This lesson will introduce you to “Odour of Chrysanthemums” one of the best stories of D.H. Lawrence. Best known for his novels, Lawrence was also an accomplished poet, short story writer, essayist, critic and travel writer. The controversial themes for which he is remembered (namely the celebration of sensuality in an over intellectualised world) and his relationship with censor sometimes overshadow the work of a master craftsman and a thinker. In this unit, you will get a glimpse of the life and works of D.H. Lawrence and an in-depth analysis of his story ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’ and an elaborate discussion on the styles, techniques and language employed in the story.
Table of Contents
D. H. LAWRENCE: HIS LIFE AND WORKS
David Herbert Lawrence is one of the most versatile and influential figures in the 20th century literary canon. His works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In his works Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.Lawrence was born on September 11, 1885, in the small coal-mining village of Eastwond, Nottinghamshire. Lawrence’s father, Arthur, was a miner, and the mining boom of 1870’s had taken the family around Nottinghamshire. By the time, Lawrence who was the family’s fourth child, was born, the family had settled in Eastwood for good. Lawrence’s mother, Lydia Beardsall,an intellectually ambitious woman was disillusioned with her husband’s dead-end job and irresponsible drinking habits and therefore encouraged her children to advance beyond their restrictive environment.
Lawrence, a sickly, bookish child, won a scholarship to Nottingham High School in 1898. But he left school in 1901 and became a clerk at a surgical appliance factory (the experience is recreated in his largely autobiographical novel, Sons and Lovers). In the years 1902 to 1906, Lawrence served a pupil teacher at the British School, Eastwood. He joined University College, Nottingham in the fall of 1906 and received his teacher’s certificate in 1908. During these early years, he was working on his first poems, some short stories, and a draft of a novel Laetitia, that was eventually to become The White Peacock.
In the autumn of 1908, the newly qualified Lawrence left his childhood home for London to become a teacher in Davidson Road School, Croydon. Lawrence continued writing poetry and prose and he soon came to the notice of Ford Madox Ford, then known as Ford Hermamn Hueffer and editor of the influential The English Review. Hueffer published his story “Odour of Chrysanthemum” in that magazine and introduced Lawrence to Heinemann, a famous publisher of London. His career as a professional author now began in earnest, although he taught for another year. Shortly after his first novel, The White Peacock was published in 1910, his mother died. She had been ill with cancer. Lawrence had an extremely close relationship with his mother and his grief following her death became a major turning point in his life, as is reflected in the death of the character of Mrs. Morel which forms a major turning point in his autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers, a work that draws upon much of the writer’s provincial upbringing. In March 1912, Lawrence met Frieda Weekly with whom he was to share the rest of his life. She was six years older than her new lover, married to Lawrence’s former modern languages professor from University College, Nottingham. They eloped to Germany. From Germany they walked Southwards across the Alps to Italy, a journey that was recorded in the first of his travel books, Twilight in Italy. During his stay in Italy, Lawrence completed the final version of Sons and Lovers that, when published in 1913 was acknowledged to represent a vivid portrait of realities of working class provincial life.
- Destitution: poverty. Traumatic: distressing; unpleasant.
- Wanderlust: strong desire to travel.
The couple returned to England shortly before the outbreak of the World War I and were married on July 13, 1914. Weekley’s German parentage and Lawrence’s open contempt for militarism meant that they were viewed with suspicion in wartime England and lived in near destitution. Nevertheless, Lawrence was actively prolific in the period, publishing The Rainbow (1915) and working on Women in Love.
After the traumatic experience of the war years, Lawrence began what he termed as his “savage pilgrimage” a time of voluntary exile. He escaped from England at the earliest practical opportunity, to return only twice for brief visits and spent with his wife the remainder of his life travelling. His wanderlust took him to Australia, Italy, Ceylon (Now called Sri Lanka), the United States, Mexico and South of France. He continued writing novels, poems, and even books on psycho analysis, though only Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a heavily censored book approached the fame and reputation of Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow and Women in Love. His fragile constitution gave out on him, and he died of tuberculosis on March 2, 1030, in Vence, France. Lawrence is one of the few writers whose reputation is staked equally on novels, short stories and poetry, and through his initially censored work now seems tame, he opened up the door to sensuality for countless writers after him.
