Since the narrative is the only available discourse to be analyzed directly, this essay is aimed at analyzing how the narrative structure of Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover is related to the economic system of socio-political issue constructed in and around the novel. Through the classical and frequently use of past tense narrative, this novel tries to raise the (un)popular topics of England in 1920s right after World War I: 1) woman’s body and sexuality and 2) the change from old England to a newer one.
Although the whole novel uses what Genette calls as subsequent narration, the narrator talks in present tense at the very beginning of the text which serves as an introductory to give a sense of time and condition of the narrative for the reader.
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future; but we go round, or scramble, over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen (2010: 7).
Here, the narrator has not taken a focus to a certain character in the novel so that it has zero focalization. In addition, the use of present tense makes the narrator have a control to the reader so that he can assume and place the reader into a certain time which serves as the time the narrator tells the story (erzhälte Zeit)—or, as Genette says, a story time. After presenting the time, the narrator, then, shifts his focus to Constance Chatterley in the next paragraph: “This was more or less Constance Chatterley’s position. The war had brought the roof down over her head. And she had realized that one must live and learn” (7). This shift not only results in the change of focus to Connie but also changes present tense into past tense for the rest of the novel. Genette says that a change into present tense sometimes happens in a subsequent narration either at the beginning or at the end of a narrative (1980: 220). These changes mark how the text moves from zero focalization into internal focalization through Connie’s eyes.
Although the narrator is still in the level of extradiegetic-heterodiegetic, this shift into internal focalization allows the reader to know more about what Connie thinks about every event in the story. However, the internal focalization according to Genette makes a restriction to certain fields whose impact is to the “completeness of information” (1988: 74) due to the limit vision. This strategy is employed in the text to place the reader in Lady Chatterley’s shoes because many of the events are presented from her view, such as when the narrator tells an event when Clifford’s friends come to their house:
Yes, she sat there! She had to sit mum. She had to be quiet as a mouse, not to interfere with the immensely important speculations of these highly-mental gentlemen. But she had to be there. They didn’t get on so well without her; their ideas didn’t flow so freely. Clifford was much more hedgy and nervous, he got cold feet much quicker in Connie’s absence, and the talk didn’t run (37).
Thee extradiegetic-heterodiegetic narrator and internal focalization techniques may also invoke the use of free indirect discourse in which the boundary between objective and subjective narrator becomes blur. From the passage above, it seems that the narrator gives an objective view of the event at hand. Nevertheless, if we pay attention to the order of the sentences, the narrator actually presents Connie’s assumption about the men and Clifford. The first sentence is indeed objective because the narrator puts his camera to describe Connie’s gesture (sat). Yet, the second, third, and fourth sentences is starting to show the shift between objective view into subjective one which is Connie’s view. The addition of modal verb (had to) which is to present necessity and behavioral verb (sit mum, be quiet as a mouse) make the passage shift from objective to semi subjective because narrator begins to enter Connie’s thought about the event. Then, in the fifth and sixth sentence, it seems that the narrator sees through a ghost’s eyes because he can say what the men think about her absence. Nonetheless, these sentences are not descriptive sentences but more like feeling because the narrator sees it through Connie’s subjective opinion about the men and the event. Therefore, those sentences are more likely subjective view of the narrator through Connie about the event rather than an objective view. Due to the previous sentences as well as the first sentence of the passage which present the descriptive narration of every character in the story, however, this passage seems to show the objective view of the event when they are read together. I see that this technique can strategically manipulate the structure so that the subjectivity contained in the passage is disguised as an objectivity to the reader. In this case, the text tries to present the other point of view which is usually not presented or avoided in other texts: her story. This point of view is shown mostly through Connie’s thought.
