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John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums and D.H. Lawrence's The Odour of Chrysanthemums

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John Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums' and D.H. Lawrence's 'The Odour of Chrysanthemums'


Women in the 1900s were given little attention. John Steinbeck and D.H
Lawrence however have chosen to base their short stories on a single
woman character and around a type of flower, which is the
chrysanthemum. Though written by male writers, both stories give an
insight of the feelings and actions of a female character in that time
period and how chrysanthemums can mean an entirely different obsession
towards the two main characters.

John Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums' is about a tinker who confronts
Elisa Allen while she was working on her prized chrysanthemums. Elisa
was impressed of the tinker's freedom and his way of life. The tinker
offers his service, repairing pots and pans, to Elisa, but she refuses
at first. However, the tinker does not give up and tells Elisa about a
customer that would be interested in her chrysanthemums. Elisa's
attitude instantly changed and after her discussion with tinker she
finds some work for the tinker to work on. Elisa's husband, Henry,
takes her out later to the city for dinner. To her dismay she finds
her lovely chrysanthemums dumped by the roadside by the tinker.

D.H Lawrence, however, writes about Elizabeth Bates and her children
who wait for the return of Walter, husband and father, who is late in
his homecoming. Elizabeth has a brief meeting with her father. Not
waiting any longer, Elizabeth and her children have dinner. Elizabeth
puts her children to sleep and then goes out to look for her husband.
It turns out that the husband had an accident and is now dead.
Elizabeth's mother in law visits her and together they clean the dead
Walter, while reminiscing the past....


... middle of paper ...


...not be offered to strangers.
However, in 'Odour of Chrysanthemums,' Elizabeth realises she has
never really known Walter and is ashamed to handle him. She
experiences fear for she is aware that she has no control over her
destiny and that she cannot escape death.

Both stories do not have a happy ending, but instead deal with
different aspects of life. 'The Chrysanthemums' with society and
trust, whereas 'Odour of Chrysanthemums' with fate and death. I feel
that John Steinbeck offers a better ending because it teaches us not
to trust strangers with ease and gives us the message that we should
be happy with what we have, not to envy others. Then again, the ending
in 'Odour of chrysanthemums' is also true but I feel that it is too
harsh. It is a fact that every creature will encounter death but death
should not be Elizabeth's or anyone's 'ultimate master.'


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