Odour of Chrysanthemums Critical Overview
by D. H. Lawrence

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

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Early reviews of The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, R. P. Draper notes, while highly critical of the collection’s title story, afforded ‘‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’’ high praise. More recent responses to the short story, such as those of Keith Cushman, Nora Foster Stovel, and John Worthen, have also stressed its technical brilliance, by examining the differences between its three versions, and the ways in which it slowly reveals its theme. Weldon Thornton, for example, writes that ‘‘What Lawrence wrestled with in his successive revisions of the story was not the philosophical/ideational challenge of what that situation means, but the exploratory/artistic challenge of how to be faithful to the powerful and complex emotional structure of such an experience as it unfolds for the character.’’ The way the story skillfully conceals and yet also foreshadows its final revelation is examined in an essay by Michael Black, who notes that Elizabeth ‘‘is jolted out of that judgement [that Walter is away from the home getting drunk], and we are jolted with her.’’ Comparative analyses of this story and Lawrence’s other work have also been popular. Consideration of the relationship between Lawrence’s handling of reactions to a beloved’s death in texts such as The White Peacock and The Rainbow has revealed the way in which Lawrence works, reworks, and even worries a single theme again and again. The conflict between Elizabeth and Walter has also been regarded in terms of Lawrence’s treatment of this relationship in Sons and Lovers.