Lady Jane and John Thomas

"All the great words, it seemed for Connie, were cancelled for her generation: love, joy, happiness, home, mother, father, husband, all these great, dynamic words were half dead now, and dying from day to day. Home was a place you lived in, love was a thing you didn't fool yourself about, joy was a word you applied to a good Charleston, happiness was a term of hypocrisy used to bluff other people, a father was an individual who enjoyed his own existence, a husband was a man you lived with and kept going in spirits. As for sex, the last of the great words, it was just a cocktail term for an excitement that bucked you up for awhile, then left you more raggy than ever. Frayed! It was as if the very material you were made up of was cheap stuff, and was fraying out to nothing." (p. 63-64)

Generally, when I've read books that have been banned, I snort self-importantly at the misplaced, misunderstanding sense of self-righteousness that must have guided school boards or churches to make such decisions.

That was not the case with D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Which is not to say, in any way, that the book should be banned. It's just that, from a historical perspective, I get why it was. I mean, the author really does get graphic, especially in the words he chooses, which I will not repeat here.

(I can actually hear my university friends laughing at me in memory of a list once posted to the back-side of my dorm room door. Yes, some of those words did appear in this book. I still won't say them. Shut up.)

What is fascinating, though, is the book is a love letter to sex, or a sermon to it. If the perfect relationship is built on perfect sex, and no words ever need be exchanged, then the perfect love is shared by Lady Chatterley (Connie) and her gamekeeper. And the worst imaginable relationship would be that of the lady and her lord, who is kept in a wheelchair (and therefore unable to have sex) thanks to a war wound. Although, one assumes husband Clifford is a rather cold fish anyway and would not be able to hold up all that well in bed even in absolutely perfect condition and not paralyzed at all.

I know I'm hesitantly walking along roads ploughed by bigger thinkers than I (take a look through Google Scholar, although most of the articles are locked away in the libraries of academia), but it was absolutely fascinating to read a book that treated sex as something of religion.

It was a treat to read, too. I loved Lawrence's heavy-handed voice, how he got into every single character's head to tell us what the husband, the gamekeeper, the heroine (?), the maid, even the neighbours were thinking. While I couldn't get on-side with Connie, I couldn't rip apart Lawrence's idea of what it is to be female -- or more importantly his thoughts on what it means to get free, whether you are woman or servant or both. (Sorry, is that bolshy?)

"'But Clifford, you make eternity sound like a lid or a long, long chain that trailed after one, no matter how far one went.'" (p. 173)

I won't ruin the end for you, dear reader, except to say it, too, is heavy-handed. And a little bit of a cop-out and a little bit of a soap opera. And a little bit of brilliant.

No comments: