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D.H. Lawrence’s Controversial Writings on Erotica.

Dr. Itishri Sarangi

Assistant Professor
KIIT University


D.H.Lawrence, one of the great writers of 20th century is particularly known for his
controversial writing on erotica. The world of industrialization and capitalism which
promotes artificiality and suppress the soul might be a reason for Lawrence complexity of
thought. Lawrence’s novels are always seen in their cultural and social context and his
world was a world of erotic daydreaming overshadowed by impending political
nightmare. Erotic literature is suggestive and often accompanied by romance and humor.
Without going into the ideological core, Lawrence novel must be seen to have the
elements of pantheism, individual and social fulfillment rather Lawrence uses love and
sex as an effective way to achieve the wholeness of humanity and to solve social

We are approaching the literature of love through the novels of D.H.Lawrence where sex is viewed
nothing more than physical pleasure. Lawrence novel are thought provoking masterpieces
designed to affect the change within readers. Like a great literature it announces the world to a
common truth that needs to be shared and provokes a revolution with the human psyche. Eroticism
in the Lawrence novels is an aesthetic focus. Perception on eroticism fluctuates. In the United
States and United Kingdom, D.H.Lawrence sexually explicit novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was
considered obscene and unfit for publication and circulation in many nations even after thirty years
it was completed in 1928, but may now be part of standard literary school text in some countries.

Blondness awakens desire, probably because of the ambivalence it carries, from

innocence to perversion. Amidst eroticism there is an undercurrent of true
depiction. The old saying “Tell me what you read and I will tell you what you
are”, is surely a truism. The creative instincts of growing boy, the adoration and
effectiveness of pubescent girls, are oftentimes their feeling buried through their
reading matter. And yet, what is in their reading which keeps these tastes and
feeling alive? It is not the word symbolization which speaks to the unconscious
life, or better, in reality the author’s unconscious life speaking to the
unconscious life? (Farnell 396)

Some people often mix eroticism with pornography. Ordinarily speaking erotic literature is
suggestive and often accompanied with romance and humor. It plays on the symbolic meanings of
situation to stimulate sexual desire. Pornography literature is more direct and no-hold-barred. “Sex
is a need”… “But Eros is a desire”. Eros is a mode of relating to others; in Eros, we don’t seek to
release of sex, but seek rather “to cultivate, procreate and form the world” (Pines xxii). The erotic
experience of another may allow the individual to see that he or she is not alone and that fantasies
once thought to be perverse are in fact shared by many.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is perhaps the most famous of Lawrence novels written in 1928,
distinguished for its explicit and detailed description of the adulterous affair between an upper
class woman and the game keeper who works for her wheelchair bound husband. The protagonist
in most of the Lawrence novels is women. Lawrence was the first great writer of the 20 th century to
come from working class. This might be a reason of much of his work deals with class and society.
Constance in Lady Chatterley’s Lover realized that one must be physically alive and that she
cannot live with the mind alone. Lady Chatterley Lover was slightly political too; and this
offended and frightened many conservatives. British and American women just won the right to
vote and the spirit of liberation was in the air. Moreover, Lady Chatterley’s husband was confined
to a wheelchair as a result of wounds suffered in the First World War, making the novel’s subtle
pacifism almost scandalous as its sexual theme. And in the eyes of some people, D.H.Lawrence
was a dangerous man whose ideas could alter the very fabric of society. Lady Chatterley’s lover
got erotic literature and film into the main stream. Lady Chatterley had high profile court cases. It
was banned as being obscene.

Lawrence went through hard day, earned lot of enemies, and had official persecution, censorship
and lot of misinterpretation in his writing career. He spent his life in voluntary exile and a self-
proclaimed “savage pilgrimage”. His public reputation was that of a pornographer who wasted his
talent in vain. Lady Chatterley’s lover, the novel by the end of the year 1928, two million copies
had been sold. The event provided inspiration for the poet Philip Larkin. Larking regrets for not
leading a fuller life. Sex was talked more openly than the previous generation had done. Philip
Larkin poem Annus Mirabillis because of its boldness of expression is taken as a poem of sexual
revolution after a conservative period. The poem goes like this

“Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.”

In the late 1960’s and 70’s there was a significant change of sexual morality throughout the west
(particularly in US and UK). Annus Mirabillis is a Latin expression that means impressive year or
admirable year and the availability of contraceptive pill and the sexual revolution allowed people
to have free love. “Love is a social construction. Societies differ in their understanding of the
nature of love; culture in different time period defines love differently. In some time period for
example, we see a belief that love includes a sexual component, whereas in other areas, love
described a lofty, asexual experience” (Beal and Sternberg, 1995)

Sons and Lovers is always interpreted and misinterpreted as an oedipal drama. If we try to give
justice to Lawrence’s complexity of thought, Paul idealizing of his mother is a plea for freedom,
individuality and authenticity in a world of industrialization and capitalism, which only promotes
artificiality and suppress the soul other than that of suppressed sexual attraction of feeling of hatred
towards Paul’s father.

