Odour of Chrysanthemums

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"Odour of Chrysanthemums" is a short story by D. H. Lawrence. It was written in the autumn of 1909 and after revision, was published in The English Review in July 1911. Lawrence later included this tale in his collection entitled The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, which Duckworth, his London publisher, bought out on 26 November 1914. An American edition was produced by B W Huebsch in 1916. Lawrence later adapted the story into a play, The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd.


Elizabeth Bates is the main character of the story. She has two young children and is pregnant with a third. She is waiting for her husband Walter, a coal miner, to come home. She thinks that he has gone straight to the pub after work and she feels angry . It turns out to be something completely different. In the end, she's come to realize that they really never did know each other.



  • Locomotive
  • Mines
  • Machinery: stands for the cruelty and violence, the alienation of life
  • Noises: threatening and described in detail


  • Vines: the vines remind of vegetation, thus life, but also of the crown worn by Jesus Christ
  • Chrysanthemums: flowers offered by the husband on anniversaries, also kind of flowers deposited on graves at funerals
  • Yew Tree: name of the pub where Elizabeth doesn't dare to go, tree that typically stands in a cemetery
  • Grass: cut by the locomotive that passes by

Biblical names[edit]

  • Anne: mother of the virgin Mary
  • Elizabeth: significance "House of God" or "House of Abundance", is supposed to be sterile but brings life forth
  • John: John the Baptist, beheaded and martyred

Life and death[edit]

  • Children
  • Chrysanthemums (see Vegetation)
  • Fertility and sterility
  • Light versus darkness: colours of the hair, furnace of industry and fire of death, candles, nighttime, fire of warmth and life in the hearth, life versus death



In 2002 the story was adapted into a short film by director Mark Partridge. The film won first prize at the Milan Film Festival.

Standard edition[edit]

  • The Prussian Officer and Other Stories (1914), edited by John Worthen, Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-24822-1

External links[edit]