Lawrence's use of Mulitple Voices

Lady Chatterley's Lover is far more than a mere work of complaint, for Lawrence was primarily an artist rather than a social activist. He is frequently accused of being a polemical, didactic writer, but this is partly because readers have taken his characters' exposition of their ideologies to represent Lawrence's own point of view. This assumption is naive, however, for he deliberately refrains from speaking in a clearly defined authorial voice throughout his novels. Instead, he mercurially shifts his perspective from one character to another on their level, showing us how they react to each other in turn rather than writing from a plane of understanding above them. In Lady Chatterley's Lover, he dissolves his prose into the thoughts of each of the characters including those whom one might assume to be antipathetic to him, like Sir Clifford. Most of the novel, however, is written from Connie's point of view, right down to the stops, starts, haltings and accelerations of her own mind, as '.. .she felt again in a wave of terror the grey, gritty hopelessness of it all... yet Mellors had come out of all this. -Yes, but he was as apart from it as she was.'

Lawrence may start a passage in an authorial tone, but before long he will have assumed Connie's own flow of thought. Here, for instance, Lawrence judges her state of mind detachedly, and then gives the reader direct access to it, in the lines 'with the stoicism of the young she took in the utter soulless ugliness of the coal-and-iron Midlands at a glance, and left it at what it was... Well, there it was: fated, like the rest of things' It was rather awfal, but why kick? You couldn't kick it away. It just went on. Oneself also went on. Life, like all the rest!' Occasionally, but much less frequently, Lawrence allows the reader to eavesdrop on Mellors' thoughts, as in the scene where he sits ' a stupor of bitter thoughts until midnight...And what then? What then? Must he start again, with nothing to start on? Must he entangle this woman? Must he have the horrible broil with her lame husband? - and also, some sort of horrible broil with his own brutal wife, who hated him? Misery! Lots of misery!'

Although Lawrence does approach a certain mimicry of Mellors' fragmented. Jerky, tortured and circular thoughts, the prose style is still recognisably that of Lawrence. Only very occasionally does he go in the direction of Joyce, actually appropriating not only the flow of a character's thoughts, but also their own particular idiom, the manner in which they express these thoughts to themselves. A striking moment at which Lawrence slips into such a style is when Mrs. Bolton sees the keeper loitering outside the house in the early hours of the morning and thinks 'Well! Well! So her ladyship had fallen for him! Well - her Ladyship wasn't the first: there was something about him. But fancy! A Tevershall lad born and bred, and she her Ladyship in Wragby Hall! My word that was a slap back at the high and mighty Chatterleys!' These are very obviously the thoughts not of Lawrence but of Mrs. Bolton, and the reader judges them accordingly, for we negotiate the novel's voices as they shift. Although Connie's voice often yields to Lawrence's, for instance, he always protects her from the reader's criticism. Her voice is not muzzled, but shaped so that a significance can be provided for her more often than she can provide it for herself. There is nothing patronising about this, however, for the voice that describes Mellors' 'strange potency of manhood' is not the voice that sees his penis as 'proud' or 'lovely.' The challenge to Connie's voice is not the same as the challenge to her values, which are open to the readers' criticism in a way in which her voice is not. She possesses the voice of a character becoming free, shaping an identity very different from Lawrence's own, and although her voice is framed by his, she speaks for herself. Thus, she dashes spontaneously into the rain, not to give Mellors an opportunity to 'take her', but to assert her independence and to express her own 'sudden desire.'
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