(posted on behalf of Pooja – A die hard dreamer who fell in love with literature and poetry after being introduced to the enchanting world of Kubla Khan around 5 years ago, she claims to be drop dead envious of every person who, with a light touch can make the 26 alphabets of the English language hum and throb with passion and life. That magic hidden in the written word is what makes her tick. After 3 years as a literature student she joined up for MCJ out of the laziness to study any heavy subjects and so as to escape the confines of home. Fresh from college, she is now on her first job at a small firm in Trivandrum, Kerala.)
A Book I Read for Christmas
An obscene book banned from society! The most controversial book of his times!
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence always had a way with piquing up my curiosity during my degree days as a student of Literature. It was this Christmas, 4 years later that I could lay my hands on it.
“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
This was more or less Constance Chatterley’s position. The war had brought the roof down over her head. And she had realized that one must live and learn.
She married Clifford Chatterley in 1917, when he was home for a month on leave. They had a month’s honeymoon. Then he went back to Flanders: to be shipped over to England again six months later, more or less in bits. Constance, his wife, was then twenty-three years old, and he was twenty-nine.”
Frank & straightforward, the opening paragraphs of the novel plunges right into the heart of things. It puts the characters, their mindsets and the times in perspective.
Books are to me, like the people I meet in life.
There are those whom I don’t even try to make friends with (aka. those with an overdose of science, math etc.) Then there are others whose looks I don’t like but then, often owing to a complete lack of options, I give them a try anyway. And some of them come recommended via acquaintances. But some of them are rare treasures. They are much like those outgoing, jolly people you meet in life. The ones who make friends easily and put you at ease the moment you start a conversation.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was to me, one from the last category. It put me at ease immediately.
There is immense depth and innumerous layers to this book.
It throws light on the social conditions and mindsets of the post WW1 times, gives an insight into the psyche of each of the characters it portrays and ofcourse, there is an in depth study of sex- how relevant it is, the different phases of passion and so on.
I will here touch upon aspects of the book that I am sure will remain with me for a very long time to come.
The outline is, thus- Lady Chatterley is married to Sir Clifford who returns home from the war in a battered state. Treatment doesn’t help and he is paralysed from the waist below. They come down to Wrangby to settle down to the life they are destined to. The development of an illicit affair between the Lady and their gamekeeper forms the rest of the story.
The first of the many aspects that touched me is the insight into the mind and thinking of the Lady. 23 years old, in the prime of her life, stuck with a husband who is half paralysed, she does her best to be the dutiful wife. In fact, she is a dutiful wife and takes good care of him. But then enters the issue of her needs and requirements as an individual.
I loved the way the writer took me into her heart and showed me in person every one of the battles that raged there!
I have often heard and read about those soldiers who have had to return home wounded. But reading this book showed me how the psychological fears, sense of insecurity, the agony of shame, the craving for life and well being, all play out.
The relationship between the lady and her lover, the gamekeeper, Parkin seems purely physical but at times I felt there was more to it. Maybe it is the feeling of being wanted that made both the Lady and her lover stick together.
The burning passion in the detailed descriptions of the love sequences showed me why exactly the book created such controversies in his times!
A thought in the mind of the Lady about love and passion having different phases intrigued me.
But the pivotal point in the novel that struck me was this question posed to the Lady by a member of the working class…
“Do you think it is possible for people in a very different walk of life to be friends-really friends? What I want to know is it possible that there could be a real friendly feeling between the working class and the upper class?”
This seems to me a central point that runs throughout the novel. This battle of the classes seeps in into the passionate relationship between the Lady and her lover as well.
There are many more aspects to this novel that needs to be looked into but I’d like to end on this note.
Even when we argue that all are equal, even when we are nice to those “below” us, even when we boast that we are good, kind and benevolent even to the domestic help at home, isn’t there a tinge of class thinking lurking in our “benevolence” and “kindness”?
What do you think?