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Both “The Odour of Chrysanthemums” by D. H. Lawrence and “The Daughters of the Late Colonel” by Katherine Mansfield have female protagonists. These flawed women face difficult futures because of their unusual situations.
Elizabeth Bates finds herself waiting for her husband, a coal miner, much of the time. She believes that he has stopped at the pub before coming home. Elizabeth does not relate well to her children or her husband since her life has not gone as she hoped it would. She is disillusioned and disappointed.
As she waits for Walter, her anger grows; then, Elizabeth’s fear comes to the forefront. Eventually, she finds that her husband has been killed in a mining accident.
When she cleans her husband’s body for the wake, Elizabeth discovers that she did not know who her husband really was. They shared sex, but that was really all they had in common. She withheld her emotions and even herself from him. It was no wonder that he had to drink before he came home; she had not been there for him.
Elizabeth realizes that death is the master of everything, and man has no control over it. Yet, life can be lived as a person chooses. Elizabeth knows that she will face many hardships in the future---finances, pregnancy, and her other children.
There are two daughters in “The Daughters of the Late Colonel.” The older sister is Josephine, who has the nickname Jug. She and her sister Constantia have spent their lives taking care of their father. With his death, the ladies find themselves in the middle of life without the skills to change their future.
The tragic lives of these women are revealed in the fear of their father despite his death and concern that he will be angry having been buried. Sacrificing their happiness, the sisters are stuck in the past despite their desire to go forward.
The dialogue between the sisters provides the perspectives and glimpses into their minds. Jug, the oldest, takes on the role of the pragmatist. As the level headed and literal sister, Jug sees the reality of their lives more than her sister. At one point, she looks at the table and sees an insect crawling on the table while her sister [Con] gazes out the window daydreaming.
Much of their discussions take place in bed as their minds continue to think of things that they want to do or try to remember about incidents. Despite her attempts as the practical sister, Jug like Con has no understanding of the hardships of life. One of their discussions centers on letting the cook go.
"What it comes to is, if we did"–and glancing at the door–"give Kate notice"–she raised her voice again–"we could manage our own food."
"Why not?" cried Constantia. The idea was so exciting. She clasped her hands. "What should we live on, Jug?"
"Oh, eggs in various forms!" said Jug, lofty again. "And, besides, there are all the cooked foods."
"But I've always heard," said Constantia, "they are considered so very expensive.”
The ladies understand nothing about the everyday things of life even their food.
As Jug and her sister try to move forward, every decision which needs to be made must stand the test of “what would father say or do.” With the death of the father, Jug’s mind races into the possibilities of the future. Probably the sisters will have difficulty moving beyond their dominating father. Yet, with Jug open to change, the hope is that there will be a dramatic move into the modern world.
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