Lawrence began writing Lady Chatterley's Lover immediately after the 1926 General Strike in Great Britain. Clifford Chatterley represents the forces of modernity, industrial capitalism and dehumanization that ruthlessly exploit nature and human beings. He is a cold, cynical, soulless character who treats people like machines, and indeed is half-machine himself, moving around in a mechanical wheelchair. In addition to promoting and advertising himself, his main interest is using the principles of scientific management to extract greater profits and efficiency from his mines. Although he is sexually impotent, he treats sexuality like a commodity, while his wife Connie feels like a domestic slave surrounded by mechanical conveniences. She does not even regard her own life as real or authentic, but only like something she read about and her affairs with men are ultimately empty and unfulfilling, at least until she meets the groundkeeper Mellors. Lawrence represents this character as a child of nature and protector on the environment, who was emotionally damaged by his experiences in World War I and his marriage to an abusive and inhuman wife. At first, neither Connie nor Mellors believe that there is any hope for them, although over time their sexual relationship develops into one of real love and tenderness that ends up redeeming them. When Connie becomes pregnant, Clifford decides to use the child as his heir, even though he is completely incapable of reproducing. Connie and Mellors make the free choice to reject him and everything he represents, however, and escape to Canada. They both find greatness, humanity and nobility at the end of the story, in contrast to the mechanical, utilitarian industrial world that Clifford rules, where individual humans no longer even exist except as factors of production are spare parts for the machinery.
Lady Chatterley's Lover was the last novel Lawrence wrote before his death from tuberculosis in 1930 at the age of 44. Like Clifford Chatterley, he was also impotent, not as a result of a war wound but because of his illness, but much of his writing referred back to his youth as the "son of a coalminer and of a mother with pretensions of gentility," and of his own romantic and sexual attraction to her (Gordon 364). Originally, he intended to call the novel "Tenderness" as a reflection of the deep relationship experienced by Connie and Mellors, although James Joyce snidely named it "Lady Chatterbox's Lover." Lawrence had many agendas in his writing, including the intention of eliminating the "dirty little secret" of sex, and his novel was very difficult to obtain in the U.S. For many years because of its graphic language and description of sexual acts (Balbert 68). He had an obsession that became a "quest to discover through sex a world beyond or below worlds" (Gordon 363).
Lawrence celebrated primitivism and animism that depicted all material and inanimate objects as being alive and even having a soul. He regarded this as an ancient mode of thought that had once been universal among Native Americans and the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, whose mentality was very different from that of the modern, scientific world. They believed that "everything was alive, not superficially alive, but naturally alive, including rocks, mountains, clouds and air (Gutierez 179). Their knowledge of the cosmos was based on instinct and intuition, not reason, and their minds were full of images rather than thoughts, which Lawrence regarded as a "repressed and forgotten mode of a fulfilled being" that the modern world desperately needed to recapture, along with the faith that the environment was a living being rather than just a thing (Gutierrez 180). All of his novels regarded nature in this way, and in Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tevershall and Wragby Wood represent a "world brutally raped" by modern industry (Gutierrez 193). He rejected "the inhuman mechanical disciplines of modern industrialism" and called for a cultural rebirth that was pre-Christian and pre-capitalist (Koh 190).
Today there is hardly any room for belief in earth spirits, sacred mountains an invisible sky and water gods, and most modernist thinkers have rejected such beliefs as 'primitive', 'backward' and unscientific, a relic of the past. Indigenous peoples in the Andes still embrace the allyu concept, which in Quechua means the "dynamic space where the whole community of beings exist in the world lives, including humans, plants, animals, the mountains, the rivers, the rains" (Cadena 354). They regard mountains like Macchu Picchu and Ausangate are living beings with likes and dislikes, and they can communicate these to the indigenous peoples. Many of these Native leaders today are university educated, so they phrase their ideas in "modern terms" and "politically acceptable speech" about the environment, anti-capitalism, opposition to free trade and other leftist ideas that fit within the framework of modern science (Cadena 348). In this way, they can work in coalitions with labor unions, leftist political parties, liberation theologians in the Catholic Church, and environmental organizations, but the fact remains that their basic worldview is fundamentally different from that of the scientism and rationalism of the modern West.
Clifford Chatterley was a half machine, paralyzed by his wounds from World War I and moving around in a mechanical wheelchair. As the owner of the mine, he "persists in inflicting his exploitive will on society, his workmen, and the earth" (Gutierrez 194). He treats his workers as cogs in the machinery and is both physically and emotionally impotent and paralyzed, with a cold and utilitarian worldview. Chatterley also wrote "ultra-modern stories" and is also a "technocrat and industrialist" who seeks total efficiency in exploiting labor, raw materials and the environment" (Koh 191). He speaks in superficial slogans and cliches such as "the industry comes before the individual" and "the function determines the individual," and is suspicious of any type of vitality or spontaneity that cannot be controlled by discipline, orderly routines, and rewards and punishments (Koh 192). Chatterley and his circle at treated sex as just another commodity, and he even suggested that Connie "be impregnated by another man" (Balbert 72). He even wanted to make Connie's child his heir and give it his name. Lawrence portrays him as a very shallow figure, who believes in advertising, publicity and self-promotion, presenting an image to the world that he knew was false, but in spite of his fame and material success he "cannot experience personal fulfillment" (Burack 501).
Connie and her sister Hilda are part of Clifford's world at the beginning of the novel, even though they are restless and dissatisfied with their empty and meaningless lives. At first, even Connie and her sister Hilda viewed sex in a 'modern' and 'sophisticated' manner, as a "sex thing" or "sex business," yet her passion for Mellors redeems it and makes it more than a mechanical or biological act (Burack 497). Connie and Hilda used their lovers as objects, without emotion or eroticism, while Connie does not even believe her life is real but something in a novel or a play that she read. Connie had an affair with the playwright Mick, who is a 'modern' man like her husband, but found him sexually unsatisfactory. He blames her for his poor sexual performance and his "minimal erotic activity is compensated by excessive mental reactivity" (Burack 504). She is also trapped in a domestic world of "mechanical cleanliness" and "mechanical order," which leaves her feeling isolated and alienated from the world (Koh 196).
Mellors was a victim of the war like Clifford, and of modern society and culture, from which he was attempting to escape. He had terrible experiences in the war and with his wife Bertha which "gradually forced him into a self-depriving isolation in the woods," and he preferred to avoid women (Balbert 73). His wife Bertha also treated him like a "sexual machine" rather than with love or tenderness (Koh 202). Unlike Clifford, his wounds were psychic and emotional rather than physical, but they were no less real for all that. In the original version of the story, he was a very common and ordinary man named Parken, but in later revisions became "almost a gentleman," as Hilda put it, and he and Connie finally found a "ponderous, primordial tenderness" (Gordon 371). He was the son of a blacksmith but was commissioned an officer during World War I, when so many upper class men had been killed. One important role he has in the novel is to defend "the sacred wood, where the life-mysteries are acted out" even though it is surrounded by Chatterley's wasteland (Koh 200). As a natural man and an outsider to modern civilization, he and Connie finally enjoy "an idyllic interlude culminating in her pregnancy" (Gordon 370). Their erotic love, and escape to Canada at the end of the novel is a way of representing them as two people who are not machines or robots, but rather have reclaimed their humanity.
In the end, Connie and Mellors are redeemed by tenderness and erotic love, which should not be confused with the merely mechanical aspects of sex.…