In "Odour of Chrysanthemums," Walter's death touches off a big epiphany for Elizabeth, who suddenly realizes that the life she was living is a big fat lie. Explain what she learns about the life that she has lived. Lawrence does not tell us the future life of Elizabeth; speculate on what you think will happen to her. Will she continue to live an inauthentic life, or will she have the strength to find meaning in a new relationship that will not be a lie? Are there Elizabeths in our contemporary world? Explain. Cite illustrations of dissatisfaction in the story. Cite illustrations of anger and resentment in the story. "I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets." "My whole working philosophy is that the only stable happiness for mankind is that it shall live married blessed union to woman-kind intimacy, physical and psychical between a man and his wife. I wish to add that my state of bliss is by no means perfect."—D.H. Lawrence "For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive." The above are quotations from Lawrence, the author. Relate any and all of these to the story.

Expert Answers

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

When Walter dies in "Odour of Chrysanthemums," Elizabeth realizes in the end that she has shared nothing with her husband. She thinks, "And she knew what a stranger he was to her. In her womb was ice of fear, because of this separate stranger with whom she had been living as one flesh." While she has had two children with her husband and is pregnant with another, she realizes that she has never truly known him.

After having this epiphany, Elizabeth will likely go on to lead a more authentic life. She thinks, "She had refused him as himself.—And this had been her life, and his life.—She was grateful to death, which restored the truth. And she knew she was not dead." In other words, she had never accepted her husband for who he was, and she will be more likely to accept others as they really are in the future. However, as she will have three children to raise on her own, she may dedicate herself to that task rather than looking for a relationship. The character of Elizabeth is still relevant today, as many people get into relationships with people they do not really know as people and continue to conduct these relationships as virtual strangers to each other.

The following quotes show anger and resentment in the story:

“No,” she said, “not to me. It was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when you were born, and the first time they ever brought him home drunk, he’d got brown chrysanthemums in his button-hole.”

“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—”

"Her heart burst with anger at their father who caused all three such distress. The children hid their faces in her skirts for comfort."

This story shows Elizabeth's regrets about her life, while D. H. Lawrence advocates a life of no regrets. He advocates the kind of life in which unions are based on intimacy, while Elizabeth only had physical but not psychological intimacy with her husband. Lawrence advocates being "fully alive," in a way Elizabeth never has been, as her marriage has been a union of strangers in which she felt spiritually dead.

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