這篇是我念文學院二年級時的期末考申論題。下文括號中所提及的頁數皆出自Norton Anthology English Literature 這本書。
In the two short stories, both Elizabeth and Mabel show a strong sense of isolation; Elizabeth, an unhappy married woman who suffers from a husband chronically drunk and late for dinner. In the beginning paragraph, Lawrence depicts a grey and lifeless scene of a coal mine village, with “the smoke from the engine” and “in the afternoon’s stagnant light”. Everything is old and stale, like her fading youth spent on a man who doesn’t love her that much. I think it is Elizabeth’s loneliness that makes her a firm and demanding woman, probably because she knows that she can only count on herself to be caring for her children. Lawrence describes her with words like “She was a tall woman of imperious mien, handsome, with definite black eyebrows….she stood steadily watching the miners…”
Mebel suffers, in my opinion, even more than Elizabeth. She is surrounded by her three brothers but they never respect her; she’s not beautiful, and even usually being teased, “She would have been good-looking, save for the impressive fixity of her face, “bull-dog,” as her brothers called it. (p.2496, bottom line)” She lives, but she doesn’t live, either. When I read of her I thought of Anne Elliot in Persuasion, written by Jane Austen, who also doomed to an upsetting family and no one understands her. Mebel’s stubborn reticence is a hint to show her deepest anger and hopelessness. Her brother can be angry and exasperated, but they can’t make her speak anything.
How these two women express their love? To me their love seems fatal and desperate, and it isn’t just love, but a mixture of other emotions: resent, reluctance, and regret. Not until her husband, Walter, died, did she show her profound sorrow. “‘I must wash him,’ she said...and watched Elizabeth as she carefully washed his face, carefully brushing his big blond moustache from his mouth with the flannel. (p. 2494, line 34)” Does Elizabeth regret? I think she does. She regretted so much, that she can’t blame Walter anymore; she hates him for his indifference, yet not matter how hurting she can treat him, he won’t talk back. I believe her deepest remorse is that she loves and hates him both, but unfortunately their marriage ends with hatred and unspoken love.
Mebel’s suicide reflects a woman eventually abandons restraints and takes control of her life. Both parents died, no more caring family members; she can finally looks for her own life. There’s only one thing she wants: love. So desperate and so potent her need is, that she seizes Dr Ferguson like seizing a straw in a rapid river. And actually the drowning and rescuing perfectly describes how relieving and comforting Dr Ferguson is.
Chrysanthemums, it seems that Lawrence has a preference to this kind of fragile, white and pink flowers. In The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, chrysanthemums are what that Mebel brings to the church grave for her parents, which means that these flowers are for the dead. Back to the first short story, Odor of Chrysanthemum, it is not hard to understand that if a story is full of the flowers for the dead, it would be something that talks about thing fading away. This is true, for Elizabeth replied “It was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when you were born, and the first time the ever brought him home drunk, he’d got brown chrysanthemums in his button-hole.” Her life and her impression of Walter are all about chrysanthemums. And when Walter’s body was carried to the parlour, “One of the men had knocked off a vase of chrysanthemums.” The broken vase would stand for the end of Elizabeth marital life. (611 words)