Lawrence is perhaps best known for his novels Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover; within these novels Lawrence explores the possibilities for life and living within an industrial setting. In particular, Lawrence is concerned with the nature of relationship that can be had within such settings. Though, often classed as a realist, Lawrence’s characters can be better understood with reference to his philosophy. His depiction of sexual activity, though shocking at the time, has its roots in his highly personal way of thinking and being. It is worthy to note that Lawrence was very interested in human behaviour of touch and that his interest in physical intimacy has its roots in a desire to restore our emphasis on the body, and re-balance it with what he perceived to be western civilisation’s slow process of over-emphasis on the mind. In his later years, he developed short novel form in St. Mawr, The Vision and The Gypsy and The Escaped Cook.
Lawrence’s best known short-stories included “The Captain’s Doll”, “The Fox”, “The Lady bird”, “Odour of Chrysanthemums”, “The Rocking Horse Winner” and “The Women Who Rode Away”. His most praised collection is The Prussion Officer and Other Stories, published in 1914. His collection The Woman Who Rode Away and Other Stories, published in 1928, develops his themes of leadership that he explored in novels such as Kangaroo, The Plumed Serpent, and Fanie and Annie.
Although, best known for his novels, Lawrence wrote almost 800 poems, most of them relatively short. His first poems were written in 1904 and two of his poems, “Dreams Old” and “Dreams Nascent”, were among the earliest published works in The English Review. His early works clearly place him in the school of Georgian poets. But the First World War dramatically changed his work and he began to write free verse influenced by Walt Whitman. His best known poems are probably, those dealing with nature such as those in Birds Beasts and Flowers and Tortorises.
Although Lawrence’s works after the Georgian period are clearly in the modernist tradition, they were often very different than many other modernist writers, such as Ezra Pound. Modernist works were often austere in which every word was carefully worked on and hard fought for. Lawrence felt all poems had to be personal sentimentally and that spontaneity was vital for any work.
Lawrence’s criticism of other authors often provides great insight into his own thinking and writing. Of particular note are his Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays and Study in Classic American Literature. In the latter, Lawrence’s response to Whitman, Mcville and Edgar Allan Poe shed peculiar light on the nature of Lawrence’s craft.
EXPLANATION OF THE SHORT STORY
“Odour of Chrysanthemums” regarded as one of D.H. Lawrence’s most accomplished stories, was written in 1909 and published in Ford Madox Ford’s English Review in June, 1911. A different version, which transformed and expanded the concluding section in which Elizabeth Bates reflects on her married life in the presence of the body of her husband, was published in 1914 in The Prussian Officer and Other Stories. The story’s controlled analysis of the harsh industrial setting and of Elizabeth Bates’ psychological transformation has been widely admired. H.E. Bates has even argued that Lawrence’s greatest achievement is his short fiction.
The story’s evolution in three major versions has been examined by a number of critics. The final version’s unsentimental and highly judgmental condemnation of Elizabeth Bates for the failure of her marriage has been related to Lawrence’s liberation from the influence of his beloved mother upon her death in 1910. The story is frequently compared to Sons and Lovers, a largely autobiographical novel, in which Lawrence explores his parents’ conflicted relationship. As in “Odour of Chrysanthemums” a jolly, hardworking and drink-obsessed miner in Sons and Lovers is disparaged by his wife who longs for a more genteel life. The harsh, bleak mining villages of Nottinghamshire, which Lawrence knew so well, are powerfully evoked in “Odour of Chysanthemums” and contrasted with the unfettered beauty of the natural world.
Here, the final version of the story that appeared in The Prussian Officer and Other Stories has been taken for the unit.
The story begins with a description of the sights and sounds of a bleak mining village at the end of the coal miner’s afternoon shift. A locomotive engine comes chugging along the tracks, pulling seven loaded wagons behind it. It pulls into the colliery’s loading area,as various miners make their way home. Nearby, is a low cottage with a tiled roof and garden, a sparse apple orchard, and a brook beyond. Elizabeth Bates emerges from the chicken coop, watching the miners walk along the rail road. She turns and calls her son, John, who emerges from the raspberry patch. She tells him that it is time to come in. The locomotive her father is driving appears in the distance. As John makes his way to the house, she chides him for tearing off the petals of the chrysanthemums and scattering them on the path. She picks a few of the flowers and, after holding them against her cheek, sticks a sprig in her apron.
