Odour of Chrysanthemums


D. H. Lawrence

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Odour of Chrysanthemums: Similes 3 key examples

Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Part 1
Explanation and Analysis—Like a Log:

Before Elizabeth knows that Walter has died in the mines—believing, instead, that he has not come home because he’s out drinking—she complains to her daughter about his inevitable drunken return, using a simile in the process:

“They’ll bring him when he does come—like a log.” She meant there would be no scene. “And he may sleep on the floor till he wakes himself. I know he’ll not go to work tomorrow after this!”

Elizabeth’s statement that Walter’s friends will bring him home “like a log” helps readers understand that he has been brought home drunk many times before. Not only drunk, but so drunk that he has lost consciousness (and is therefore log-like). This context is important, as it clarifies why Elizabeth has become so resentful toward her husband over the years, coming to feel emotionally isolated from him in the process.

This moment is also an example of foreshadowing because, as readers later witness, Walter’s body is brought home “like a log” but only because he is dead. Elizabeth’s vision of Walter “sleep[ing] on the floor” and “not go[ing] to work tomorrow after this” also proves to be true but, again, only because he is dead, not because he is hungover. In this way, Lawrence subtly foreshadows the reveal to come.

Explanation and Analysis—Like Red Sores:

When setting the scene at the beginning of the story, the narrator describes the nearby Brinsley Colliery (or coal mine), using a simile in the process:

The pit-bank loomed up beyond the pond, flames like red sores licking its ashy sides, in the afternoon’s stagnant light. Just beyond rose the tapering chimneys and the clumsy black headstocks of Brinsley Colliery.

The narrator describes the flames that emerge from the mine as being “like red sores […] in the afternoon’s stagnant light.” For context, pit-banks in coal mines consisted of earth and small pieces of coal that would sometimes oxidize and catch fire. The description of the fire looking like “red sores” is notable, as it hints to readers that these mines are dangerous places that can easily wound people (or leave them with sores). This proves to be true; later in the story, it is revealed that Walter has died in an accident at the colliery.

The descriptions of the afternoon light as “stagnant” and the headstocks as “clumsy” also suggest that this mine is not a very life-giving or safe place to work. In particular, the word “clumsy” hints at the possibility of workers being injured due to mistakes.

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Part 2
Explanation and Analysis—Walter’s Mother’s Ravings:

After Elizabeth and her mother-in-law finish cleaning Walter’s dead body, Walter’s mother begins raving about her son, using a series of similes in the process:

“White as milk he is, clear as a twelvemonth baby, bless him, the darling!” the old mother murmured to herself. “Not a mark on him, clear and clean and white, as beautiful as ever a child was made,” she murmured with pride. Elizabeth kept her face hidden. “He went peaceful, Lizzie—peaceful as sleep.”

In the first pair of similes here, Walter’s mother says that her son is “white as milk” and “clear as a twelvemonth baby.” This figurative language is meant to communicate how innocent and peaceful Walter looks in death, especially now that the women have washed the coal residue off of him. Walter's mother then goes on to say that, in death, Walter is “as beautiful as ever a child was made,” language that implies she is intentionally replacing the image of her alcoholic and unhappy adult son with her memories of him as a child.

Walter’s mother’s final simile—in which she says that Walter died “peaceful as sleep”—is not based in fact, as she knows that he died by suffocation in the mine. In this way, she seems to be avoiding the reality of suffering and death. This is likely because, as a mother, she feels unable to tolerate the idea of her child suffering.

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