“It’s the one insane taboo left: sex as a natural and vital thing” (291).
Chapter seventeen details the beginnings of Connie’s trip abroad. She gets very little enjoyment out of the atmosphere, the landscape, and the diversions: “This tourist performance of enjoying oneself is too hopelessly humiliating: it’s such a failure” (281).
But there are two developments: Connie finds out that she is pregnant, and Oliver’s wife returns to claim him. He rejects her, but upon hearing the news Connie begins to have doubts:
“She felt angry with him for not having got clear of a Bertha Coutts: nay, for having ever married her. Perhaps he had a certain hankering after lowness. […] It would be well to be rid of him, clear of him altogether. He was perhaps really common, really low” (290).But no worries; she comes to her senses:
“Oh no! I mustn’t go back on it! I must not go back on him. I must stick to him and to what I had of him, through everything. I had no warm, flamy life till he gave it to me. And I won’t go back on it.”
Things will be rough for Connie and Oliver in the last two chapters. Bertha, upon being rejected, began spewing all kinds of nasty slander about her sex life with Oliver while they were married, and claimed that Oliver had had lovers since their separation (pot calls kettle black, continued on page four). Based on a set of initials she found on the charred remains of her and Oliver’s family portrait, she even went so far as to accuse Connie of being the lover. Connie was still abroad, but Clifford took legal action, and Bertha’s gone into hiding. But Oliver has been sacked, and is leaving for London the same day Connie returns from Venice.
On to chapter eighteen!
Chapter eighteen begins to wrap up the scandal. Connie and Oliver agree to get divorces from their spouses, keeping clear of each other during the proceedings, then getting married and living together to raise their child. Though Oliver has misgivings about raising a child in a world he hates with an uncertain future, Connie says: "Be tender to it, and that will be its future" (306). They have sex, with this lovely sentiment: "And as his seed sprang in her, his soul sprang towards her too, in the creative act that is far more than procreative" (307).
In chapter nineteen, after receiving a letter from Connie asking for a divorce, Clifford really goes a bit insane. His relationship with Mrs. Bolton becomes quite perverse; he acts like a child with her, but fondles her breasts and kisses her. It's extremely weird, especially for Mrs. Bolton:
"And while she aided and abetted him all she could, away in the remotest corner of her ancient healthy womanhood she despised him with a savage contempt that knew no bounds" (321).
He demands to see Connie again at Wragby. Connie, afraid, enlists Hilda to go with her to help convince Clifford's delusional mind that the child is not his and that she is leaving, and convince him to agree to the divorce which he is threatening to withhold. As they argue, Clifford says he will never divorce Connie because he doesn't believe in love, and therefore her love for Oliver can't be more important than the routine at Wragby, of which she had been a part. So Connie doesn't get her divorce, but she and Oliver proceed with their plans anyway, and the novel ends with Oliver working on a farm to prepare for starting a farm of their own when the child is born.
I very much enjoyed Lady Chatterley's Lover. In the beginning we saw that "a woman could yield to a man without yielding her inner, free self" (4), but as the novel progresses we see that that seems to be the very problem. Connie doesn't really find peace, for lack of a better term, until she and Oliver share the "sheer fiery sensuality" that strips them to their "final nakedness" together (273), where they are both shameless and tender with each other. In between is the struggle to find self-sustaining tenderness and awareness, the two things that were lacking in her life and other relationships. Lack of tender touch and true intimacy diminish a person's humanity and reality, which frustrates their chances for happiness. It is through her sexual relationship with Mellors that Connie finds a tender awareness that flows back and forth between them, reinvigorated with every passing.
Fascinating stuff. Up next, Goblin Market, an epic poem by Christina Rossetti.