In this story Elizabeth seems to have a distorted view of realty. It almost seems that the darkness has blocked her vision. Elizabeth's anger has also changed her view of her husband and she has failed to notice the reality of his difference. Elisabeth's sense of smell has been changed by her associations with negative things that happened in her past. She has associated the odor of the chrysanthemums, a symbol of life and beauty even in the dark mining village, with the different stages of her life with her husband. After Elizabeth's husband dies in the mining accident she recognizes that the smell of the chrysanthemums could be the smell of death. Elizabeth also seems to more show more concern with appearances; she seems to ignore the body of her deceased husband to clean up the mess from the dropped vase of chrysanthemums. To Elizabeth this may have been easier than facing the reality of death
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Lawrence also seems to reference rolls of sex in his story. Lawrence shows the separation of all people, with a big focus on the separation of men and women. This is shown by Elizabeth Bates's emotional distance from people around her. The separation of men and women, takes place for the most part in the dark, with all the men in the mine and the women in the village. The dimmed lighting and stuffy odors seem to have their own role in the story. Elizabeth Bates recognizes the separation of her husband by looking on and touching his warm body. She recognizes that they are now apart, forever separated by the world of death, just as in life they were apart.
Death also plays a big role in "Odour of Chrysanthemums." The delivery of Walter's body at the Bates's home marks the beginning of the downward spiral in this story. Lawrence begins to show the relationships between death and life, which closely resemble the difference between darkness and light. From the beginning, darkness and gloom and a sense of dread seem to hang over Elizabeth Bates. In the beginning of the story, the mine and its train are shown as an uninvited and dark change that seems to scare animals and make life in the small village cramped. Knowing the dangers of working in a mine, Elizabeth and her neighbors seem to be aware that Walter Bates quite possibly may have died in the mine. These different situations show the reader that the focus is on death and at the conclusion of the story Lawrence will show the way it will shape the future life of Elizabeth Bates.
Lawrence also writes about the difference in social class. ''Odour of Chrysanthemums'' is set in a small mining village, and there are many reasons to believe that Elizabeth Bates believes that she is socially superior to Walter and his working-class friends who labor in the mine. Even though Elizabeth may have thought highly of herself, by the end of the story her encounter with Walters's dead body seems to have taught her to cherish and value her husband, and to ignore his rank in the social class. Lawrence describes Elizabeth Bates as a woman of ''imperious mien,'' who scolds her son when he tears up the flowers because it looks ''nasty," this appears to reference her father's decision to remarry even though he has been widowed for a short time. This act by Elizabeth's father, would have been socially demining in this period of history.
Elizabeth does not use the local slang like her neighbors, showing an indication of social class, but she is not above down talking her neighbor's messy house. Elizabeth is not like the other miners wives; she will not lower herself by entering the local pubs to convince her husband to come home. Elizabeth also seems to get upset whenever her children copy their father's bad habits, showing her desire to keep her family civilized.
Elizabeth Bates shows her need for social acceptance and her desire to keep her status in the community by fighting against Walter and his old fashioned values. Elizabeth was probably lured into marrying Walter by his good looks and strong drive for life, Elizabeth now shows some resentment towards Walter for making her feel like a ''fool'' and for making her live in ''this dirty hole.'' Elizabeth seems to dislike the nature of her husband work as a miner, showed by her unwillingness to wash off all the grime and dirt from Walters's body when he comes home from a long day of work in the mine. While Elizabeth is waiting for Walter's return, she begins to get upset and out of anger she say's says she will make Walter sleep on the floor. However, her attitude dramatically changes when she finds out about the accident that has taken place. She even has thoughts of being able to mold him and change the way he thinks while she nurses him back to health, but Elizabeth's thoughts dissolve when the body of her deceased husband is brought into her home by miners and the pit manager. After Elizabeth views the body she is confused and disheveled at what appears to be a new definition of distance between her and Walter.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Elizabeth starts to understand the connection between her and Walter was solely based on pure attraction and was much larger than the need of acceptance in the social world. Elizabeth now accepts that her and Walter's relationship was part of a much different experience, an experience that belongs in a separate dimension. It is a dimension which includes back breaking work in the cold and dark mine, and long dark lonely nights alone. The story ends with the fate of this new and mysterious dimension replacing Elizabeth Bates's former worries about social class. The irony of these two worlds is uncanny, the separate life that Walter and Elizabeth lived in life, they continue to live in death.