Odour of Chrysanthemums

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Themes and Colors
Isolation of Individual Lives Theme Icon
Mother/Children Relationships Theme Icon
Wife/Husband Relationships Theme Icon
Life vs. Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Odour of Chrysanthemums, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

When Elizabeth looks over Walter's dead body, she feels "the utter isolation of the human soul." She realizes that she and Walter have always been two separate entities who didn't understand one another, and even when they were physically intimate, there was a lack of understanding and emotional connection between them. She reacts flinchingly towards the baby growing inside her, as it's a reminder of the distance that couldn't be overcome between her and Walter…

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At the beginning of the story, Elizabeth is seen interacting solely with her children, and although she grows impatient with them at times, she still worries about their safety and acts affectionately towards them. Her differing attitudes towards her children and her husband can be seen when John grumbles that the room is too dark—although his complaints remind Elizabeth of her husband's irritating habits, she laughs affectionately at the appearance of these habits in…

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Once Elizabeth's attention turns towards her husband, her feelings become resentful and angry. She blames him for upsetting the household and drinking too much. For example, Elizabeth regards chrysanthemum flowers bitterly because they were present when she married Walter and when the other men carried Walter back after he started drinking. She connects them with the resentment and regret she feels towards her marriage, holding onto those feelings without the same willingness to forgive that…

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The story is one of contrasts, the main one being the contrast between the living and the dead. This juxtaposition is shown through the story's symbols, such as the chrysanthemums, which at the beginning of the story, appear alive and growing outside the house, and towards the end of the story, are plucked dead—in one of Elizabeth's memories of Walter, they appear brown and wilting. Their odor, once Walter has passed away, also…

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