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
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:
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?
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.
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.
Chrysanthemums make us think of churchyards, of death.
|Elizabeth 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.);|
|"father is late" is understood as "father has been drinking in a
|"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
"She strove to weep as her mother-in-law expected. But she could not, she was
As such, she lives up to D.H. Lawrence's principles and gets the reader's sympathy.
Helen Croom's view on
"Odour of Chrysanthemums"