. Since then there have been various speculations, books and articles about if there was more to this book than sex – and there certainly is.

The term paper concentrates on three main aspects: civilisation, marriage and tenderness. I chose three points of criticism of society, namely the war, the class system and industrialisation. In the chapter ‘marriage’, I decided to focus mainly on the Chatterley’s marriage and the relation between Connie and Mellors, though also the couples Ted and Ivy Bolton and Mellors and Bertha Coutts come up shortly. For the last point in this term paper, I grouped the aspects of Connie’s relations before she had met Mellors and her relation with him. In this last chapter, I tried not to give too many examples to show in which way the two lovers behave tenderly, but I rather attempted to give an overview over their relationship and the ramifications of tenderness for them.

2 Civilisation

2.1 The First World War

The consequences of the First World War for Constance Chatterley were not only a husband, Clifford, who was physically paralysed from the waist downwards and impotent, but whose soul was also damaged. At first glance, everything appeared ‘normal’: Clifford was a famous author, liked receiving friends at Wragby Hall, the family seat, enjoyed having conversations with them and his wife, and was fond of going out for a walk in his motor-chair in the nearby wood. But in one of their discussions, Connie noticed

[…] one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance. It is, really, only the mechanism of reassumed habit. Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst. (49)[1]

For her, at the age of 23, it was not easy to handle this situation as she had to face it everyday and there was nothing to distract her at Wragby Hall – except the conversations with Clifford’s friends which soon started to bore her, too.

It seemed to her that “[a]ll the great words […] were cancelled for her generation: love, joy, happiness, home, […].” (62) She suffered, because she failed to live happily with her husband, inwardly searching for the meaning of her life without yet knowing it. Lawrence gives the explication for her sentiments himself: “It is the day after.”[2] Connie’s generation was the one who survived the First World War and who had to deal with the after-effects of it. Even the very beginning of the novel tells us that “[o]urs is essentially a tragic age […].” (5)

Nevertheless, Connie will find her true love Mellors, whereas Clifford is going to be abandoned by his wife. So when the novel develops, it becomes clear that he is – regarding interpersonal relations – actually the tragic figure.

On the one hand, one could lay all the blame for Clifford’s destiny in the hands of the war, but this would be too easy. He’s certainly not the poor figure that doesn’t know how to live on, as becomes clear when his person developed with Mrs Bolton’s help. But who knows how the Chatterley’s marriage would have evolved without the war? Perhaps they would have lived happily together until the end of their days. But for Lawrence there would have been no necessity to write about a happy couple. He wanted to criticize the war and its consequences for human lives. In Doris Lessing’s eyes, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is even “one of the most powerful anti-war novels ever written.”[3]

2.2 The Class System

Clifford, as the owner of the collieries in Tevershall, was responsible for the workers. His idea was, that the aristocracy “has given the colliers all they have that’s worth having: all their political liberty, and their education, such as it is, their sanitation, their health-conditions, their books, their music, everything.” (181)

On the one hand, he felt superior to them, as he was a member of the upper class. He had “power” (108) over them. In his eyes, “they are not men. They are animals […]” (182) and “he saw them as objects rather than men” (15). “The masses have been ruled since time began, and till time ends, rules they will have to be.” (183) His duty was to rule them and to give them work. Apart from that he didn’t care for them.

On the other hand, “he was just a bit frightened of the vast hordes of middle and lower-class humanity, and of foreigners not of his own class.” (10) This could be explained by the fact that he was crippled and the workers were physically in better condition than he was. Perhaps it had even something to do with him not being able to go wherever he would have liked to go and to run away in case of a rebellion. Probably one could even argue that his “supercilious and contemptuous” (15) behaviour towards members of the other classes was only jealousy.

