Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. Walter's status as the family drunk is a big focal point in "The Odour of Chrysanthemums." Before she knows he's had an accident, Elizabeth assumes that he's late for dinner because he's out boozing (which apparently is a habit for him). Of course, it turns out that Walt's drinking isn't the culprit this time, but until that fact's revealed, Elizabeth spends a goodly portion of the story seething about his bad alcohol-related behaviors and their impact on the family.
Questions About Alcohol
Why do you think Walt's drunkenness is such a focal point in the story, especially when it turns out not to be the reason for his lateness at all?
Elizabeth's vision of Walt's drunken homecoming (e.g., being carried, having to sleep on the floor, etc.) closely matches his homecoming as a corpse. What do you make of that? Is it important? If so, why?
Elizabeth seems to question whether she actually knew her husband at the end of the novel and regret how she treated him. Do you think we're supposed to believe his alcohol abuse was somehow overemphasized? If so, why?
Chew on This
Elizabeth ultimately excuses Walt's alcohol abuse and feels bad for riding him for it because she now understands it was just his way of dealing with the meaningless of existence.
References to Walt's alcohol use are used to foreshadow his death to highlight the link between the two; he was already dead, in terms of his relationships, long before the story's events, in large part due to his reliance on alcohol.