The claim that "Odour of Chrysanthemums" is a well-crafted story is hardly brave or risky, for many would agree. For instance, the man who in a sense discovered Lawrence, English Review editor F. M. Ford, said this about "Odour of Chrysanthemums":
The very title makes an impact on the mind. You get at once the knowledge that this is not, whatever else it may turn out, either a frivolous or even a gay springtime story. Chrysanthemums are not only flowers of the autumn: they are the autumn itself. . . This man knows what he wants. He sees the scene of his story exactly. He has an authoritative mind. (Ford 257)
As a fiction editor, he is quite receptive to Lawrence's descriptive gifts. He is impressed with Lawrence's sense of purpose. But readers needn't assess the short story by Ford's methods alone. Modern readers have a very different perspective than Lawrence's contemporaries, ensuring that many different analyses of "Odour of Chrysanthemums" are possible.
However, the plot itself is very simple. In the 1914 version, Elizabeth Bates spends most of the story waiting for her husband to return from the mine, fretting that he is once again dallying at a favorite pub. His coworkers drag him home, but he is not in a drunken stupor. He is dead, suffocated in an accident at the mine. Initially it seems that the moment when Elizabeth learns that her husband is dead is the story's climax. However, this is not the story's most riveting moment, for Lawrence's foreshadowing has already given this ending away. Elizabeth often unknowingly hints at the coming death, saying, "They'll bring him when he does come--like a log" (Lawrence 290). The real surprise comes after the reader discove...
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...e sense alone. This idea reflects people's deepest fears, or perhaps evokes new ones. "Odour of Chrysanthemums" is not successful and shocking because of particularly beautiful writing, realistic characters or even a surprise ending. It is shocking because of a surprise thought.
Lawrence, David Herbert. "Odour of Chrysanthemums." D. H. Lawrence: The Complete Short Stories (Vol. 2). New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
Bolton, James T. "Odour of Chrysanthemums: An Early Version." Renaissance and Modern Studies 13 (1969), 12-44.
Ford, Madox Ford. "D. H. Lawrence." Portraits from Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1937.
Lawrence, David Herbert. "Women Are So Cocksure." Phoenix. London: Heinemann, 1936. 167-69.
Lawrence, David Herbert. "To T. D. D." 7 July 1914. Selected Letters. Ed. Richard Aldington. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.