The train comes to a stop near the gate, and Elizabeth brings her father tea and bread and butter. He tells Elizabeth that it is time he remarried. He also informs her that her husband, Walter, had gone on another drinking binge and was heard bragging in the local pub about how much he was going to spend. Done with his tea, the old man drives off. Elizabeth enters the kitchen where the table is set and awaiting Walter’s return so that the family can have their tea. With no sign of Walter, Elizabeth continues preparing the meal. Her daughter, Annie, enters the room, and Elizabeth mildly scolds her for being late. She asks Annie if she has seen Walter; she has not. Elizabeth fears that Walter is again at the pub, and at Annie’s urging, they start to eat. Annie is transfigured by the slowly dying fire. Eating little Elizabeth grows increasingly angry.
Elizabeth goes to get coal and drops a few pieces on the fire, which snuff out almost all the light in the room. John repeatedly complains about the darkness and Elizabeth lights the overhead lamp, revealing for the first time that she is pregnant. Annie exclaims at the sight of the chrysanthemums in Elizabeth’s apron. She removes them and puts the flowers to her lips, enthralled by their scent. Looking at the clock, Elizabeth realises that Walter will not get home until he is again carried in, intoxicated, by his friends. She vows not to clean him after his day of work and to leave him lying on the floor.
The children play quietly, afraid of angering Elizabeth, who sews in her rocking chair. After a while she sends them to bed, although Annie protests, as Walter has not come home yet. Elizabeth tells that when he does appear he will be all but unconscious from drinking. Putting the children to bed, she angrily and fearfully resumes her sewing. At eight o’clock, she leaves the house. She makes her way to a row of dwellings and enters a passage between two of the houses, asking Mrs.Rigley whether her husband is at home. Mrs.Rigley answers that he has had his dinner and then gone briefly to the pub and that she will go to find him. Mrs.Rigley soon returns with her husband in tow. He tells Elizabeth that he last saw Walter at the coal pit, finishing a job. Elizabeth suggests that Walter is simply at another pub, and Mr.Rigley offers to go and find out. He walks her home as Mrs.Rigley runs immediately to her neighbour’s house to spread the fresh gossip.
After Elizabeth has waited another forty-five minutes, her motherin-law enters the cottage, crying hysterically. In fear Elizabeth asks in a forthright manner if he is dead, but all her mother-in-law tells her is that he has been in a serious accident. As the mother-in-law laments and defends her own son’s gradual slide into debauchery, a minor arrives to inform that Walter has been dead for hours, smothered after a cave-in. Elizabeth’s mother-in-law breaks into tears, and Elizabeth quickly silences her, afraid that her wailing will wake up the children. She moves into the parlour to clear a space on the floor where the body can be laid. She spreads clothes on the floor to protect the carpet, takes out a clean shirt to air it, and then waits in the pantry.
Shortly after, the pit manager and another man arrive with the body on a stretcher. As they bring Walter into parlour and lay him on the floor, one of the men accidentally tips over a vase of chrysanthemums. Elizabeth quickly cleans up the water and the broken glass. Annie, who has woken up, calls from upstairs, and Elizabeth rushes up to put her to bed. The men try to silence Walter’s mother, who is still sobbing loudly. With Annie, in bed and the men gone, Elizabeth and her mother-in-law prepare to undress, clean, and lay out the body. Elizabeth embraces the body, trying to make a connection to her husband’s still warm corpse. She and Walter’s mother wash the body. Elizabeth presses her check against the body but is repulsed by the dead flesh. She laments the distance in their marriage and the intimacy that they lacked as a couple. Walter’s mother rouses Elizabeth from her grief. Unable to weep, Elizabeth goes to fetch a shirt. With difficulty, she dresses Walter and covers the body with a sheet and locking the parlour door, she tidies the kitchen, afraid and ashamed of the harsh immediate realisations she has come to as a result of Walter’s death. She knew her immediate master was “Life” and the struggles of reality that she was left with. But, Walter was ultimate master from death, to whom she had to look up to, by virtue of having been his wife.