The narrative which focuses on Connie’s thought and experience along with the classical past tense narrative make the text seem to explore a new path which is woman’s sexuality by using a common device to be discussed in the novel. Through her point of view, we are shown how Connie explicitly describes about her sexual affair with Mellors and her feelings about it. Unlike Bradbury’s Rates of Exchange which vaguely tells the sex between Katya and Petworth, this novel shows Connie’s affair with Mellors in detail. The text uses interior monologue mainly through Connie’s eyes especially to describe how Connie realizes about the desire she has towards Mellors’ body. Connie realizes about her desire when she senses a shook in her womb and in the middle of her body seeing Mellors who is having a bath. She describes Mellors’ body as “a certain beauty of a pure creature. Not the stuff of beauty, not even the body of beauty, but a lambency, the warm, white flame of a single life, revealing itself in contours that one might touch: a body!” (67). This passage seems to convey a feminine consciousness of one’s sexuality, in this case Connie’s sexuality. In chapter 7, the narrator even shows Connie who is observing his body after that event:
When Connie went up to her bedroom she did what she had not done for a long time: took of all her clothes and looked at herself naked in the huge mirror. She did not know what she was looking for, or at, very definitely, yet she moved the lamp till it shone full on her.
And she thought, as she had thought so often, what a frail, easily hurt, rather pathetic thing a human body is, naked; somehow a little unfinished, incomplete! (70)
These paragraphs present Connie’s thought about her naked body which she finally realizes it after a long time. She thinks that a human body is “a little unfinished [and] incomplete” but her thought is based on what she sees of her body. From this passage, the text uses interior monologue to explain Connie’s feeling of her body’s incompleteness. At first glance, this passage appears to be giving a feminine thought about desire, body, and sex because of its technique which uses an internal focalization through a woman’s eyes. However, Millett argues that the novel exploits a feminine consciousness as a strategy to convey its masculine message (239).
In her analysis of Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley, Millett writes in her book entitled Sexual Politics (2000) that “Lawrence is the most talented and fervid of sexual politicians” (239). She argues that every sexual scene is written according to what Sigmund Freud calls as “female is passive, male is active” because Connie is always passive in every sexual intercourse with Mellors and she likes it. Moreover, the glorification of “the phallus” which is addressed to Mellors by Connie as “big”, “dark and cocksure”, “proud”, and “lordly” makes Millett thinks that the novel is actually programed for social as well as sexual redemption that modern men should gain their domination of women’s sexuality and psychology just like that of the middle ages (242).
However, Millett only focuses on the sexual politics described in the text which is happened between Connie and Mellors in concluding about the novel’s strategy to present its thought about modern man at that time. The novel indeed presents internal focalization through Connie’s eyes more often which makes it strategically put the implied reader in Connie’s shoes so that s/he will have the same view as Connie’s. On the other hand, the change of Clifford’s occupation from writer into the boss of Tevershall colliery and the image of the wood, Wragby Hall and Tevershall village are also other issues invoked in the novel. These two issues raise other socio-political problem which the novel tries to show along with the sexual affair between Connie, Clifford, and Mellors. Therefore, this novel not only presents sexual politics between Connie, Clifford, and Mellors but also presents the gradual change of England into an industrial-capitalist country which is shown in the book through the reliving of Tevershall Coal mine.
Genette says that in the literal (re)production of reality, free indirect discourse is “mimetically intermediate” (1988: 56). Thus, the picture of people in Tevershall village and Wragby Hall can be seen as the representation of Lawrence’s society at that time. Adipurwawidjana, Amalia, and Manggong argue that the Connie and Clifford’s world is “a metonymy of Lawrence’s world” which makes the narrative becomes a document to indicate the social change in England (2005: 63). The image of Tevershall village is mostly described by Mrs. Bolton. In my opinion, Mrs. Bolton is an important character who connects Wragby Hall to Tevershall village and changes Clifford into an indtustrial-capitalist. Before hiring her, Wragby Hall is separated from Tevershall village because Wragby Hall is quite distant from Tevershall Hall which is located over the hill. In addition, the park gates which surrounds Wragby Hall is literally a border separating Tevershall village’s world and Wragby Hall’s world. In the chapter 5, Clifford tells Connie that the wood in Wragby Hall is “the old England, the heart of it; and I intend to keep it intact” (44). If I take Genette’s opinion about the (re)production of reality and Adipurwawidjana and friends’ argument about the metonymy, Wragby Hall which has been there since the eighteenth century can be seen as the image of old England and Travershall village as the new England. Therefore, the arrival of Mrs. Bolton who is from from Travershall village at Wragby Hall also indicates the arrival of new England into old England. She gradually gains intimate relationship with Clifford and gives him a picture about Tevershall people which then makes him change his occupation from literally writing into the boss of Tevershall colliery.
