Free Essay: The Odor of Chrysanthemums


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The Odor of Chrysanthemums


The locomotive engine may be symbolic of Walter. It is an overwhelming thing, strong and powerful, the way that Walter is a huge part of her life. However, it is also impersonable and cold, just as her relationship to her husband is. Her moments with her husband, like "the winding engine" are hurried "with brief pauses" (2113). Lawrence describes their intimacy as an "exchanging of nakedness," but without any real connection for long periods of time.

The color red seems to symbolize death. The beginning of the story presents the pit bank with "flames like red sores like its ashy sides" (2111). However, death is not presented as a dreadful thing in this story. In the end, death is freedom for Elizabeth. Even John says, " I do think its beautiful to look in the fire . . . . It's so red, and full of little caves-- and it feels so nice" (2114). In a way, he is commenting on the mystery and beauty of passing on to the afterlife. When Elizabeth goes to look for her husband, there, again, is "The red smear of the burning pit bank on the night (2117). Finally, she lays her dead husband on "the old red tablecloth" (2121).

D. H. Lawrence's parents did not have a good marriage. They probably did not know each other well before their marriage, as they were ill-suited for each other. The Bates do not really know one another; they are married but strangers. Lawrence's father was an abusive alcoholic. Walter Bates frequents the public house.

Characters:

Elizabeth Bates: stifled, long-suffering, distant but caring with her family.

John Bates: curious, headstrong.

Walter Bates: Insensitive, absent.

"Was this what it all meant--utter, intact separateness, obscured by the heat of living?" Elizabeth is questioning the reason for living. Particularly, she is wondering at her own existence. Her life seems to have no meaning and she does not connect with any one, especially her husband.

"I have been fighting a husband who did not exist . . .and her soul died in her for fear." Walter did exist, but not as a true husband to her, nor she a true wife to him.

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She dies a little death at this thought for there is no real relationship in her life, not even a marital one.

The title is significant in that chrysanthemums grow outside of the Bates' home, were at the wedding of the Bates', and at her child's birth, yet Elizabeth hates the smell of them. She says, "No . . . not to me," when her son asks, "Don't they smell beautiful?" (2115). Finally, the chrysanthemums give off a "cold, deathly smell" when Walter dies (2121).


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