“Odour of Chrysanthemums”, a story based on the hardships of colliery life, is rightly considered to be among Lawrence’s finest tales, one of the most carefully wrought of the early stories. It exemplifies his art at its most dramatic, his vision at its most sympathetic. A moving statement about the human condition is made within the context of the world, Lawrence knew as a child and young man. The collier’s son was able to observe his own milieu with the eyes of an outsider; the domestic tragedy is rendered with what seems a great detachment.
The story is bound together by the pervasive imagery of the flowers in its title. Lawrence’s careful use of chrysanthemum flower throughout the story has several significant meanings. Beginning with the flower’s first appearance, they are described in a less than positive manner. Mrs.Elizabeth Bates steps out of her house and walks past “disheveled” pink chrysanthemums. They are said to hang on the bushes like cloths; She also tells her son not to drop the flower’s petals on the ground because it looks “nasty”. When Annie tries to smell the chrysanthemums in her mothers apron band, she is pushed away. Her mother tells her that they don’t smell beautiful to her because “it was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when you were born,” and chrysanthemums the first time they ever brought her husband home drunk, he’d got brown Chrysanthemums in his buttonhole”. And it was indeed chrysanthemums again the evening when he’s brought in from the mine, dead and laid out in the parlour. One of the men bringing in her husband’s body accidentally knocks over the vase of chrysanthemums she had put there earlier in the evening – the one’s that reminded her so bitterly of the lost dreams of her life. The chrysanthemums which opened her married life had symbolically closed it. The chrysanthemums, which bloom a little while in the full and then die, are symbolic in this stay of the fragility of our inner lives. Elizabeth Bates suddenly discovers that inside herself, she is a person with unique thoughts and passions and fears, her husband was just as much of an individual as she, but one whom she never really sought to know beneath the surface. Their marriage had been long dead before her husband lost his life that night in the mine. In the end, even the vase of flowers is clumsily knocked on the floor, leaving nothing tangible behind, just an odour. The chrysanthemums symbolise a spot of beauty unrecognised by myopic Elizabeth, just as she never appreciated what she could have had with Walter, until it was too late.
The opening paragraph of the story is a brilliant, closely written descriptive set piece, carefully designed to establish the tone and mood of the story, to put the reader immediately into the imaginative world. It juxtaposes the hard, inhuman-machine-world of the mine against the beautiful, vulnerable, natural world. The description introduces the gap between people and nature which will widen at the end of the story to reveal an absolute division between men and women and life and death. In the story’s first sentence, the mine’s locomotive engine startles a colt and traps a woman walking on the track and its smoke coats the grass. The mine’s pit-bank is powerfully described as having “flames like red sores licking its ashy sides” as if the slag heap is a wounded animal. In this setting where the oak is shedding its withered leaves “noiselessly “and the whiners walk past the houses “like shadows”, the wheels are “spinning fast-up against the sky” and the engines come “whistling in the wide bay of railway lines beside the colliery, where rows of trucks stood in harbor”, leaving an impression that human and animal life is “overpowered by the mechanical force of the industry.”
The most important aspect of the story is the impact of Walter’s death. Elizabeth was expecting a drunken husband, and when a dead one came home instead, she was forced to think about their marriage. Confronting his corpse was representative of her confronting the truth that her marriage was less than ideal. Walter’s death gives the reader a hint of what Elizabeth was about to realise that he was suffocated in life and, ironically, died in suffocation.
Elizabeth’s confrontation of the truth leads her to realise something very important about her marriage. She realises that there hadn’t been anything between herself and her husband except for “carnal knowledge of each other.” She even feels that the relationship was not real – she muses to herself, “I have been fighting a husband who did not exist.” Because their relationship was based on the pleasures of the body of two strangers, she felt that her unborn child was “like an ice in her womb”.
