Study Guide

Odour of Chrysanthemums Dissatisfaction

By D.H. Lawrence


This family isn't exactly a ship of happy campers. Elizabeth spends most of "The Odour of Chrysanthemums" furious about her lot in life, and then that disgruntlement turns into full-on terror about the future when her husband turns up dead. Beyond that, the whole mood of the story is one of darkness and sadness/depression simmering beneath the surface—Elizabeth's husband is a drunk, the neighbors live in squalor, and there are dead chrysanthemums everywhere (a flower Elizabeth claims to hate) . . . So, it's not a cheery place, even before the corpse shows up.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. Why does Lawrence make this story so wickedly depressing?
  2. Do you think life is likely to get better or worse for Elizabeth after the death of her troublesome husband? How do we know?
  3. Is any character in the story kind of exempted from the dark mood? If so, who and how?

Chew on This

The story plays up its characters' dissatisfaction to draw attention to life's futility and purposelessness, which Walter's death drives home.

The mood of dissatisfaction that pervades the novel highlights the characters' stagnation, but we have reason to be hopeful that Walter's death, by providing a shock, will help his family snap out of it.