Odour of Chrysanthemums


D. H. Lawrence

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Light and Dark Symbol Analysis

Light and Dark Symbol Icon
Lawrence uses contrast in the play of light and dark throughout the story, which begins as the sun sets in the afternoon. The characters constantly draw attention to the quality of light, with Elizabeth reprimanding Annie when she comes in after dark, and with John complaining repeatedly that he can't see his food, craving more light and warmth from his home—just like his father, who goes to seek it at the brightly lit pubs in town. All the characters are constantly trying to escape the darkness—which represents death and solitude—even though it inevitably takes over as the story progresses from late afternoon to late evening, just as Walter's death takes over the course of the story, and, as Elizabeth realizes, death always takes over life.

Light and Dark Quotes in Odour of Chrysanthemums

The Odour of Chrysanthemums quotes below all refer to the symbol of Light and Dark. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Isolation of Individual Lives Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Odour of Chrysanthemums published in 2008.
Part 1 Quotes

"I canna see."
"Good gracious!" cried the mother irritably, "you're as bad as your father if it's a bit dusk!"
Nevertheless she took a paper spill from a sheaf on the mantelpiece and proceeded to light the lamp that hung from the ceiling in the middle of the room.

Related Characters: Elizabeth (speaker), John (speaker), Walter
Related Symbols: Light and Dark
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:
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Light and Dark Symbol Timeline in Odour of Chrysanthemums

The timeline below shows where the symbol Light and Dark appears in Odour of Chrysanthemums. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Isolation of Individual Lives Theme Icon
In the afternoon's dimming light, a small train passes through town, slowly enough for a horse to outrun it at... (full context)
Mother/Children Relationships Theme Icon
The woman is attractive, with exactly parted black hair and dark eyebrows. She calls for John, but there's no answer; finally, a child's sulky voice sounds... (full context)
Mother/Children Relationships Theme Icon
Wife/Husband Relationships Theme Icon
As the fire dies down, Elizabeth places a batter pudding by the hearth and waits. A young girl... (full context)
Wife/Husband Relationships Theme Icon
Elizabeth glances outside once more. Everything is deserted. The girl sits before the fire, commenting on how beautiful it is. Her mother replies that the fire needs mending and... (full context)
Mother/Children Relationships Theme Icon
Wife/Husband Relationships Theme Icon
...he walks past their home to go to a pub. She drops coals on the fire until the room is almost entirely dark, and John complains that he can't see. Elizabeth... (full context)
Mother/Children Relationships Theme Icon
Wife/Husband Relationships Theme Icon
As Elizabeth lights the lamp, revealing her pregnant stomach, Annie catches sight of the chrysanthemums in her mother's... (full context)
Part 2
Isolation of Individual Lives Theme Icon
...clock strikes eight, Elizabeth abandons her sewing and goes out the door. The night is dark, concealing the scuttling of rats. She walks until she reaches the road, where she can... (full context)
Isolation of Individual Lives Theme Icon
Life vs. Death Theme Icon
Elizabeth prepares the parlor for Walter's body, lighting a candle and taking note of the "cold, deathly smell of chrysanthemums in the room."... (full context)