The strong reaction of Walter’s mother had to his accident gives light to Lawrence’s own mother. Walter’s mother is overbearing she talks at length about his boyhood days and how she learned to “make allowances” for him, she worries about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and she rushes to answer the door when the miners come to the door. While some level of concern can be seen as expected behaviour, she crosses “the line” when Walter’s body is being taken care of by Elizabeth. She becomes very jealous when Elizabeth begins, and pushes herself in Elizabeth’s way. Lawrence’s mother has been described as being “pushy”. The great detachment of the narrative voice is all the more miraculous in the light of the fact that Walter’s mother is the stereotypical awareness mother. Despite its objectivity, the story is as Lawrence himself put it, “full of (his) childhood’s atmosphere”.(D.H. Lawrence: Collected Letters. P. 159) This is a revealing description of a story that ends with a collier’s wife grieving over the dead body of her husband. Walter and Elizabeth Bates are instantly recognisable as versions of Walter and Gertrude Morel (in Sons and Lovers) and the emotional link with Lawrence’s own mother is self-evident. “Odour of Chrysanthemums” along “The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd”, finds the most of his parents’ marriage more directly than any other of his works other then Sons and Lovers.
STYLE AND LANGUAGE
Impressionistic and symbolic, dense with figurative language, D.H. Lawrence’s “Odour of Chrysanthemums” relies heavily on imagery, such as the ‘Chrysanthemums’, and the frequent altercation of darkness and light, for effect. It concerns one night, in the life of Elizabeth Bates, mother of two children, pregnant with her third. Her life is hard because she has been disappointed in her marriage; her husband, Walter, although a handsome and strapping man, drinks away most of the wages he receives from his job in the coal mines, she is too caught up in her own bitterness against him to be able to receive much joy from life.
On this fateful night, Elizabeth has absentmindedly tucked a chrysanthemum into the waistband of her apron, and there are more, freshcut ones decorating the parlour, but they do not symbolise happiness for her. As she notes, “It was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when (my daughter was) born, and, chrysanthemums the first time they ever brought him home drunk, he’s got brown chrysanthemums in his buttonhole.”
And it’s chrysanthemums again the evening when Walter is brought in from the mine, dead, and laid out in the parlour. One of the men bringing in her husband’s body accidentally knocks over the vase of the chrysanthemums she had put there earlier in the evening – the ones that reminded her so bitterly of the lost dreams of her life. The chrysanthemums which opened her married life have how closed it.
The chrysanthemums, which bloom a little while in the autumn and then die, are symbolic in this story of the fragility of our inner lives.
“Odour of Chrysanthemums” takes place almost entirely under the cover of darkness and natural light appears only at the beginning when Elizabeth’s father rolls through town. Once he leaves Elizabeth retreats to her home, lit only by candles and a wearing fire. She scolds Annie for coming home after dark, although Arnie claims it’s “hardly a bit dark”. John complains of the lack of light in the cottage as the children eat their dinner, and Elizabeth can barely see their faces. Darkness obscures various dangers, when Elizabeth ventures out into the darkness to find Walter, rats scuffle around her; she senses eavesdropping housewives who are prone to gossip; and as Mr.Rigley escorts Elizabeth home, he warns her of the ruts in the earth that she cannot see in the blackness of night.
Darkness has a life-giving element as well as a dangerous and a threatening one. When Elizabeth prepares to receive Walter’s body in the parlour, the only paltry candle she brings does little to dispel the gloom. She can barely see Walter in a literal sense, but now for the first time she gets a glimpse of him as person. In life, she knew almost nothing about Walter, and even their closest physical encounters took place in the dark. Now, with darkness surrounding her and with Walter in the permanent darkness of death, startling truths come to light for Elizabeth. In this sense, darkness serves as kind of renewal. Morning will come for Elizabeth, but her life would be very different.
Throughout the story, Lawrence’s dark, ominous imagery forms threatening backdrop to the characters’ struggle. For example, when describing the Bates’ house, Lawrence writes, “A large bony vine clutched at the house, as if to claw down the tiled roof.” We first see young John near raspberry plants that are “like whips”. Lawrence twice compares humans to shadows miners who walk past the house are “like shadows”
and Elizabeth returns to the house “like a shadow” after she puts the dustpan outside. We get the sense that these people are somehow disappearing, even as they go about their daily lives. Fire, in particular, appears repeatedly in the story, almost always as a threatening force. At the beginning of the story, Lawrence describes the flames rising from coal pit as “red roses licking its ashy sides”, as though the flames themselves are alive. Inside the house, when Annie cries out in pleasure at seeing the flowers in Elizabeth’s apron, she is startled, fearing that “the house was afire”.
