34 pages 1 hour read

D. H. Lawrence

Odour of Chrysanthemums

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1911

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Symbols & Motifs


The central symbol in “Odour of Chrysanthemums” is the titular chrysanthemums, which appear throughout the story. Flowers are often associated with life and beauty, and the sprig tucked into Elizabeth’s apron is symbolically linked to this by their proximity to her pregnant belly. However, chrysanthemums also have an association with death in many European countries, and the chrysanthemum bush by the house is withering as fall passes.

Annie appreciates their beauty and scent, symbolizing the optimism of youth, but Elizabeth describes how their meaning has become tainted for her and bitterly lists her associations: “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” (8). Here, the chrysanthemums represent the decay of her domestic, familial life, particularly her relationship with Walter and his alcohol addiction.

Just as she tries to connect with Walter’s body but fails, she still longs to find beauty in the flowers, holding them against her face, tucking them into her apron, and keeping two vases of them in the parlor. However, she removes them from her apron during her reminiscence with Annie, and one of the vases is knocked over by a collier bringing in Walter’s body.