“Odour of Chrysanthemums”


“Odour of Chrysanthemums” by D.H.Lawrence is a short story which has an especially effective opening that immediately takes hols of the readers’ attention. The story as a whole is about a woman named Elizabeth, from a small mining village and the passage of time one evening while she is waiting for her husband to return home from working in the local mine. Lawrence manages to create a tense atmosphere in the story as the reader is convinced that Elizabeth’s husband is late in coming home as he is drunk at the local pub. However Elizabeth is uncertain whether to believe if her husband has spent his evening drinking with workmates and the thought of tragedy befalling her husband plagues her mind during the story. This creates a mood of expectancy and the reader too is uncertain where Elizabeth’s husband, Walter, has got to. Unknown to the reader until late in the story, Walter has been killed in an accident while working in the mine and has been dead since the beginning of the story. The opening of “Odour of Chrysanthemums” provides a successful introduction for the story as a whole as it introduces the three main aspects of the story: Elizabeth, the mine and chrysanthemums. Lawrence makes effective use of a wide number of techniques in the opening but in particular he uses imagery and word choice to great affect.


Lawrence begins “Odour of Chrysanthemums” with a dreary and disheartening description of nature in the village. This creates a depressing atmosphere and also foreshadows the news of Walter’s death :


“Withered oak leaves dropped noiselessly”


This effective word choice by Lawrence shows that in the village, nature is dying. Unknown to the reader at this stage of the story, Walter has been trapped and died whilst in the mine. Like the leaves, Walter himself withered and died without any person hearing of his plight. I found Lawrence’s link between the death of Walter and the withered leaves very effective as it was an effective clue to what may follow as the story progresses.


Lawrence continues to develop the depressing mood he has established in the early stages of the story by using his description of nature as his means to do so :


“The pit bank loomed up beyond the pond.....in the afternoon’s stagnant light”


Here Lawrence introduces the mine to the reader and again his effective word choice gives the reader the feeling that the pit is a danger to them. “Loomed” is a chilling way to describe the presence that the mine has in the village and the reader is aware that perhaps the mine is not a safe place to be in the story. “Stagnant light” another dull way to describe nature, suggests death will be present in the story and also indicates to the reader the danger in the village. Apart from giving dreary descriptions of nature in the village as a whole, Lawrence focuses in particular on the outside of Elizabeth’s home and continues to indicate that death will be a key part of the story.


Lawrence moves on from his description of nature in the village to focusing on the outside of Walter and Elizabeth’s home towards the end of the opening of “Odour of Chrysanthemums” and uses imagery to give an increasingly gloomy view of the house :


“A large bony vine clutched at the house, as if to claw down the tiled roof”


Lawrence’s metaphor to describe the house here is a foreshadowing to the key event in the story, the news of Walter’s death. The reader finds out later in the story that Walter was trapped after part of the mine he was working in collapsed, trapping him inside. “ Clutched“ and “claw down” suggest the maliciousness of the vine and also are a link to the death of Walter as the mine in which he was when he died came crashing down in the same manner that the vine is attempting to do to the roof tiles. I found it very effective as a hint to what was to follow in the story once I was aware of the circumstances in which Walter died and thought the vicious sly impression that Lawrence gave of the vine was particularly useful