Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are out wish to get in?"(Brainy Quote). Emerson's expressions are all too true for many married people as well as those in serious relationships. It seems that engaging in marriage is a step that many take only to find out it was a mistake. Nothing is ever perfect in relationships as well as in life and in death. D.H. Lawrence similarly illustrates the theme of relationships and their unsuccessfulness in life in his short story "Odour of Chrysanthemums". He realistically demonstrates these themes with "the pitiless self-discovery sometimes brought about only through the death of another" (72).In the story, Mrs. Elizabeth Bates, the protagonist, realizes the harsh realities of marriage as she waits for her husband to come home from the mineshaft one night. She is bombarded with the thought of him getting drunk at the local tavern and is furious at his inconsiderateness to the children and her. When Elizabeth discovers the death of her husband, she deals with the fact that she never loved him; he was simply a stepping stone for her two children and her unborn child into the world. Through diction in "Odour of Chrysanthemums" , a depressing and thought provoking story, Lawrence majestically uses beautiful language and vivid scenes through imagery, foreshadowing, and symbolism to portray the hard times in Elizabeth's life. The main theme in the story is that truth and the relationships in life are often difficult and are sometimes not figured out until the ultimate tragedy, death. Conflict is very strong in Elizabeth's life. As the plot thickens, she begins to discover the truths in her life through the events during the day. Realizing that her husband is the root of much of the conflict, Elizabeth takes a deeper look at his own flesh and blood: her son. "She saw herself in his [her son's] silence and pertinacity; she saw the father in her child's indifference to all but himself" (75). Lawrence characterizes Elizabeth through her son's action. She starts to see traits in her son that she had not noticed before; moreover, the fact that she sees herself as quiet and determined in her son's personality makes her look like a warm nurturing mother. In contrast, she sees a selfish image in the child inherited from the father, characterizing the father as a bad influence to the son. Her thoughts foreshadow to the reader and to her that the marriage is having problems because she cannot even find a moral trait in her husband let alone her son. Her thoughts also demonstrate her feelings of anger towards her husband because she thinks about the negative characteristics that her son possesses from the father rather than the positive. While waiting for her husband to return home from work or the bar rather, she regrets ever moving in with him, "
what a fool I've been, what a fool! And this is what I came here for, to this dirty hole, rats and all, for him to slink past his very door" (78). She feels threatened and upset that her husband is so selfish as to not even come home to his family when she has given up so much for him. Growing suspicion proves that Elizabeth no longer trusts her husband, and she faces with the reality of her diminishing marriage. The conflict in Elizabeth's marriage is escalated by the representation of fire. Throughout the entire story, fire is forthcoming. As the fire starts to dwindle the climax rises and death becomes more evident. The mood is set in the beginning of the story when the miners are described as "shadows diverging home" (73). A gloomy, lonely emotion is felt by the scene, and fire is the only source of light and brightness. It is quickly obliterated as death approaches. "As she [Elizabeth] dropped piece after piece of coal on the red fire, the shadows fell on the walls, till the room was almost in total darkness" (77). Elizabeth becomes restless as her husband is no where to be seen or heard. To keep the fire burning all night would be absurd, so she slowly lets the glowing ambers disperse into nothingness in hopes he will return home soon. Her hopes weaken in this ironic statement, "what a fool she had been to imagine that anything had happened to him!" (79). Whereas she may not be serious; her words will come back to haunt her when she finds out that her husband has died. The strange thing is "E [the husband] worsmothered [in the mine]!" (83). The fire at the home gradually disappearing, symbolizes the very ashes at the mine that smothered Mr. Bates to death. Deep down Elizabeth feels that it was a long time coming because he was always coming