I read the original Fifty Shades of Grey (a.k.a Lady Chatterley’s Lover) six or seven years ago. What a brilliant story, especially for its time. Originally published in the 1920s, it predated the sexual revolution, the porn industry boom, and MTV. The way Lawrence was able to capture the notion of sexual fulfillment from a woman’s perspective no less, simply blew me away.
In this scene, Connie (Lady Chatterly) converses with her husband, Clifford, who is an impotent paraplegic. This is before Connie meets Oliver Mellors, the man who eventually “lights her fire.”
Clifford to Connie:
“…You had that lover in Germany…what is it now? Nothing almost. It seems to me that it isn’t these little acts and little connections we make in our lives that matter so very much. They pass away, and where are they? Where…Where are the snows of yesteryear?…It’s what endures through one’s life that matters; my own life matters to me, in its long continuance and development. But what do the occasional connections matter? And the occasional sexual connections specially. If people don’t exaggerate them ridiculously, they pass like the mating of birds. And so they should. What does it matter? It’s the life-long companionship that matters. It’s the living together from day to day, not the sleeping together once or twice. You and I are married, no matter what happens to us. We have the habit of each other. And habit, to my thinking, is more vital than any occasional excitement” (47).
What I love about this passage is that is holds both truth and untruth. A statement like this discounts the need for passion, yet touches on the bigger picture–the things that truly matter in life. I believe these words, for Connie’s sake, were meant to be proven wrong, yet Lawrence is creating a pretty fierce argument.
By the way, in our world today, we still debate this very predicament.
10 responses to “Old School Sundays: D.H. Lawerence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover”
As an English graduate I read this feeling pretty uncomfortable that I’ve read 50 shades but not Lady Chatterley. I might be inspired to rectify that situation! That said, my previous encounters with Lawrence were not resounding successes. I read Sons and Lovers as a school text and hated it. Tried The Rainbow a long time ago and didn’t get through it. Third time lucky?
I didn’t like Sons & Lovers either. I went into it with high expectations, since I love Lady Chatterley, but I’ll admit–never made it all the way through. I read some of Lawrence’s short stories–I remember enjoying them, of course, now I can’t remember the titles!
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I loved Lady Chatterley, and I hated Shades of Gray–compared with this, no erotic tension, no beauty, no deep yearning, no depth at all.
Honestly, I never even tried Fifty Shades of Grey. I refuse, in fact. I love what you’re saying though. You’re absolutely right. Chatterley has beauty to it. Wow. You nailed it!
And do we ever!
This actually encapsulates what I found so implausible about 50 Shades–there is no underlying foundation for their relationship, which I could accept if the story weren’t trying to tell me otherwise. The second two books of the trilogy (and I read all three! For science! 😉 ) do try to build up their connection more, and interestingly, the over-the-top passion (IMO) is turned down to simmer as a result.
I think we all hope for both: passion and the deeper connection (intellectual? spiritual?) but it is an interesting discussion about whether they can coexist in the same relationship.
I always enjoy these posts, and the opportunity to think about stories in a new context.
Yes…as well as long term love. As I admitted above, I haven’t read Fifty Shades, yet for some reason, I feel as though I already have. I can imagine it’s completely like you said–lacking that emotional depth, that passionate yearning that so permeated Lady C. We do hope for both the intellectual as well as the physical connection, and I think that’s why Chatterley worked so well for me. Still, it did have its elements of fantasy to it–it was a loin-burning love story after all 🙂 I just think it was so ahead of its time.
So glad you like these posts! It’s re-awakening my old “lit” spirit as well 🙂
You’ve inspired me to read Lady C!
Lisa–you should definitely go for it! It’s an experience 🙂
Okay – one more book to add to the must read list. Good news is that if I can waste time to read the trilogy I should be able to fit time in for something that actually is good writing!! I hate getting through a book and realize you have how the relationship ever worked to start.
This is definitely one to invest time on. It took me a while to start it, but I got sucked in pretty quickly, despite it’s “old school” nature. Unfortunately most of my readings of the classics is in my past…I’m glad I did it when I did it, because I mostly devour chick lit 🙂