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Literature / Lady Chatterley's Lover

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Lady Chatterley's Lover is a 1928 novel by DH Lawrence, about a young married woman, Constance (Lady Chatterley) whose upper-class husband has been paralyzed and rendered impotent during World War I. With his blessing, she starts an affair—though instead of finding an upper-class fellow that her husband would approve of, she begins sleeping with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors.

Due to its graphic sexual content, the novel created a great deal of controversy. In several countries, it was banned or heavily censored. The free release of Lady Chatterley's Lover was considered to be an important milestone of the sexual revolution of The '60s.

The book has had several screen adaptations, including those led by:

Lady Chatterley's Lover provides examples of:

  • Allegory: In one passage, the interaction among Sir Clifford, Connie, and Oliver is an allegory for the class system in a changing Britain.
  • Ass Shove: In one passage, Mellors and (an initially reluctant) Connie commit sodomy, although it's couched in such psychological language that the jury at the book's 1960 obscenity trial didn't realise it until the counsel for the prosecution pointed it out to them. (At the time, even consensual anal sex was illegal in the United Kingdom.)
  • Author Avatar: If you're quite familiar with DH Lawrence's viewpoints, then you might see some similarities between him and Mellors.
  • Blue Blood: The Chatterley family is a baronetcy, hence the lady of the house being referred to as Lady Chatterley.
  • Casting Gag:
    • The casting director of the 2015 adaptation shows his sense of humour by casting Richard Madden as Oliver Mellors while his "dad" Sean Bean already played him in the 1993 BBC adaptation.
    • Ivy Bolton in the 2022 adaptation is played by Joely Richardson, who had previously played Lady Chatterley herself in the 1993 BBC version.
  • Cheating with the Milkman: Lady Chatterley has an affair with the gamekeeper of her husband's estate.
  • Emasculated Cuckold: Lord Chatterley's wife is cheating on him, partly because he is impotent from an injury sustained in World War I, and even more than that because he has been emotionally distant from her. Though he had allowed her to start an affair for these reasons, he's even more offended that she would stoop to sleeping with the gamekeeper Mellors rather than "the right sort of fellow". Eventually she gets pregnant by Mellors and expresses a desire to leave him.
  • Forgotten Trope: Mellors the gamekeeper was an officer in the war. The British army commissioned a lot of officers from outside the traditional officer class in World War I; but when the war ended, most of these men had to return to their former stations in life. The former officer was a common character in post-war fiction, but most of the novels which feature such a character have since been forgotten.
  • Funetik Aksent: Mellors's Derbyshire accent is rendered phonetically; some readers find it difficult to understand, and others find it can detract from the drama.
  • Hot Men at Work: Lady Chatterley starts shacking up with the estate's hot gamekeeper, who provides a folksy, rough, and working-class contrast to her posh and impotent husband.
  • I Call Him "Mister Happy": Both Lady Chatterley and Oliver Mellors call their private parts "Lady Jane" and "John Thomas", respectively.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted; Lady Chatterley shares her first name with Oliver Mellors's daughter, also named Connie.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: One reason Lady Chatterley seeks a new lover: her husband is impotent due to an injury sustained in World War I. He gives her his blessing to find another lover, although he doesn't want to hear about it.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Lady Chatterley has a nobleman husband who can't have sex with her, and a working-class gamekeeper paramour who can.
  • The Roaring '20s: The temporal setting.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Lady Chatterley's cheating is presented as understandable if not straight-up justified, as her rich husband is sexually impotent, increasingly emotionally distant, and very classist.
  • Tsundere: While seemingly having a genuinely sweet interior, Oliver's wife Bertha Coutts has a brutal, if not outright bullying relationship towards him. It is the reason why Oliver is cheating on her with Connie.
  • Uptown Girl: This is the major source of dramatic conflict, where the well-bred lady of the gentry takes up with the gamekeeper.