Lawrence is seen as a sexual crusader in novel like Sons and Lovers (1903), Women in love (1920)
and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). Lawrence fostered great openness about sexuality in the
overly intellectual English culture. Sex works as a freedom to brutal effects of industrial society.
Lawrence novels always shocked the public for its depiction of love and sexuality. “Lady
Chatterley’s grows out of nineteenth century homage to love, Victorian sexual repression and
obsession and the unimaginable destruction of flesh that was World War 1. For Lawrence the war
was a historical product of abstract thinking alienated from the blood quickness of the senses. To
understand his lack of resurrection of the body, we need to see what happens in the novel. The
novel even begins with a wistful generalization (“Ours is essentially a tragic age”)…” (Polhemus
Lawrence in his poem, “The Elephant Is Slow to Mate” shows the sexual relationship to be much
fuller with patience not just a quick satisfying release. The poem is considered as an allegory of
desire. The poem moves like a heart of the elephant, slowly with a steady heartbeat.

“The elephant, the huge old beast

Is slow to mate;
He finds a female, they show no haste
They wait”

The Elephant is Slow to Mate by Lawrence is a poem of passion and sex. Lawrence represents
erotic love as a matter of faith in modern life and influenced our perception of all art. “Love is the
flower of life and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found
and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration” (D.H. Lawrence). “In the late 1920’s, Anai’s Nin
discovered English novelist D.H.Lawrence, whose intuitive approach to writing about sex she
found astounding. She was amazed at how he, a man, was able to accurately express a woman’s
feelings and how he wrote from the entire being including the unconscious” (Nin, Anais).
Lawrence frankness in describing relations between men and women disturbs and upsets a great
many of people. On the other hand “Lawrence saw sex and intuition as a key to undistorted of
reality and a way to unburden individual’s frustration and maladjustment to industrial
culture”(Yajing 2006)

The significance of talking of eroticism and boldness is not to exaggerate the sex in our life, rather
is to advocate sentiments and sexuality based on morality. It’s a harmony of body and soul. The
“triangular model of love” describes three basic components: intimacy, passion and commitment
where the intimacy is only liking, passion is infatuation and a relationship with commitment is
empty love. The marriage of Anna Lensky and Will Brangwen in The Rainbow was a failure for
the reason the physical love between them gives no eternal satisfaction. Due to the lack of spiritual
communication, they suffered and get divorced.

Lawrence represents erotic love as a matter of faith in modern life and has influenced our
perception of all art. The nineteenth century lack the moment of high intimacy that sexual
intercourse could only bring. Sex here elevates the repressed spirit and helps in turning the
material world ugly. Lawrence novel must be a sarcastical address through the characters of his
plays to the conditions of industrialization, the condition of materialism, cramped urban life, and
metropolitan speed where fame and wealth are all around but never in one’s grasp which is
perhaps the ground reality of a western society. “Sexual conversation is meant to regenerate faith.
The novel last sentence stands the project of spiritualizing love on its head: not intertwined souls,
but speaking genetalia. The words also express the great tension in Lawrence and his world
between fateful class-consciousness (lady Jane) and the knowledge that in our physical being we
are, or aspire to be, all one flesh-equal point of the book,” said Lawrence famously; “I want men
and women to be able to think sex, fully completely, honestly and clearly.”(Polhemus 1995)
Lawrence speaks boldly and freely about sex and is severely criticized for his open discussion on
it. Work of literature can therefore is seen in their cultural and social context … D.H.Lawrence,
Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Eugene O’Neill novels: “a world of erotic daydream
overshadowed by impending political nightmare” (Hawes 2008). Without going into the
ideological core we must see Lawrence as not only a preacher of love or sexuality. Rather his plays
have the elements of pantheism, individual and social fulfillment.


1. Anais Nin’s D.H.Lawrence: An unprofessional study on kindle.
2. Farnell, F.J (1920), Erotism as portrayed in Literature. Int.J.Psycho-Anal., 1:396-413
(International Journal of psychoanalysis)
3. Hawes Donald (2008) “The Edinburgh companion to Twentieth-century Literature in
English”, Reference Reviews, Vol-22 Issn: 1 pp.32-33
4. Yajing Li, Love Accounts in D.H.Lawrence’s Novels, Sept 2006, Volume 4, No-9 US-
China Foreign Language, ISSN 1539-8080 USA.
5. Polhemus, M. Robert, The Prophet of Love and the Resurrection of the Body:
D.H.Lawrence, Erotic Faith: Being in Love from Jane Austeen to D.H.Lawrence,
University of Chicago Press, 1995.
6. Beal, Anne E. and Sternberg, Robert J. Social Construction of Love, Vol 12 No. 3. London,
Thousand Oaks, Ca. and New Delhi. August 1995. pg. 423.
7. Pines, Malakh Ayala. Why We Choose the Lover We Choose, 1999, Great