The D H Lawrence Odour Of Chrysanthemums story is a popular short story for students to study, partly because of it’s themes of death, bereavement and relationships. It is a historical piece which presents a snapshot of time - harsh family life in colliery town England at the turn of the century.
Lawrence’s Odour of Chrysanthemums is also a perfect example of the use of imagery in short stories - although Lawrence seems to go over the top with this in places, peppering his story with these depressing flowers! It is possible that he was aiming for publication with this tactic.
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The use of imagery in ‘ The Odour of Chrysanthemums’ by D.H. Lawrence is evident right from the very beginning - the title The image of chrysanthemums can evoke varied responses in different short story readers. For some, chrysanthemums will be a cheering sight appearing as they do at the hot, bright end of summer For others though (perhaps including Lawrence, his mother and Mrs Bates in the story) these flowers go on too long - a bit like the Bates’ marriage The gaudy brash blooms start to look out of place come November when the grey English drizzle dampens their pom pom flower heads and turns their drooping petals to the drab brown of decay.
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Staleness, paralysis, death and decay are the things which the chrysanthemum flowers have come to represent in this honest short story about a wife’s true feelings on seeing her husbands body. Even the carefully arranged vase of flowers, in the rarely used front parlour where his body is laid, carry no comfort - no cheer. They are a hollow tribute for they fulfil no cheering purpose The widow chooses to fuss over the broken vase and spilt flowers rather than grieve over her husband s body. Instead she grieves for the death of a dream and the absence of love - her own. For Mrs Bates’ feelings on hearing about the coal-mining accident at the pit are not those of a wife who has lost a husband She may reflect at leisure upon whether their marriage was like the false brightness of the chrysanthemums - a sham.