At the same time, he was aware of the fact that the class system had been made up and was only a “romantic illusion” (183). He told Connie:

Place any child among the ruling classes, and he will grow up, to his own extent, a ruler. Put kings’ and dukes’ children among the masses, and they’ll be little plebeians, mass products. It is the overwhelming pressure of environment. (183)

Having a look at her attitudes towards the different classes in English society, Mrs Bolton is a very conflicting person. When she at first felt “a resentment against the owning class” (81) and “was [at the same time] thrilled by her contact with this man of the upper class” (100), she soon realized, that Clifford, “a real gentleman” (99), “wasn’t so very different from the colliers after all” (83). Finally, she accepted his superiority over her and liked working for him. She would even stay awake a good portion of the night to gamble with him. When Connie was furious about them playing cards for money, Clifford just raised Mrs Bolton’s wage (215). So much for how to solve problems in the upper class – namely with money.

For Connie, the ruling of the aristocracy “was all cold nonsense” (72). She didn’t care about her ladyship and even hated it. (cf. 124) When her sister Hilda predicted that she would feel ashamed of having had an affair with a gamekeeper, she ignored the warning. Yet Hilda’s reason why one should not get mixed with working class people seems a little bit far-fetched: “because the whole rhythm is different.” (241) None the less, at a moment, Connie thought of her affair as “humiliating” (264), but quickly changed her mind.

For the reader, it is surprising, that Clifford’s godfather, Leslie Winter – as an example for people from the upper class – “would detest and despise her [Connie]” for having an affair with a working class member. “A man of her own class he would not mind.” (128) One should think, that infidelity is bad, irrespective of the class to which the man with whom one has an affair belongs to. But potentially, he would only accept it because of Clifford’s impotence.

These statements (of Hilda and Leslie Winter) show very well how really different people of lower classes were seen in the upper class. One was not allowed to have any sort of relation with them except the master-servant-relationship and apart from that: no talking at all. Because if one did – or if one had even an affair with a worker - like Connie –, society would sooner or later find out and the reputation and respect would be gone.

Curiously, there were however people who decided against climbing the social ladder. (Probably there were only few who had had the chance.) Mellors “had come back to his own class” (142) after having been a soldier in the army in India and having become a lieutenant. His reason was that

[t]here was a toughness, a curious rubber-necked toughness and unlivingness about the middle and upper classes, as he had known them, which just left him feeling cold and different from them. (142f)

Lawrence criticizes in his novel “[c]lass hate and class-consciousness”[4] and he shows, that real love, like in the case of Connie and Mellors, doesn’t know class restrictions.


[1] All the numbers given in brackets after quotations refer to the number of the page in the primary text: Lawrence, D. H.: Lady Chatterley’s Lover. London: Penguin Classics, 2006.

[2] Lawrence, David Herbert. “A Propos of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’.” In: Lawrence, David Herbert. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. London: Penguin Classics, 2006.

[3] Lessing, Doris: “Introduction.” In: Lawrence, David Herbert. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. London: Penguin Classics, 2006. P. XXI.

[4] Lawrence. P. 332.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 14 Seiten


Civilisation, marriage and tenderness in D.H. Lawrence's novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover"
Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg  (Anglistik)
Proseminar: Pastoral Novels
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Die Seminararbeit "Civilisation, marriage and tenderness in D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover" zeichnet sich durch einen guten Aufbau der Argumentation und einen sehr flüssigen, adäquaten Sprachgebrauch aus. Leider wird in der Argumentation nur auf textinerne Elemente zurückgegriffen, die zwar Lawrences Gesellschaftskritik verdeutlichen, ohne jedoch einen Vergleichsmaßstab zu gebrauchen. Es hätte sich angeboten entweder auf die behandelten Texte von Ruskin (The Sesame and the Lilies) oder auf Lawrences Studie über Thomas Hardy zurückzugreifen, [...]
Civilisation, Lawrence, Lady, Chatterley, Lover, Proseminar, Pastoral, Novels
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Katrin Daum (Autor:in), 2008, Civilisation, marriage and tenderness in D.H. Lawrence's novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover", München, GRIN Verlag,


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