Describe Elizabeth’s character in "Odour of Chrysanthemums." What do we learn about her from her encounters with her children, father, neighbors, and mother-in-law?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Elizabeth is a proud, opinionated woman.  She shows elements of strength in her interactions with othes, but also elements of weakness, highlighted by her self-criticism. 

Elizabeth strength shows through in her desire to provide a good home.  She is angry that her husband is not home because she believes that the family should be a unit, and should sit down together to eat.  She nags her children about their behavior and appearance because she wants a good life for them, better than she feels she herself has.  Her sense of duty is shown through the snack she provides to her father and through her determination that, if Walter is wounded, she will be able to nurse him back to health.

However, Elizabeth's pride leads her to remain emotionally distant from others.  She does not interact with her neighbors, only speaks at them and receives information from them.  Her discussion with her mother-in-law reveals that Elizabeth has not connected emotionally with Walter, but has only set him up as the father of the family, not as a partner.  Elizabeth herself comes to understand this upon Walter's death:

"Elizabeth embraced the body of her husband, with cheek and lips. She seemed to be listening, inquiring, trying to get some connection. But she could not. She was driven away. He was impregnable."

His death brings self-realization to Elizabeth and causes her to question her life and her behavior.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial