Odour of Chrysanthemums

by: D. H. Lawrence

Walter Bates

Characters Walter Bates

Although Walter never appears in the story alive, he plays an essential role in shaping the Bates family’s life and bringing about Elizabeth’s revelation. From the comments made by Elizabeth, her father, and Walter’s mother, we get the sense that Walter is little more than an insensitive drunkard who opts to spend his evenings at a bar rather than with his wife and children. Even his mother says, “I don’t know why he got to be such a trouble.” His long absences mean that his children must wait for dinner and that Elizabeth must struggle with both anger and anxiety, facing gossip from the neighbors. The only kind words spoken about Walter come from his mother when she fondly remembers him as a child, calling him “a good lad.” When Walter’s body is brought home, however, a different side of Walter reveals itself. Dead, he is naked and vulnerable, and Elizabeth is stunned by this stark humanity of him. Because she can no longer blame him for her unhappiness, she turns inward and acknowledges her role in their marriage’s demise. First absent and then inanimate, Walter nevertheless proves to be a catalyst for change in Elizabeth and her vision for the future.