Tuesday, January 3, 2012

what about the women

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Lee Eddy

English Composition II

What About The Women

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In the two stories, Odour of Chrysanthemums and The Rocking-Horse Winner, there are women described and wrote about by author playing significant roles. The roles the two women portray can be compared in several different manners. Not only can the roles be compared, but also the messages the author (D.H. Lawrence) tries to convey, about the women, can also be compared. What are some of the similarities of these two different women? Naturally one could interpret several obvious resemblances and also a few slightly hidden comparisons. In the following paragraphs you should be able to distinguish some of these comparisons. Especially when reading what the author narrates to the reader in these two short stories.

One of the first comparisons that can be identified is the fact both of the women in the two stories are not only women, but also wives. In the story Odour of Chrysanthemums, Lawrence gives the reader this perception when he writes “They had but to await the father’s coming to begin tea. As the mother watched her son’s sullen little struggle with the wood, she saw herself in his silence and pertinacity; she saw the father in the child’s indifference to all but himself.” (Page 17) This doesn’t necessarily give the reader a positive marriage message, but does say the


man and woman have children together. If this were not the case Elizabeth Bates would not see the resemblance in the child she sees. The resemblance she sees in the boy having his fathers’ traits and his mothers traits as well.

In the story, The Rocking-Horse Winner, Lawrence tells the reader, in the very beginning of the story, the female character is a wife. The first sentence in the story begins “There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck. She married for love, and the love turned to dust.” (Page 4) In this passage, the message of marriage is very apparent along with the woman’s feelings about the marriage. Lawrence also wrote extensively about his own personal experiences. In the comparisons of both of the women in these two stories, Lawrence could have been writing about his own family or at least an experience he was familiar with. This can be supported with a message from The Life and Works of D. H. Lawrence. The author Harry T. Moore says, “His first professional appearances in print under his own name was in 10, when an English magazine published a group of his poems. By the end of 11 Lawrence, then in Italy, had completed his third novel, Sons and Lover. This first phase of his writings was concerned chiefly with recording his youth in poetry, stories, and novels.” (Page 18) Harry T. Moore’s comment means; Lawrence did write about different occurrences that happened in his lifetime.


The second identifiable comparison is the lack of having an identity of the husbands. Neither of the husbands are actually characters in the writings, but are referred to in a sense of entity or body. In the story Odour of Chrysanthemums the husband is talked about by his wife, children, and mother, but does not have a verbal line in the whole story. Elisabeth talks about him to the children several times and refers to him when taking to her daughter when she says, “Never mind. They’ll bring him when he does come---like a log.” (Page 0) She is trying to tell her daughter, in a motherly and wifely way, he will be carried home drunk and he will be home when he gets home. The husband’s mother refers to her son also when she says, “Ay! It seems but a week or two since he brought me his first wages.” (Page ) He does eventually make an appearance, but he is more of a prop than a character. His dead body is delivered to the family’s home and this can be noted when Lawrence writes, “Wheer will you have him? Asked the manager, a short, white-bearded man. Elizabeth roused herself and came from the pantry carrying the unlighted candle. In the parlour.” (Page 5) Mr. Bates does not have any other appearances or monologue other than situations like these anywhere in the entire story. He is also just a prop, since it is only his body the men bring home. Not a drunken body, but a dead body instead.

The same type of actions are used by the author in the story The Rocking-Horse winner. The husband in this story doesn’t even get a chance to be a prop. He is only referred to as the husband or the father, by the author Lawrence. Lawrence mentioned his existence a couple of

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times in the beginning of the story. The first was when Lawrence wrote, “The father went into town to some office.” (Page 4) and the second message, “The father, who was always very

handsome and expensive in his tastes, seemed as if he never would be able to do anything worth doing.” (Page 4) All of the remaining references to the father are made by remarks mentioned by either one of the children or by the mother. You could interpret this style used in referring to the husbands, by Lawrence, as a behavior he grew up with or even a learned behavior. He had a closer relationship to his mother when he was growing up than he did with his father. This is pointed out by Harry T. Moore in his book The Life and Works of D. H. Lawrence. In this reference book Moore writes, “But his mother was the strongest influence on D. H. Lawrence.

As he shows in his most famous novel, she turns, after the disappointment of her marriage, to her sons as lovers.” Not only does Moore point out the fact Lawrence’s mother had a strong influence on her son, but Lawrence also wrote about his and his mother’s relationship in other writings.

The third comparison is the similarities the stories show on the relationships the women had with their husbands. In neither story can it be said that the wives had a wonderful marriage to their husbands and in many aspects you can have a good argument saying they both had unhappy marriages. In Odour of Chrysanthemums Lawrence, very vividly, in the later half of the story tells the reader how the wife truly feels about her husband. It seems strange the lack of emotions she expresses and is only explained by the realization of her own true feelings for her husband,

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most notably after his death. He was the father of her children and she did pity his death at the least. She did not love him as a wife should love a husband and she was a little ashamed of this.

The death itself was the eye opener for her. There are a few sentences you should be able to use to justify this interpretation. One of the sentences says, “And her soul died in her for fear she knew she had never seen him, he had never seen her, they had met in the dark and had fought in the dark, not knowing whom they met nor whom they fought.” (Page 8) The reader can explicate this meaning as; it took the death of her husband before she could come to know her true feelings. Her feelings towards her husband before his death and at the time of his death.

