Lady Chatterley's Lover: A Comic Novel?
'Mr. Lawrence, who, it would seem, is serious if anybody is, is intently occupied with the most 'fundamental'
problems. No one, at any rate, would seem to have probed deeper into the problem of sex -
the one problem which our contemporaries unanimously agree to be serious. No line of humour, mirth
or flippancy ever invades Mr. Lawrence's work; no distraction of politics, theology or art is allowed to
entertain us...' So wrote T.S.Eliot of Lady Chatterley's Lover, and yet, for all Lawrence's earnest intensity,
there is a degree of humour to the work which Eliot has missed. Sex is central to the book, undoubtedly,
and Lawrence was certainly serious about his attempt to address the sexual hypocrisy and morality of
the age, but certain scenes in the novel appear to be almost silly. Mellors' address to his penis is hard
to take seriously, as is the scene in which he and Connie wreathe flowers about each others' bodies
with particular attention to the pubic area, Thus it may make more sense to suppose that Lawrence
was aware of the potential for ludicrousness in such a frank treatment of sex, and thus occasionally
exploited it, than to take the work at face value at all points. More engaged and responsible critics find
the sexually explicit sections of the work unfortunate because they might be laughed ctt, and they attempt
to pre-empt such a calamity by earnestly intellectualising the sexual act. It does not occur to them that,
just occasionally, Lawrence is to be laughed with. Philip Larkin has written that '...what is so wonderful
about Lady Chatterley 's Lover is that it is liberatingly laughable - parts of it made me laugh deeply...',
and perhaps he is right to suggest that critical qualifications and disapprovals of Lawrence's treatment
of sex miss the point - 'the absurdity of it all struck me like a fist in the knackers - I don't think that he
meant to draw any conclusions that are really dependable. It's funny how Mellors never really swears
love, or even wants love: whenever Connie tries to fix him with her eye, a 'mocking grin' comes over his
face, or some such. It's no good, he just doesn't want it, and this is enormously important, I think - it's
not something Lawrence has dreamed up to 'avoid' love- it is something that is 'true." Indeed, perhaps
Lawrence's at least partially humorous stance can be detected at the end of 'A Propos of Lady Chatterley's
Lover', which concludes with the relation of an anecdote about male shortcomings - 'Well, one of them
was a brainy vamp, and the other was a sexual moron,' said an American woman, referring to the two
men in the book,- ' So I'm afraid Connie had a poor choice - as usual!'
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd,
and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission.
See our FAQ for more details.