May 18, 2022

D.H lawrence

‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’: the novel which compelled the Supreme court to examine the law of obscenity.

‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’ was the novel due to which supreme court examined the law of obscenity in 1965 in rajneet udeshi’s case.[1] This was the first case before the Court for invoking the constitutional guarantee against the operation of the law regarding obscenity

In this case, the book seller was charged of selling obscene book (lady Chatterley’s lover), when case went into trial court, court convicted him and Supreme court also maintained the conviction when case reached there in appeal.

This case is considered an important case on law of obscenity in India but people form law background who had to read this case compulsorily, might have thought what was the story of this novel and why Lawrence wrote such a novel.

Story of ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’

A baronet, wounded in the war is paralysed from the waist downwards. He married Constance (Lady Chatterley) a little before he joined up and they had a very brief honeymoon. Sensing the sexual frustration of his wife and their failure to have an heir he leaves his wife free to associate with other men.

She first experiences with one Michaelis and later with a game-keeper Mellors in charge of the grounds. The first over was selfish sexually, the other was something of an artist. He explains to Constance the entire mystery of eroticism and they put it into practice.

There are over a dozen descriptions of their sexual intimacies. The game-keeper’s speech and vocabulary were not genteel. The sexual congress each time is described with great candidness and in prose as tense as it is intense and of which Lawrence was always a consummate master.

The rest of the story is a mundane one. There is some criticism of the modern machine civilization and its enervating effects and the production of sexually inefficient men and women and this, according to Lawrence, is the cause of maladjustment of sexes and their unhappiness.

Why Lawrence wrote ‘lady Chatterley’s lover’?

Lawrence had a dual purpose in writing the book. The first was to shock the genteel society of the country of his birth which had hounded him and the second was to portray his ideal of sexual relations which was never absent from any of his books. His life was a long battle with the censor morons, as he called them. Even before he became an author he was in clash with conventions.

He had a very repressive mother who could not reconcile herself to the thought that her son had written the White Peacock. His sisters were extremely prim and correct. In Ms letters he said that he would not like them to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover. His school teacher would not let him use the word ‘stallion’ in an essay and his first love Jessie could not read aloud Ibsen as she considered him immodest. This was a bad beginning for a hyper-sensitive man of “wild and untamed masculinity.”

Then came the publishers and last of all the censors. From 1910 the publishers asked him to prune and prune his writings and he wrote and rewrote his novels to satisfy them. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was written three times.

His first publisher Heinemann refused his Sons and Lovers and he went over to Duckworths. They refused his Rainbow and he went to Secker. They brought out his Lost Girl and it won a prize but after the Rainbow he was a banned author whose name could not be mentioned in genteel society.

He became bitter and decided to produce a “taboo- shattering bomb”. At the same time, he started writing in defence of his fight for sexual liberation in English writing. This was Lawrence’s first reason for writing the book under our review.

Lawrence viewed sex with indifference and also with passion. He was indifferent to it because he saw in it nothing to hide and he saw it with passion because to him it was the only “motivating power of life” and the culmination of all human strength and happiness.

His thesis in his own words was-

“I want men and women to be able to think of sex fully, completely, honestly and cleanly” and not to make of it “a dirty little secret”.

The taboo on sex in art and literature which was more strict thirty-five years ago, seemed to him to corrode domestic and social life and his definite view was that a candid discussion of sex through art was the only catharsis for purifying and relieving the congested emotion is. This is the view he expounded through his writings and sex is never absent from his novels, his poems and his critical writings. As he was inclined freely to use words which Swift had used before him and many more, he never considered his writings obscene.

he says of himself:

“I am abused most of all for using the so called ‘obscene words’. Nobody quite knows what the word ‘obscene’ itself means, or what it is intended to mean; but gradually all the old words that belong to the body below the navel, have come to be judged obscene.” (Introduction to Pansies).

This was the second motivating factor in the book.

One cannot doubt the sincerity of Lawrence’s belief and his missionary zeal. Boccaccio seemed fresh and wholesome to him and Dante was obscene. He prepared a theme which would lend itself to treating with sex on the most erotic plane and one from which the genteel society would get the greatest shock and introduced a game-keeper in whose mouth he could put all the taboo words and then he wrote of sex, of the sex organs and sex actions with brutal candidness. With the magic of words, he made the characters live and what might even have passed for allegory and symbolism became extreme realism. He went too far.

While trying to edit the book so that it could be published in England he could not excise the prurient parts. He admitted defeat and wrote to Seekers that he “got colour-blind and did not know any more what was supposed to be proper and what not.” Perhaps he got colour-blind when he wrote it. He wanted to shock genteel society, a society which had cast him out and banned him. He wrote a book which in his own words was “a revolutions bit of a bomb”. No doubt he wrote a flowering book with pistil and stamens standing but it was to quote his own words again “a phallic novel, a shocking novel”. He admitted it was too good for the public. He was a courageous writer but his zeal was misplaced because it was born of hate and his novel was “too phallic for the gross public.”

The book is probably an unfolding of his philosophy of life and of the urges of the Unconscious but these are unfolded in his other books also and have been fully set out in his Psychoanalysis and the- Unconscious and finally in the Fantasia of the Unconscious.

As was reviewed by supreme court of India in Ranjit D. Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra 1965 AIR 881, 1965 SCR (1) 65


[1] Ranjit D. Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra 1965 AIR 881, 1965 SCR (1) 65