Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lady Chatterley's Lover - A Forbidden Pleasure

Our generation is doomed. We don't know the feeling of reading a forbidden book. A book that society deems unacceptable, a book that publishers do not want to publish, a book that people secretly and in fear of condemnation pass on one to another, a book that you read late at night so that your parents won't catch you. We can't have that book now. Freedom of speech. Freedom of love and sex. Freedom of choice. Freedom. Freedom is good, guys. But what about the feeling that you are reading something that you shouldn't be, something revolutionary and forward looking? Something so scandalous for its time that you cannot dare say it out loud but you constantly think about. And finally something that makes you doubt the rules and regulations of society, making you think that even if many people do it, this doesn't make it right.

Such a rebellion was D.H.Lawrence's novel about forbidden love Lady Chatterley's Lover. It was first published in Florence in 1928 and in UK in 1960. It took so many years for the English audience to accept and openly read it because of its notorious character. For us, the themes of the book are not revolutionary. Contemporary society accepts love in (almost) all of its forms; social class, religion, origin, and even sex differences are no longer determinants of love. Not such was the case in the beginning of the 20th century in England.

In the novel Lawrence argues that individual regeneration can only be found through a honest and passionate love and relationship between a man and a woman. He insists on the cohesion between mind and body; a feeling of impropriety is born only when the mind despises the body and is afraid of it, and when the body detests the mind and opposes it. Such was the situation in English society, where people suppressed their natural body needs for passion and love in return for a sublime spiritual life. Women and men are obsessed with money and success; they have left the purely animal desires behind, deeming them inappropriate and shameful. In such a conservative society the sin of Lady Chatterley and her lover, the gamekeeper is born.

Lady Chatterley is married to a paralyzed baronet, who doesn't care about sexual pleasure and is unable to provide her with it. Mellors, the gamekeeper, is also unsatisfied with his marriage, where his wife refused to give him pleasure. These two souls live in deprivation and unhappiness, in a world where their most basic need of human touch and sexuality is forbidden and refused. Their love is revolutionary on so many levels. They protect the importance of the true sexual act, which unites body and soul. They fight for social equality in love, as she stands way above him in the social hierarchy. They refuse to obey a purely spiritual life without sexual pleasure. They want to experience their love in every possible way; union of their bodies, minds, and souls.

Understandably, Lawrence was deemed controversial and unacceptable. In Lady Chatterley's Lover he depicts the nature of the sexual act with extreme detail using forbidden vocabulary. The passion that streams from the book, the logic with which it shakes the puncheons of English society, and the ardour with which it protects the right of a personal moral choice makes it a classics of 20th century. I almost feel sorry that I wasn't among those women secretly passing it on one to another, reading it through the night, and realizing that something vital for life is missing in their relationship with their husbands.

In that sense, Lawrence was an awakener. He anticipated the sexual revolution, which no longer positioned men and women as purely spiritual human beings but instead as flawed individuals, who understand the power of their body and the means to satisfy its growing needs. Spirituality is only attainable when the body and the ming coexist in perfect unison.