E212: British Literature since 1760
D. H. Lawrence Study Questions
Assigned: "Odour of Chrysanthemums" (2316ff), "The Horse-Dealer's Daughter" (2330ff), and "Why the Novel Matters" (2341ff).
"Odour of Chrysanthemums"
1. At what points in the story are chrysanthemums mentioned? What significant change or emotional "fact" do they reference each time?
2. What is the contrast between Elizabeth and Walter's mother?
3. Before she learns about Walter's death, what changes in feeling and thought does Elizabeth undergo regarding her husband, the children, and her situation more generally?
4. What confronts Elizabeth when she sees Walter's body? What new understanding does it give her about Walter and the life she led with him?
5. To what extent, if at all, do you think Lawrence privileges Elizabeth's insights and consciousness over those of other characters?
6. Obviously, this realistic story ends unhappily. Would you call its starkness "pessimism"? Or is it something different than that? Explain.
"The Horse-Dealer's Daughter"
7. Before the family's bankruptcy, what gave Mabel Pervin her sense of independence and integrity? How authentic was that sense -- in other words, was it something that needed to be stripped away so that Mabel could arrive at a more accurate understanding of herself and her situation, or not?
8. What first draws Dr. Ferguson towards Mabel? And how does Lawrence represent the nature and value of love, based on the way he describes the encounter between Mabel and Dr. Ferguson?
9. Do you think Lawrence's way of representing love is authentic and accurate, or do you find it contrived? Explain your response.
"Why the Novel Matters"
10. Do the Lawrence short stories we have read--though not novels--"matter" in the way he says prose fiction matters in this critical essay? Explain.
11. According to Lawrence on 2342-43, what is the limitation of the parson, the philosopher, the scientist, and the poet? What effect in the reader does the novelist generate that none of them can? Do you think he is correct? Why or why not?
12. On 2344-45, what does Lawrence say about the quest for absolutes, for a fixed sense of self, and "right and wrong"? How should the novel undercut such demands?
Edition: Abrams, M.H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2C. Seventh edition. New York: Norton, 2000.