Give a detailed description of the emotional thoughts that kept on building in Elizabeth's mind while awaiting the unexpected tragedy in "Odour of Chrysanthemums."

Expert Answers

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

If we examine the thoughts that go through Elizabeth's mind carefully, we can see that there is an interesting development as the story tracks its inevitable path towards tragedy and sadness. At first, Elizabeth's thoughts, that she vocalises in front of her children, focus on her own sadness and grief at having married a man who is not her social equal and who is a drunkard. Her rage and shame at being coupled to such a man who would get drunk instead of coming home to his wife and family is evident and evidenced in numerous places at the beginning of the story.Note what Elizabeth says in the following quote:

It is a scandalous thing as a man can’t even come home to his dinner! If it’s crozzled up to a cinder I don’t see why I should care. Past his very door he goes to get to a public-house, and here I sit with his dinner waiting for him—

However, as the clock ticks on and the hours pass, this sense of annoyance and self-pity begins to become displaced by something very different, as Elizabeth feels worry and fear well up within her when she thinks about her husband and why he is taking so long to return. In a way that foreshadows the tragedy of her husband's death, Elizabeth begins to suspect that something terrible has happened:

She was startled by the rapid chuff of the winding-engine at the pit, and the sharp whirr of the brakes on the rope as it descended. Again she felt the painful sweep of her blood, and she put her hand to her side, saying aloud, “Good gracious!—it’s only the nine o’clock deputy going down,” rebuking herself.

This "painful sweep of her blood" clearly foreshadows the discovery of what she suspects might have happened to her husband, and the very different reason that has prevented him from coming home.

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