Mrs Rigley, whom Elizabeth approaches for help in finding Walter, asks Elizabeth to make sure the children don’t “set themselves afire”. Fire brings warmth and light into the Bates’ home, but the characters are always conscious of the threat that accompanies it.
The animal and natural imagery that Lawrence uses suggests that the characters are part of a larger, more unpredictable natural cycle of life and death. John is like a frog when he crawls out from underneath the sofa, and Elizabeth says angrily that when Walter comes home drunk he’ll be “like a log”. One of the miners who brings Walter home compares the cavewith a “mousetrap”, which suggests that Walter himself was a mouse as he worked in the dark, narrow mines. Walter’s mother’s tears are like “drops from wet leaves”, so impersonal that Lawrence says she was “not weeping”. The unborn child feels “like ice” in Elizabeth’s womb, an inhuman image that emphasises how separate Elizabeth feels from both the child and its father. Finally, life and death themselves take on human qualities at the end of the story, when Elizabeth says they are her “immediate mother” and “ultimate master”, respectively. These are forces beyond her – or anyone else’s – control, and she realises that she will always be subservient to this natural cycle.
The language of “Odour of Chrysanthemums” is highly poetic and is characterised by profusion of descriptive adjectives and adverbs. The opening paragraph of the story is a brilliant, closely written descriptive set piece, carefully designed to capture atmosphere of the mining district of England at the turn of the last century when life was harsh and sometimes unnecessarily cruel. The onomatopoeic words are effectively used to create the scene of the heavy, oppressive atmosphere that pervaded the district and surrounded its inhabitants. “The small locomotive engine came “clanking and stumbling” down from Selston and “the trucks thumped heavily past.” The woman, who stepped back from the train as it thundered by “stood insignificantly trapped, between the jolting black wagons and the hedge.” This is symbolic of the way of life for the women of the village, trapped in their mundane lives of drudgery and grime. The fields take on the mantle of personification when they are described as “dreary and forsaken”. The pitbank is powerfully presented as a wounded animal in the sentence: “The pit-bank loomed up beyond the pond, flames like red sores licking its ashy sides suggesting harmful impact of industrialisation where miners “passed like shadows diverging home.” The scene being set by Lawrence is one of futility and inevitability. The emotions suggested are of hopelessness and resignation. Elizabeth Bates is portrayed as a sad and bitter woman. The rhetorical repetition of “bitterly” confirms this description. She even laughed ‘bitterly. The house she lives in is covered in ivy. “A large bony vine clutched at the house, as if to claw down the tiled roof” The personification of the vine as it “clutched at the house” and the symbolism suggested in it is as if the house was being smothered and suffocated by the strangling action of a giant monster.
Towards, the end of the story when Elizabeth looks at the corpse of her husband, she realises that for years, she has not really seen Walter. He was her husband but chronically distant from her, and she feels “ashamed” because she had allowed him to be himself. Instead, of feeling anger and resentment she recognises that her own expectations and refusals helped to tear them apart. The pity she feels for Walter, sharply contrasts with her earlier harsh view of him, serving as an epiphany – she suddenly recognises as a human being, rather than simply a difficult burden. ‘Elizabeth realises she has been culpable in her own unhappiness. At the end of the story she submits to both life and death as her “masters”, humbled by her own mistaken attitude and, we may assume, about to carry on with a new
In the story, Lawrence uses ‘local dialect’ to add authenticity and vitality to the story’s setting and to support the idea of isolation among characters. Lawrence grew up among mining families in Nottinghamshire, and his father was a ninth, so Lawrence was familiar with the intonations, elisions (omissions), and distinctive verbal patterns used in the community. The local details make the characters come alive. When Elizabeth goes to Mrs.Rigley to find out whether her husband had seen Walter that evening, Mrs.Rigley asks “Asha’e come whom yit?” The men who eventually bring Walter’s body home tell Elizabeth, “E Wor smothered!” when describing Walter’s fate. Surrounding these interludes of coarse dialect is Lawrence’s elegant, carefully calibrated prose, which helps emphasise the separateness of this particular community from the rest of the world. Perhaps, most significant is the dialect used by the locals which stands in sharp contrast to Elizabeth’s more proper or standard speech patterns and emphasises her isolation from the rest of the community. We get the sense that Elizabeth is truly an outsider, perhaps hailing from a distant community or even a higher social station. Her father speaks in Standard English as well, although he is a bit rough than Elizabeth, confirming that Elizabeth’s family comes from somewhere else. She clearly resents having come to this place, and though Lawrence never tells us exactly what she gave up or what other options had been open to her, we know that she has been disillusioned by what life offered her. The absence of dialect in Elizabeth’s speech emphasises that she is isolated, not only from the husband but also from
the community in which she lives.
