Chatterley’s Lover, considered quite scandalous when it was first released
in 1928, follows the story of the gentle and intelligent Lady Constance
Chatterley, who is wed to the paralyzed and impotent Lord Chatterley. At first, she is relatively content with her
sexless, loveless life, and takes pleasure in helping her husband achieve
status as a well-known author. However,
she eventually comes to see both him, and the stories she has helped him to
write, as cold, empty and ultimately, meaningless.
engages in an affair with a controversial young playwright who comes to stay at
the Chatterley manor, but her happiness is short-lived. Though the young man professes to love her,
their sex life is unfulfilling, as she must work to bring about her own orgasm
since he thinks only of himself in bed.
Ultimately, it is his failure to really connect with her sexually that
causes their break-up.
long after, Constance meets the groundskeeper
of the manor for the first time. Rough
and uncouth, with a strong local accent that marks his lowly status, Oliver
Mellors at first frightens the Lady, but then begins to intrigue her. On one of her long walks through the woods
one day, she comes across Mellors at a small cottage used to raise pheasants,
and takes an interest in the cottage.
She asks Mellors to keep the door open for her, so that she may come and
sit in it sometimes, and he reacts very strangely and discourages her from
returning. However, when they meet at a
different time, he gives her a key that allows access to the cottage at all
times. It is in this cottage that they
first make love, during a rainstorm in which they both run outside naked.
first time, Constance feels satisfied both
sexually and emotionally by a man. Both she
and Mellors agree that, in an age where tenderness is scarce, both of them have
a great deal of tenderness that they need desperately to share with
another. But there are
complications. Firstly, Mellors is a man
far below her station and it would be the greatest scandal if anyone were to
find out about their affair: society would brand Constance
as a harlot and an outcast and her family would suffer unbearable shame. Secondly, Mellors is still married to his
crazy, estranged wife, who ran off on him cruelly with another man after years
of making him miserable. Thirdly, of
course, is the problem of Lord Chatterley.
Fully dependant on Constance for
everything, he cannot conceive of her leaving him though he knows she is
unhappy. Theirs is not a society in
which divorce is common, and it is considered somewhat of a disgrace.
a nursemaid is hired to take over some of Constance’s
duties to Lord Chatterley, much to his dismay and her relief. This allows her to gain some emotional
distance from the man she has been married to for so long, and Lord Chatterley
forms a strange, almost child-like dependence upon his new nurse.
The presence of the nurse lets
Constance take a vacation with her family to Greece, though it makes her sad to
leave Mellors. Constance and Mellors
decide that while she is Greece,
he will file for a divorce from his wife and as soon as Constance
returns they will run off together.
However, on her vacation Constance
receives a letter from her husband telling her about how Mellors’s crazy wife
has returned, not only refusing to grant him the divorce but spreading terrible
rumors about him, rumors that are disgusting and sexual in nature. Though her husband does not sayit outright, Constance realizes that Mellors’s wife has been accusing
her husband of having an affair with Lady Chatterley. Lord Chatterley of course does not believe
the rumors, but wishes to spare his wife the indignity of thinking people are
wrongly gossiping about her, and so he does not tell her what is really going
To add to the drama, Constance is pregnant.
Frantic with worry, Constance, with the help of her sister and father, devise
a plan that will allow her divorce from Lord Chatterley. They enlist the help of an old family friend
named Duncan, who has always been in love with Constance. They
plan to tell Lord Chatterley that she is in love with Duncan and that it is he who has gotten her
pregnant. However, when the time comes
to confront her husband, Constance tells him
the truth: that she is in love with Mellors, the gamekeeper, and that she is
pregnant, and that she is leaving him forever.
The last scene of the novel is a
letter from Mellors to Constance, telling her
that he is on a farm, working, and that he will come join her as soon as he
can. He tells her he loves her and that
he thinks of her all the time; of her and of the tenderness they share.