Monday, July 19, 2010

Oh, yes, I'm reticent!

Current book: Lady Chatterley's Lover
Pages read: 346 - 457 (end)

While Connie is away in Venice she discovers that she's pregnant, much to her joy. At the same time, Mellors's estranged wife, Bertha, tries to come back to him, against his will, and causes a huge scandal in the area. Clifford hears about it, but doesn't believe the rumors about Mellors and Connie that Bertha spreads as a result of her rejection by Mellors. Connie decides to come back to England, however, and meets Mellors in London, where they decide that she should ask Clifford for a divorce. She does, and admits the truth to him, after which he's completely disgusted with her. He refuses, however, to give her a divorce, pretty much because he's a petulant child. As a result, Connie and Mellors run away, separately, but with the intent to be together, and the book ends with the two making plans for their future together, whether they each get their divorces or not.

I'm not really sure what I think. I didn't expect Connie and Mellors to stick to their mutual guns and give everything up to be lovers together, so I kind of liked that part. I don't know what to make of the fact that Clifford remained impotent and ridiculous the entire time, becoming more and more of a child until he was perversely, Oedipally attracted to Mrs. Bolton.

It seems as far as Connie and the gamekeeper go, the message was, in the end, that physical love is an act of beauty that transcends all social demands. The sex seemed to be enough for the two of them, since they had no real mental or social connection, and all signs at the end of the book point to a positive future for them, however scandalous. In his final words in the novel, in the form of a letter, the gamekeeper says this about their relationship:
"We fucked a flame into being. Even the flowers are fucked into being between the sun and the earth...We really trust in the flame, in the unnamed god that shields it from being blown out." (456)
So, sex is equated with an act of creation, yes, but the gamekeeper specifically says that he's not referring to the child they created together, but rather the spirit that exists between them. By having sex, then, they have created their relationship, their sense of future happiness, and even, perhaps, some kind of holiness.

It's sort of a nice idea, but I'm not sure I can quite agree. Sex can be beautiful and can certainly engender a sense of holiness in its participants; it can, in fact, bring them together to create something that is beyond the sum of its parts (and no, I'm not referring to a child). But I'm not sure it can serve as the foundation for a bright future in which they can live for each other and love deeply. I don't think there's enough there for that. Lawrence includes a great deal of discussion about the modern tragedy that is the separation of the intellectual from the physical, and that the emphasis of the intellectual over the physical is enfeebling (just look at Clifford), but I'm not sure he quite explains it away. He would probably argue that there is no real intellectual love in his society anyway, but I think that's a bit blind of him. Sure, society was a bit stifling in the 1920s, and can still be, but real love was and is possible, and it's based on more than sex, no matter how transcendent.

Worthy of the list? I suppose. It makes you think about the nature of sex quite a bit, and it was certainly groundbreaking, so I'll give it the nod for that reason, I suppose, but honestly, I'm a little reticent.

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