1. Victorian Age 2.D.H.Lawrence 3.Chrysanthemums 4.Analysis 5.Optical illusions

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Lesson plan

  1. Odour of Chrysanthemums, guided reading (30 min.)

a. Pre-reading (5 min.):

What are our impressions when we read the title  "Odour of Chrysanthemums"? Can we predict what it is about?

b. Introductory text (Elizabeth and her... his corpse home.): silent reading and discussion (5 min.)

What did we learn? About Elizabeth? About her husband? About life in a colliery housing estate?

c. Silent reading: text Odour of Chrysanthemums (10 min.)

d. First reactions (5 min.)

Elizabeth doesn't cry, cannot cry... Is this acceptable? Do we know people who would react in a similar way? How do we behave in situations of great grief ourselves?

e. Discussion of a paradox (5 min.)

Two women appear in this story: the mother-in-law who cries and lets her tears flow; Elizabeth who doesn't cry but keeps on functioning (she mops the floor, quietens down the children, starts to wash the dead body, ...).

When the class is asked with which woman they sympathize most, the answer will be: "With Elizabeth!"
However, one might expect that DHL's (and therefore the reader's) sympathy goes to the mother-in-law in the first place, as she is the one who reacts instinctively, who lets go and cries... Elizabeth appears as a rational woman, whose reactions are cool and controlled by the mind -- in theory not a sympathetic Lawrence-prototype at all! How can we account for this apparent contradiction?

  1. Group discussion (7 minutes)

Students decide what information will be kept for the final report and who will formulate what. They focus on possible links with previous statements and conclusions.

  1. Completion group document (8 minutes)

In mutual agreement informative paragraphs are added to the final group report. Students add comments and links to other pages.

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Chrysanthemums make us think of churchyards, of death.


bulletElizabeth must be a young mother as she has only two children in an era when families were pressured on to have a lot of children (by the clergy, i.a.);
bullet"father is late" is understood as "father has been drinking in a pub"
bullet"looking for him in several pubs" must be quite humiliating...


Elizabeth is honest. Under the circumstances her marriage couldn't be a happy one, without privacy in too small a collier-house, with Victorian taboos on sex... Although she has been married for several years, she sees her husband naked for the first time:
"She knew she had never seen him, he had never seen her, they had met in the dark and had fought in the dark..."
Even if the world expects young widows to mourn and cry over their dead husbands, Elizabeth cannot shed crocodile tears. Maybe in ohter circumstances she could have loved this beautiful man, but they have remained strangers for each other:
"In her womb was ice of fear, because of this stranger with whom she had been living as one flesh."
"She felt that in the next world he would be a stranger to her. If they met there, in the beyond, they would only be ashamed of what had been before."
In flat contradiction with Victorian prescriptions, Elizabeth cannot behave hypocritically:
"She strove to weep as her mother-in-law expected. But she could not, she was silenced."
As such, she lives up to D.H. Lawrence's principles and gets the reader's sympathy.

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Useful link

Helen Croom's view on "Odour of Chrysanthemums"


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