In the story, The Rocking-Horse Winner, Hester does not show a great fondness of her husband either. She even takes this to the extent to display these feelings in front of her children. In a discussion she was having with her son about luck and how unlucky she had became she said, “ I

can’t be, if I married an unlucky husband.” (Page 44) Meaning of she cannot be lucky herself. She then continues by saying, “I used to think I was, before I married. Now I think I am very unlucky indeed.” (Page 44) What she is trying to say to her son without saying it directly is; she is not happy being married to her son’s father and she is not reluctant to share these feelings openly with her son. Lawrence writes about relationships the men and women have in both of these stories and his thoughts and feelings are rectified by a passage in the book D.H. Lawrence Novelist. The author, F. R. Levis, has this to say about Lawrence; “Lawrence’s profound insights into the relations between men and women, and his accompanying convictions about the nature

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of a valid marriage, and those insights and convictions challenge established ideas so radically that they are resisted---resistance often taking the form of a refusal, or an inability, to attend to

them for what they are.” (Page 50) This in short means, Lawrence sees or experiences these types of relationships in his life experiences and writes about them the way he sees them. It seems as if some of the marriages Lawrence saw were not exactly the type of marriages he would necessarily would want to participate in. Or another way one could interpret his thoughts would be, he didn’t agree how married couples he knew treated each other.

Another comparison can be made between the two stories is the relationships the mothers have with their children. It is not necessarily the relationship as much as it is the fact that both of the women have children. In both of the stories it is true the mothers are closer to the children than the husbands and sometimes even try to humor or tease them a little. In the story Ordour of Chrysanthemums Elizabeth was feeding the children in the dark and poked fun at her son when Lawrence writes, “I canna see, grumbled the invisible John. In spite of herself, the mother laughed. You know the way to your mouth.” (Page 18) Even though Elizabeth is not in the greatest of moods, since her husband is late coming home from work, she can still show the children a little compassion or at least be playful.

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Almost the same effort is made by Hester in the story The Rocking-Horse Winner. She tries to humor her son, but does humoring in a sarcastic approach. The mother’s son is talking to his mother when the author writes, “God told me, he asserted, brazening out. I hope He did, dear!

She said again with a laugh, but rather bitter.” (Page 45) Hester is doing the best she is able to when humoring her son. You can tell she does not have a close relationship to her children, but still tries to at least acknowledge their existence. You can understand why Lawrence may develop a character, such as Hester, by understanding how he feels about certain things. In the book The Art of D. H. Lawrence, Keith Sagar quoted Lawrence writing, “I have always tried to get an emotion out in its own course, without altering it. It needs the finest instinct imaginable, much finer than the skill of the craftsmen.” This is the method he may have choice to create all of the characters in The Rocking-Horse Winner.

Still, another comparison in the two stories is the death of a family member the two women experienced in their lives. In the story Odour of Chrysanthemums the women loses her husband. In this story the death does not come as a big surprise to the reader. Lawrence does not give the reader a whole lot of built-up suspense to the death and the death is identified way before the end of the story. You can even assume Elizabeth knows something is wrong when she does something out of the ordinary. The author shows this by writing, “She had never yet been to fetch him, and she never would go. So she continued her walk towards the long straggling line of

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houses, standing blank on the highway.” (Page 0 and 1) When she goes to look for him she is hoping to find him somewhere he is not. This is a way for her to cover up the intuition she has knowing the truth of the matter. She really knows something is wrong, since she went to look for him in the first place.

The woman in the story, The Rocking-Horse Winner, also loses a family member. In this story it is not the husband that dies, but one of the children. Unlike the death in the other story, Lawrence builds suspense into this story. The death of the son is somewhat of a surprise and is not revealed until the very end of the story. The author also does not give the reader any idea during the story that there will be a death at all, so it is also a hidden suspense story. The only inkling of an idea is in a one liner reading, “The third day of the illness was critical they were waiting for a change.” (Page 5) But this is only a couple of paragraphs from the end of the story when the writes right before the conclusion, “But the boy died in the night.” (Page 5) At least Lawrence gives Hester a tidbit of a heart at the end of the story. She is concerned about the boy’s condition and does not want harm to come to him.

Lawrence gives the reader an opportunity is his works with these two short stories to make some comparisons of the women characters. The first comparisons we looked at were the fact both of the women were married. Then we compared the husbands the women were married to. Tied into


these two comparisons we then looked at the relationships the women had with their husbands. Next, we made some comparison pertaining to the children both women had. Finally we found there was another comparison in the fact both of the women lost a family member. In conclusion, there is some evidence backing the fascination Lawrence had in writing about women in the first place. In the book D. H. Lawrence Novelist F. R. Leavis writes “And again and again Lawrence’s art deals with woman, nerve-worn and strained or lethally committed to the man’s part, or to contempt for it, or to living in a mode that gives it no place. Or his theme who, declining the life-responsibility represented by the male activity and purpose, fails his wife in a way no love or goodwill can forgive or condone.” This quote, in a big way, represents where Lawrence was going in Odour of Chrysanthemums and in The Rocking-Horse Winner.

Work Cited

Lawrence, D. H. “Odour of Chrysanthemums”

The Norton Introduction To Literature Seventh Edition. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter

New York and London; W. W. Norton and Company, 18

Lawrence, D. H. “The Rocking-Horse Winner”

The Norton Introduction To Literature Seventh Edition. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter

New York and London; W. W. Norton and Company, 18

The Life and Works of D. H. Lawrence First Edition. Harry T. Moore

New York; Twayne Publishers, 150

D. H. Lawrence Novelist Second Printing. F. R. Leavis

New York Alfred A. Knopf, 168

The Art of D. H. Lawrence First Edition. Keith Sagar

London; The Syndic of the Cambridge University Press, 166

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