With numerous examples of a foreshadowing incident or disaster “Odour of Chrysanthemums”, provides a sense of an inevitable tragedy. Lawrence gives us clues to Walter’s fate from the beginning of the story, when Elizabeth bitterly says to the children that he “can lie on the floor” when he comes home and that he’ll be “like a log”. After Elizabeth puts the children to bed, she attempts to distract herself with her sewing, her anger at the situation becoming “tinged with fear”. Later, when she seeks the help of Mr.Rigley, he escorts her down the dark alleyway in front of his house, warning her to be careful of the deep ruts in the earth, afraid that someone could slip in the uneven surface of the ground. This idea of accidental physical harm is echoed in Walter’s death, caused by a fatal cave in at his mine.
Developments beyond the scope of the story are foreshadowed as well, particularly in Lawrence’s description of the children. Annie in divided in her affections, respectful of her mother’s ire yet loyal in her love for her father. How her affections will eventually be is suggested in Annie’s hair, which by the fire changes is changing from blond, the colour of Walter’s hair, to brunette, the colour of Elizabeth’s. These details subtle suggest the fact that Annie would be forced transfer her affections exclusively to Elizabeth when Walter dies.
After going through this unit, you have come to know that D.H.Lawrence was one of the most versatile and influential writers of the 20 century. His works express his belief in the emotional and sexual impulse which is creative as well as true to human nature. You have learnt about his life and works and you have been acquainted also with one of his best short stories “Odour of Chrysanthemums” along with the techniques he employed in writing this beautiful story. His impressionistic and symbolic style and language will help you to appreciate his narration skills as a story-teller. You should be now able to discuss the symbolic substance of the story and write comprehensively about its techniques and style and assess it worth in its totality.
1) Abrams, M.H. et al ed. (2000).D.H. Lawrence, New York: W.W. Norton& Co. Inc.
2) Aldrit Keith. (1971).The Visual Imagination of D.H. Lawrence. London: Edward Arnold.
3) Draper R.P. (1970). D.H. Lawrence: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
4) Fernhough, Anne. (1993). D.H. Lawrence, Aesthetics and Ideology, Oxford: O.U.P.
5) Ford Madox Ford.(1937).D.H. Lawrence in Portraits from. Life.Boston:HonghtonMiffin Co.
6) Hough, Graham .The Darkshun : A Study of D.H. Lawrence. London: Duckworth.
7) Kinkead-Weekes, Mark. (1996).D.H. Lawrence :Trumph to Exile. Cambridge University Press.
8) Pinion, F.B. (1979). A D.H. Lawrence Companion. New York : Harper & Raw Publishers.
ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS
Ans to Q No 1: The English Review, Autumn, 1908. Ford Madox Ford was the editor.
Ans to Q No 2: The White Peacock.
Ans to Q No 3: Colliery life…the mines…the working conditions.
Ans to Q No 4: Brinsley Colliery.
Ans to Q No 5: Selston.
Ans to Q No 6:Lawrence uses ‘local dialect’ to add authenticity and vitality to the story’s setting and to support the idea of isolation among characters. The local details make the characters come alive.
Q 1: Write a note on the theme of the story “Odour of Chrysanthemums”.
Q 2: How does D.H. Lawrence develop the imagery of Chrysanthemums
throughout the story “Odour of Chrysanthemums”?
Q 3: Give a character sketch of Elizabeth Bates.
Q 4: How does Lawrence portray Walter’s mother? How deeply was she
affected by her son’s accidental death?
Q 5: Describe the scene of the house after the body of Walter Bates is
Q 6: How does the death and absence of Walter demonstrate Lawrence’s ability in creating presence through absence?
Q 7: How does the use of local dialect add to the authenticity and vitality of
the story’s setting?
Q 8: Prepare a brief note on the style and technique of the story “Odour of chrysanthemums”.