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Lawrence, D. H. "Odour of Chrysanthemums".


- establishes the rather unpleasant setting in a dirty industrial England landscape

- gradually reveals the character of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bates, and the nature of her marriage to the miner Walter

- Elizabeth waits for her husband to come home from work, instead her father, an engine-driver, arrives, and the two discuss Walter's drunkard behaviour

- later while at her kitchen work she muses with growing indignation about her neglecting husband, believes to see the image of his selfishness in their son John (5) absorbed in play 

- their elder daughter Annie shares her mother's discomfort and unsuccessfully tries to prevent her from bursting out in complaints about the father's behaviour 

- Elizabeth sets off to find Walter ("Meantime her anger was tinged with fear."), comes across a neighbour with a husband not unlike hers, but fails to find him and returns home

- Walter's mother arrives to inform Elizabeth about the fatal accident Walter had: she receives the news rather coldly x the old woman trembles with cry

- Walter's body is brought in and put into the room with some vases of chrysanthemums spreading "cold, deathly smell" and one of the men carrying the body overthrows one of the vases = breaks the vase of chrysanthemums and so symbolically ends the failed marriage

- Walter's wife and mother strip him to wash the body, both possessed by dread: the mother feels betrayed and belied by the loss, the wife feels "the utter isolation of the human soul"



- the symbol of the chrysanthemums = Elizabeth and Walter's failed marriage: Elizabeth hates the kind of flowers as it was present by her marriage, the births of her children, and the 1st time her husband was brought home drunk

- both children are for a while united in "fear of the mother's wrath, and in dread of their father's home-coming" x but: John still seems to stand rather self-absorbed apart (= actual resemblance to his father?)

- epiphany = Elizabeth realises what a stranger her husband was to her, they were united in body, but not in spirit; is thankful for his death which restored the truth

- Elizabeth failed her role as wife x but: can still succeed as mother (expects her 3rd child)


  • Author

    Lawrence, David Herbert. (1885 - 1930).
  • Full Title

    "Odour of Chrysanthemums".
  • First Published

    In: The Prussian Officer and Other Stories. London: Duckworth, 1914.
  • Form

    Short story.

Works Cited

Lawrence, D. H. "Odour of Chrysanthemums". The Prussian Officer and Other Stories. (1914). London: Penguin, 1968.


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