Opens with pessimistic neo-spenglerian “ours is essentially a tragic age” (1), and only gets more misanthropically rightwing as it goes.
Perspective is lesser gentry with a “forlorn home” and “inadequate income” (1). There’s no doubt that they’re assholes. Protagonist Ms. Chatterly objects to “the utter, soulless ugliness of the coal-and-iron Midlands” (11). She detected a “gulf impassable” between herself and the village colliers (13)--”a strange denial of the common pulse of humanity.” Naturally, “the miners were nothing” (id.). Her husband, who ran the mine, “saw them as objects rather than men, parts of the pit” (14). Husband “had been through the war, had seen what it meant. But he didn’t really get angry till he saw this bare hill" (47)--i.e., world war is alright, but godsdammit if they cut down my trees.
Dialectic set up very early between erotic management and property management when a pack of aristocrats, as part of a general discussion that develops into irrationalist objections to industrialism and bolshevism (they’re “a perfect description of the whole of the industrialist ideal” (42)), contends on the issue of “the sexual problem” (34). When asked if he would mind another screwing his wife, one gentleman opines “of course I should mind. Sex is a private thing between me and Julia, and of course I should mind anyone else trying to mix in,” for which he is rewarded with the compliment, “you have a strong property instinct” (id.), and “Julia is labeled Mrs. Arnold B. Hammond, just like a trunk on the railway that belongs to somebody” (35). So, uh, yeah.
This conversation is tied into the husband’s horror at denuded property: “one must preserve Old England” (48), and the way to do that is to produce an heir who will take possession of the aristocratic estate and run it like a feudal manor. “We who have this kind of property, and the feeling for it, must preserve it.” Ergo, husband authorizes Ms. Chatterly to “arrange this sex thing, as we arrange going to the dentist” (49)--just so long as “you wouldn’t let the wrong sort of fellow touch you."
Ms. Chatterly, like Ms. Bovary, however, has her own erotic development, and it likely involves the wrong sort of fellow. Unlike Bovary, though, she’s not really rooted in ennui. Rather, her husband came back from the Great War paralyzed. He seems to approve of her liaisons, even to the point of pregnancy, provided she remains in the house as his wife. She reflects on her childhood lover: “she only had to hold herself back in sexual intercourse, and let him finish and expend himself without herself coming to the crisis; and then she could prolong the connection and achieve her orgasm and her crisis while he was merely her tool” (4). For her first marital affair, she became involved with an artist, a “trembling excited sort of lover, whose crisis soon came, and was finished” (31)--but “she soon learnt to hold him, to keep him there inside her when his crisis was over. And there he was generous and curiously potent; he stayed firm inside her, given to her, while she was active…wildly passionately active, coming to her own crisis. And as he felt the frenzy of her achieving her own orgasmic satisfaction from his hard, erect passivity, he had a curious sense of pride” (id.). I for one love that a marxist dialectical term is here deployed by a misanthropic rightwinger to describe orgasms--but, after all, “sex is just another form of talk” (36).
She grows weary of artist, though, because “like so many modern men, he was finished almost before he had begun” and therefore she must bring herself off by her own exertions, which angers dude, who wants her “to go off at the same time as a man” (61).
Anyway, long story short: lots of further denunciation of bolshevists by dumb aristocrats. Ms. Chatterly takes up with a servant of the estate, but it doesn’t work out. At least she doesn’t die, like in Flaubert. Lotsa talking-to-genitals, but maybe not too much. Many of the aristocratic sentiments are well captured by Mannheim’s concepts (see [b:From Karl Mannheim|769563|From Karl Mannheim|Karl Mannheim|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348555087s/769563.jpg|755622]), such as the notion that lord Chatterly is a “conservative anarchist” (214). The sex scenes are a bit tedious, as is the report of local gossip around the village--but the rightwing critique of capitalism is damned interesting, and it is sustained--though in the end I think we are meant to sympathize with the cross-class affair that is presented.
Recommended for lobsters of the modern industrial and financial world, invertebrates of the crustacean order, with shells of steel, like machines; for readers who haven’t the brains to be socialists; and readers for whom the root of sanity is in the balls.