The Problem Of Social Class In Lady Chatterley’s Lover

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The social class order is one of the main issue that the novel confronts and tries to deconstruct. Firstly through the relation of an upper class women Connie or Lady Chatterley with a worker class man Oliver Mellor or the gamekeeper, which is a strong weapon to revolt against the social class by illustrating the probability of satisfying relationship between partners who do not belong to the same social backgrounds. Secondly through evoking the idea that class hinders and narrows human relationships in particular social class criteria, which is based fundamentally in social and economic position. This idea is strongly presented in Marx and Engels theory about the social class struggle in capitalist system. Every strata is aware of itself by its function in the society ; as a result, the higher class claims a superior state due to its owning of the material production as the case for Clifford who owns the pit of coal, and the lower class is inferior and exploited as the case for the mine workers. Though Clifford in the very beginning of the novel is described as an introvert person and seems uninterested in his position as an heir of Wragby Hall, when his brother Herbert died in 1917. On contrary he sees his father Sir Geoffrey as a hopeless anachronism for his overvaluing to the social position and patriotism, Clifford’s disability to produce an heir after the incident of war is the cause of his father death. At first Clifford refuges to writing as a way to defy his paralyzed body and prove his mental efficacy in society. In fact he becomes an important writer, he organizes in his house many encounters for literary figures, yet the intellectual path does not help him because it is for the sake of fame and he does not accept the critics to his works. As a result, Another healing is emerging to him, it is the power over hundred of colliers who are physically stronger than him but he is their master and they depend in him. At this point Clifford becomes maniac with his class status more than any time, because it gives him more concrete sense of power in comparison to the abstract world of literature. He subdues his literary interests by studying the technical works on mining industry under the support of his nurse Mrs Bolton, especially when she tells him that masses do not have the brain of socialism. Interestingly it is not her first motivation to him, Mrs Bolton also inspires him before in his writing through her gossips about Tevershall village’s inhabitants . As a consequence they are more in agreement than his relation with Connie who does not like his obsession with industry. Nevertheless Mrs Bolton is not a flat character, she is another representation of lower class.

Mrs Bolton contrasts with Mellor for her submissiveness to the social hierarchies. ”She was bullied, but she didn’t mine. She was experiencing the upper classes. She neither resented nor disliked Clifford; he was just a part of phenomenon, the phenomenon of the high-class folks, so far unknown to her, but now to be known.” Though she hates Clifford because he remembers her of the mine owners who refused to take the responsibility of her husband’s death in the explosion of the mine and they only compensated by presenting three hundred pounds to her claiming that it was his fault. Even though Mrs Bolton’ relation with Clifford is ambivalent, though her grudge to the masters, she enjoys their intimacy and feels that aristocracy is nothing special about.

On the other hand, there is Mellor who is obviously resistant to the social class: At some point in his life he progressed from a soldier in India and Egypt, to an officer then to a lieutenant with a chance to become a captain, yet his damaged health led him to leave the army and back to England as a working man again. As a result he exceeds his lower-class status even if it was merely temporal, he develops an awareness that the only difference between classes is pretension and though he hates the social divisions altogether, he prefers the lower class for there is no pretend among them. Finally there is Connie who was before she married Clifford from the intelligentsia class, then she is elevated to become an aristocrat women, she recoils the emptiness of the aristocracy and the boundaries between her and people because she bears the pedigree of Chatterley. She finds Clifford irrational for letting her having an affair with a man unless he belongs to the upper class. When Clifford knows about Mellor, he does not accept the existence of a lower class man in his life and then, he feels betrayed he said : “That scum! That bumptious lout! That miserable cad ! He turns into hysteric case, and he categorizes Connie as a perverted woman who likes to sin. The idea that Clifford’s feeling of betrayal is not linked to the adultery itself, because he already approved it. He feels deceived when he knows that the gamekeeper of his estate who has an affair with Connie. Clifford attitude shows how morality is not isolated from the influence of social class, which from its lens he sees Connie as immoral woman.

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the narrator indicates a philosophical concept of the paradox between the individuals’ credo and values and their real attitudes in reality. This contradictory view is explained through Clifford himself, who claims that anyone from lower class can be an aristocratic, if he or she raises in the same conditions. So he believes that all people are naturally alike, but their upbringing that differentiates them. Nevertheless a feeling of disgust has possessed him, when he knows about Mellor’s identity as if Connie profanes the sacred lineage of Chatterley. The same for Connie’s sister Hilda who defends workers and assumes socialist principles. She wishes Connie to leave Clifford and initiate a new relationship, but not with a low worker man, She dislikes Connie’s affair and finds it so vulgar.

The novel juxtaposes twofold kind of relation to manifest the influence of social class in each one of them:

  • Connie and Mellor who revolt against their social class differences for the continuance of their relationship: Though Mellor dislikes the strong position of Connie for he will depend in her capital for making the farm when they will get their divorce, yet he accepts it and he does not let her social position stands as a barrier between them. The same case for Connie when she knows about Mellor ‘s wife return to the cottage and her discovery to her affair with him, she disgusts the whole affair if the society will know “She was afraid, terrified of society and its unclean bite.” Yet she decides to face the society and stick with him.

    Therefore their relationship is not for social or economic advantages, rather it is based in the body and sensuality. The novel’s open end with both of them waiting for their divorce to be together again, it is actually a metaphor to the hope of social class’ dissolution and to the awakening of the body that is buried by the industry and the civilization.

  • Mrs Bolton and Clifford keep the social class differences, Clifford undoubtedly gets his pleasure when he plays the role of master with Mrs Bolton. He makes her know how to type and how to play chess… And Mrs Bolton is fascinated with their intimacy especially after Connie’s departure. Though she hates how their physical relationship takes an oedipal form (The influence of Freudian psychoanalysis): ”It was sheer relaxation in his part, letting go all his manhood, and sinking back to a childish position that was really perverse.” At the end Clifford power position who defines what kind of physical intimacy she will have, in order to get the social recognition that she lacks throughout her life.

    Therefore their relation is a way to deal with their deficiencies. For Clifford his high social position empowers him and makes him forget his physical disability, while Mrs Bolton their relation makes her forget her lower class background. Therefore both of them are consumed by the obsession of social class.

As a conclusion the narrator tries to demonstrate that Connie and Mellor’ relation is healthier than Mrs Bolton and Clifford’s relation, which is strongly ironized by the narrator. Because the former is based in natural connection, while the latter is based in societal constructs. The novel’s attempt to revolt against the whole system of society makes it as one of the most early novel to express a radical will of change in society. “Lady Chatterley’s lover hasn’t the scale, the sustenance, of the earlier novel, and its single and powerful dimension it is still isolated, still reduced, from the form that had once seemed possible. But it is a positive flow again, a recovery of energy, a reaching past rigidities, and as such very moving.” The insistence in feelings and valuing the primitive state, is an ultimatum to the modern society or the lost generation that remained in a state of loss and despair after loosing the trust of humanity having a pure instinct especially after making destructive war, that is why it is a strong anti-war novel.

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The Problem Of Social Class In Lady Chatterley’s Lover. (2021, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-social-class-in-lady-chatterleys-lover/
“The Problem Of Social Class In Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-social-class-in-lady-chatterleys-lover/
The Problem Of Social Class In Lady Chatterley’s Lover. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-social-class-in-lady-chatterleys-lover/> [Accessed 5 Jul. 2022].
The Problem Of Social Class In Lady Chatterley’s Lover [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 12 [cited 2022 Jul 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-social-class-in-lady-chatterleys-lover/
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