Monday, January 3, 2011


Chapter seven of Lady Chatterly's is a short chapter, but it hits on a couple of very interesting phrases or topics.

In the first part of the chapter, Constance examines her naked body to great disappointment: "Instead of ripening its firm, down-running curves, her body was flattening and going a little harsh. It was as if it had not enough sun and warmth; it was a little greyish and sapless" (page 74).

Earlier descriptions of Constance's body characterize it as robust, curvy, and full of vitality. She's a healthy, glowing woman; but she is now losing that freshness, that youth, though she's only twenty-seven. Her body is going "flat, slack, meaningless" (page 74), and she rebels inwardly against the injustice of neglect. In the absence of physical love and intimacy her body has aged: "Old through neglect and denial, yes denial" (page 75). She despairs of finding that renewing physicality in men: "They had their pathetic, two-second spasms like Michaelis; but no healthy human sensuality, that warms the blood and freshens the whole being" (page 75).

The body continues to be the subject of the first half of the chapter. In a small social gathering at Wragby, the Chatterlys and friends hypothesize about the future, including how future technology and civilization will address the body. Clifford's aunt, Lady Bennerley, adds this to the conversation: "So long as you can forget your body you are happy. [...] And the moment you begin to be aware of your body, you are wretched. So, if civilization is any good, it has to help us to forget our bodies, and then time passes happily without our knowing it" (page 79).

Constance's awareness of her declining body is making her feel wretched, but I don't think forgetting about it or ignoring it is going to solve her problems. In continuing to neglect her body, it will continue to deteriorate until it's nothing but "wisps of smoke," as she says later. The people in this conversation are Clifford's friends, the upper class and leaders of the mental life; they don't live in their bodies, not really. Not like Constance.

Another interesting point of the conversation, though, is the idea of a time when "babies would be bred in bottles" (page 78). Olive, a woman in the party, does not want to have children, and she likes the idea of artificial childbirth: "Anyhow the future's going to have more sense, and a woman needn't be dragged down by her functions" (page 78). That is, a woman need not be defined as a baby-maker. She could have her own life, as Olive says, a sterile "immunised" woman (page 78). Would sexual freedom follow sterility? It's certainly possible; after all, isn't modern birth control a temporary immunization which allows women to have a sex life without the risk of being dragged down by their functions?

Tommy Dukes strikes again as the voice of the visceral with a call for the resurrection of the body. "There may even come a civilization of genuine men and women, instead of our little lot of clever-jacks, all at the intelligence-age of seven. It would be even more amazing than men of smoke or babies in bottles. [...] Give me the resurrection of the body! [...] But it'll come, in time, when we've shoved the cerebral stone away a bit, the money and the rest. Then we'll get a democracy of touch, instead of a democracy of pocket" (page 80). The mental life will fade, and when it does, humanity will again inhabit the body.

It's a nice battle-cry; but then, Tommy also claims that the phallus is the bridge across the chasm into which our civilization will collapse. So, you know, we'll see.

A plot summary, for those reading the book vicariously between the lines of my analysis: Constance's mental and physical depression worsens, and she applies to her sister Hilda for help. After being examined by a family doctor, it's decided that Constance needs more amusement in her life, rather than the dreary existence she has at Wragby just attending to Clifford. Hilda threatens to take Connie away to their father's estate for a few months until she gets better if Clifford won't hire a nurse or manservant to attend to him. Eventually, he caves and Mrs. Bolton is hired to be his nurse. Constance feels the effects of her addition acutely, and begins to improve: "quietly, subtly she was unravelling the tangle of his consciousness and hers, breaking the threads gently, one by one, with patience and impatience to get clear. [...] And Connie felt herself released, in another world, she felt she breathed differently. But still she was afraid of how many of her roots, perhaps mortal ones, were tangled with Clifford's. Yet still, she breathed freer, a new phase was going to begin in her life" (page 89).

See you tomorrow.


  1. I've wondered what role Clifford would eventually fill. He seemed at first to be almost everything Connie wanted, if it weren't for his physical limitations. Now he antagonist to her freedom? Hmm.

    Is it Connie's understanding that when reflecting upon her aging body she is referring to her psyche as neglected of intimacy (neglect that manifests as a disappointed view of her body) or strictly that more loving would have kept her body younger?

    Was Lawrence friends with Freud?

  2. He is becoming increasingly antagonistic, and I think the implication is that it's because of the lack of sex between him and Connie. It's essentially a deterioration of their intimacy; when the duties of his toilette are passed off to Mrs. Bolton, Clifford laments the loss of what he considered part of their intimate relationship, i.e. Connie caring for him. He clings to their conversations, but Connie is weary of his talk and arranges for Mrs. Bolton to cut off their evenings together at 10:00 every night. He is represented now as the thing holding her back and draining her.

    As far as the neglect of Connie's body, I think it's a little of both. It's cyclical and psychosomatic. She isn't receiving the human sensuality that would bolster both her emotional and physical selves, and in the depression caused by the neglect of outside sources she also neglects herself by despairing and not seeking it. Physical neglect leads to emotional neglect leads to physical neglect, etc.

    They were contemporaries, and yes, some critics claim that Lawrence was influenced by Freud's theories. I haven't done any reading on it myself.