Odour of Chrysanthemums The Odour of Chrysanthemums is a story that revolves around the life of Elizabeth Bates mother of two and pregnant with the third. The story can be divided into 3 phases to understand clearly the struggles and turning points in Elizabeth’s life. She leads a hard life as her husband Walter Bates disappoints her and breaks her heart by not being there for her wife and children and he drinks most of the wages that he receives and a little is left for their family thus Elizabeth is stuck in a bad marriage.
Lawrence has introduced different themes in this story which are tension, struggles, dominance, disappointment and loss. The story begins with the description of a rural landscape encroached upon by industry “The fields were dreary and forsaken, and in the marshy strip that led to the whimsy, a reedy pit- pond “The arrival of industrial revolution has man and nature helpless and deprived of emotions and beauty. It seems as if the people of that time were not humans anymore rather machines working from “can’t see till can’t see “and it seems as “life has become lifeless. D. H. Lawerence then introduces her central character of the story Elizabeth Bates “a tall women of imperious mien, handsome with definite black eyebrows”. She is a coal miner’s wife, lives with her children and husband Walter Bates in a miner’s cottage near the railroad. She waits anxiously for her husband to return and she thinks that he might have gone to a local pub as he drinks. A young woman is standing next to the railroad waiting for her husband to return. When she along with her son John saw at some distance a train loaded with coal approaching.
When train came closer she saw a man leant towards her, it was her father who dropped by for tea and they have a brief bitter conversation. Afterwards when John and Elizabeth walk back into the house John plucks some Chrysanthemums and dropped the petals at which she rebukes John and says “Don’t do that – it looks nasty. ” Though she disliked the Chrysanthemums still she on the way “broke off a twig with three or four wan flowers and held them against her face.
When mother and son reached the yard her hand hesitated, and instead of laying the flower aside, she pushed it in her apron-band. ” May be she did this just to console herself that sooner or later life will become better but basically it is foreshadowing the birth of her 3rd child as Chrysanthemums is a sign of bad omen for Elizabeth Bates . Sooner the darkness sets over the spaces of the railway and trucks ” The miners, in grey somber groups, were still passing home.
The winding-engine pulsed hurriedly, with brief pauses. Elizabeth Bates looked at the dreary flow of men, and then she went indoors. Her husband did not come. ” When she goes back inside though worried about his husband’s absence from home she still is relieved to see her daughter Annie arrived back from school and scolds her for being late. Annie told her mother that she haven’t seen her father on the way back home so she is convinced that he has definitely gone to a local pub.
After looking outside once again she begins with the tea and they all have tea while the fire burns brightly in the living room which foreshadows Elizabeth’s anger over the carelessness of her husband but to Annie this fire is very much fascinating and she remarks that she likes the warmth and beauty of the fire to which Elizabeth responded by putting off the fire so it can be lit again when her husband returns. Annie then comments on the Chrysanthemums in the apron of her mother that “They smell beautiful! At this Elizabeth gives a short laugh and remarks bitterly “It was Chrysanthemums when I married him, and Chrysanthemums when you were born, and the first time they ever brought him home drunk, he’d got brown Chrysanthemums in his button-hole. ” The evening grows darker as the time passed and Elizabeth puts her children to sleep who resist as they wanted to see their father to which she consoles them and bitterly says ” They’ll bring him when he does come – like a log. ” This foreshadows Walter Bates death.
The 1st phase of the story waiting ends here and Elizabeth couldn’t resist herself from worrying about her husband and goes out to look for him. The 2nd phase search for Walter Bates begins and Elizabeth doesn’t go to the pub by herself, she asks one of her neighbours Mr. Rigley to look out for her husband on return she is informed that her husband is not in this local pub may be he is gone to some other Pub. So Mr. Rigley offers Elizabeth that he will search for her husband and she can go home.
Later Elizabeth’s mother in law arrives moaning about her son and Elizabeth thinks may be Walter is only hurt and she can cure his drinking habit by nursing him but then she thinks what if he’s dead or injured then all the expenses will be spent over his treatment and she won’t be able to live and her attention turns towards her children that she won’t be able to take care of them, so she mentally prepares herself for worst. On the other hand Walter’s mother thinks about is childhood picturing him as a good natured, caring and responsible lad whereas Elizabeth has a different opinion and has seen him as insensitive, irresponsible and reckless nature. Lawrence has showed that both mothers being devoted towards their children. The 3rd phase of the story is death of Walter Bates. At last the body of Walter Bates is brought home and Elizabeth is informed that he is dead she controls her feelings whereas the old woman reacts by weeping loudly Elizabeth pleads her not to wake her children as she want her children to be spared by the grief and sorrow that their father has given.
The body is brought into the parlor while doing the process a vase of Chrysanthemums gets knocked over Walter’s corpse making a mess on the carpet and these Chrysanthemums on Walter’s corpse symbolizes his death and the final blow in life of Elizabeth Bates that now she is left all alone and she now have to look after her children all by herself. While cleaning up the mess she over hears the conversation of the men who brought the body home and gets to know that her husband died of suffocation when the wall of coal mine collapsed.
When the men finally leave Elizabeth cleans the body with the help of her mother- in- law and as doing the process her mother-in- law was weeping and she feels betrayed in her womb and recalls her son when he was a child “White as milk he is, clear as a twelve-month baby, bless him, the darling! “The old woman murmured to herself. “Not a mark on him, clear and clean and white, beautiful as ever a child was made, “she murmured with pride.
Elizabeth kept her face hidden and she realized now that how apart her husband is from her now, she feels how separate they always were despite that they lived together and their marriage had died long before his death. She finally understands that it is not her husband to be blamed for such a bad marriage in which she was stuck it was also her fault that she never cared for him and never trusted him and this led to their bad marriage. This realization causes her to feel horrified as her womb turns into “ice of fear”. It feels to her thought the baby was in her womb but as if it was part of Walter Bates. ” She feels that even though the baby was in her womb it was more a part of her dead husband, Walter Bates as “The child was like ice in her womb” cold like Walter’s dead body. This incident made her eyes open and this realization was given her by Death. Finally she goes to the kitchen aware of all the mistakes done by her that she is to be blamed for