Odour of Chrysanthemums
Lawrence’s dialogue is full of local dialect, which adds to the authenticity and vitality of the story’s setting and supports the idea of isolation among the characters. Lawrence grew up among mining families in Nottinghamshire, and his father was a miner, so Lawrence was familiar with the intonations, elisions (omissions), and distinctive verbal patterns used in the community. These local details make the characters come alive. When Elizabeth goes to Mrs. Rigley to find out whether her husband had seen Walter that evening, Mrs. Rigley asks “’Asna ’e come whoam yit?” The men who eventually bring Walter’s body home tell Elizabeth “E wor smothered!” when describing Walter’s fate. Surrounding these interludes of coarse dialect is Lawrence’s elegant, carefully calibrated prose, which helps emphasize the separateness of this particular community from the rest of the world.
Perhaps most significant, the dialect used by the locals stands in sharp contrast to Elizabeth’s more standard speech patterns and emphasizes her isolation from the rest of the community. We get the sense that Elizabeth is truly an outsider, perhaps coming from a distant community or even a higher social station. Her father speaks in standard English as well, although his is a bit rougher than Elizabeth’s, confirming that Elizabeth’s family comes from somewhere else. She clearly resents having come to this place, and though Lawrence never tells us exactly what she gave up or what other options had been open to her, we know that she has been disillusioned by what life has offered her. The absence of dialect in Elizabeth’s speech emphasizes that she is isolated not only from her husband but also from the community in which she lives.