If we see from the previous issue about the sexual politics in the novel which is presented by Connie and Mellors’ sexual affair, the issue of old and new England presented by Wragby Hall and Tevershall village and the reliving of Tevershall colliery seems to be a different issue which does not relate with the previous one. However, the relationship between Clifford-Connie, Connie-Mellors, Clifford-Mellors, and Clifford-Mrs. Bolton is the crosscut which is resulted from the criss-cross of those two issues. Just like Connie-Mellors relationship, Clifford-Mrs. Bolton relationship is based on Mrs. Bolton’s thought of a real gentleman and believe that all men are just “bab[ies] with a queer temper” (99). However, Clifford-Mrs. Bolton relationship is different with that of Connie-Mellors relationship although, if I can borrow Millett’s comment, both women are fascinated by the phallus of each man. In Clifford-Mrs. Bolton relationship, Mrs. Bolton already has knowledge about upper class men and their ego because of her previous experience as a helper. In addition, she has knowledge that her husband is died in the Tevershall colliery which is owned by Clifford because Clifford does not give any interest in running the colliery. Therefore, she deliberately gives all the control to Clifford especially the control of winning games such as piquet, bezique, and chess and teaching her language and typing. Yet, the control she gives to Clifford does not make her a completely passive woman just like Millett’s argument about Connie-Mellors relationship. Mrs. Bolton indirectly controls their relationship through the intimacy they have by telling him about the life outside Wragby Hall and how people from Tevershall begin to move from Tevershall colliery to Stacks Gate colliery. Mrs. Bolton can change Clifford who is previously anxious about his inability and hides it behind his occupation as a writer into a more confident man who owns Tevershall colliery and its people. The text even describes her as a woman who has “that queer sort of bossiness, endless assertion of her own will, which is one of the signs of insanity in modern woman” (97). This description, however, gives a negativity about the characteristic of modern woman in Mrs. Bolton. Millett argues that Lawrence always makes female attached with the adjective “queer” presumably “to persuade the reader that woman is a dim prehistoric creature operating out of primeval impulse” (243). The addition of the adjective “queer” and the noun “insanity” which are described as Mrs. Bolton’s traits makes the question whether the novel does exploit feminine consciousness to conceal its masculinity is raised again. Moreover, a question of the novel’s perspective about the socio-political issue regarding old and new England also surfaces. The ambiguity of the novel’s standpoint, therefore, marks the transition of pre-World War I world into modern world (post-World War I) which is presented in the novel by the employed techniques and the raised issues. These questions, then, lead to the main theme of this research which is the novel’s effort to raise the (un)popular topics. The issues about the transition of old England to new England may be seen as the popular topic of literature at that time because the topic is also found in Elliot’s writings. Meanwhile, the unpopular topic—which is actually not quite unpopular because Hardy also raises the same issue—is about the woman’s sexuality and the detail description of woman’s body which is regarded as pornography by English people at that time. This novel is claimed as a racy book by the English people and banned for 32 years due to its explicit scenes and harsh language which make the novel is regarded to be raising the unpopular topics at that time.
Adipurwawidjana, Ari J, Lien Amalia and Lestari Manggong. “Ambivalensi Naratif dan Transisi Sosial.” Dewanto, Nirwan. Kalam 22. Jakarta: Yayasan Kalam, 2005. 55-79. Journal.
Genette, Gerard. Narrative Discourse Revisited. New York: Cornell University Press, 1988.
—. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. New York: Cornell University Press, 1983.
Lawrence, D.H. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. London: Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2010.
Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.