How do Lawrence’s ‘England, My England’ and ‘Odour of Chrysanthemum’s Differ in their Treatment of Social Class?
Even though both stories are written by the same author and around the same time when the action is going on, they do differ when the case is about social class. What decides who in which social class is going to be? It might be suggested that there are some things that make people to be recognized as a part of one social class. First of all, there is not a strict definition of what those categories are but for an easier description of how the two stories differ in their treatment of social class will be mentioned some of them. Here are some: occupation; the usage of language; the clothes they wear (their appearance); the family background and as the last one will be mentioned the authority in the family.
In both stories, two different families are described. That gives the reader an insight into how the whole society behaves by describing one family which is identified with the significances of the whole group. In England, My England the family (Egbert; his wife Winifred and three little girls) is supported by her father who is a pillar of the society. He bought them the land in the cottage and he is paying for Joyce’s treatment in the hospital. This family is not working since the time when Egbert goes to war and earns one shilling a day. They live in Hampshire cottage and in London.
In Odour of Chrysanthemum, the family is living in a small house which is not very nice and it is near the coal miner. Mr. Bates is working as a collier in Brinsley Colliery. Together with Elizabeth, they have two children and she is pregnant. The mother is not working. She is staying at home taking care of the children and cooking. The father is spending money drinking in the bar till the time he had an accident and died. Further will be given examples showing how the stories differ.
Occupation is what the characters in the story are working. “Winifred did not care about money. She did not care whether he earned or did not earn anything. Only she knew she was depending on her father for three-fourths of the money spent on herself and her children.” (p.293) From this sentences, it could be suggested that she did not care whether Egbert was earning money or not.
For the difference in the other story, Mr. Bates was a collier and Elizabeth father is a driver on the train. Most of the people were working in the coal miner. She did care about how much her husband was earning and she was angry at him for spending that money in the bar. “For a few moments she stood steadily watching the miners as they passed along the railway.” (p.269) This description of how Elizabeth was standing and watching people on the railway gives a kind of suggestion that the place where they live is as one of those places near the miners where people live and work.
The usage of language is different in both stories. Yes, both stories are written in English but what makes the difference is the language people use in their conversation.”No you dunna!’ he replied courteously. They were soon at the gate of the cottage. ‘Well I shanna be many minnits. Dunna you be frettin; now, ‘e’ll be all right,’ said the butty.” (p.277) This is the language the that the coal miner is using but when she is talking to her son and her father they do not use such shortened words. In England, My England the language that is used from the characters is not in any dialect and the sentences are well constructed. An example of that might be the conversation between Winifred and his father when they talk about the treatment for the child.
Family background is a kind of important thing when deciding on a social class. In both stories, the main characters have a different background. That is how they differ and it could be suggested that it is somewhat important. In England, My England the family is rich. Winifred’s father is supporting the whole family. Even though she is married she still takes money from her father. This is also important because the parents are as an example for their children. And the relations they have with their children as also important.
“Now another link was added on the chain of duty: her father, herself, and the child.”(p.292) This is an example how the whole family is working as union with one suggestion that the husband is not in that union. His background is different. He pays more attention to individuality, not on the social class requirements.
In Odour of Chrysanthemum, the family has a background as a working class. Elizabeth father says to her that he is going to get married again and nobody should matter. What kind of example he is to his daughter. His husband is drinking and he too is not a good example to his children. “No mother, I’ve never seen him. Why? Has he come up an’ gone past, to Old Brinsley? He hasn’t mother, ‘cos I never saw him.” (p.271) This is an example of how important the family background is and what a bad example is her father. That is one of the differences in how the treatment in social classes is.
The appearance also tells something about the social class. “They were a beautiful couple” (p.287) Egbert and Winifred was a nice couple and both of them were young. Even though there is not much description of what they are wearing it could be concluded that they do appear cleaner and nicer than the other family. “He was dressed in trousers and waistcoat of cloth that was too thick and hard for the size of the garment. They were evidently from man’s clothes.” (p.269) This description of the boy tells a lot about his appearance and his social class. Comparing both stories they do differ on how the members of a social class are presented. Lawrence made great stories trying to catch the reality of those people and brings them more real.
The last thing to be discussed how do the two stories differs is the authority in the family. If that works for one family in one social class it might be said that it might work for other families because are in the same social class. Both families are living in England and yet they are so different. “Jack never said nothing about –about your Master, she said” (p.275) This is the part where Elizabeth goes to her neighbor to ask about her husband. It can be concluded that in that social class the husband was the master in the house. “They had put to await the father’s coming to begin tea.” (p.271) This also suggests that they waited for the father to come and then to have a dinner and drink the tea.
In England, My England the mother is the one who was the authority over the children because she is raised in that was that her duty is to take care of the children. Egbert is a different kind of father; he is more for liberty and doing things that he wants. “But she had what the modern mother so often has in the place of spontaneous love: a profound sense of duty towards her child.” (p. 292) Winifred was taught that she should care for her child it was her duty.
“Silently, negatively, but fatally he neutralized her authority over her children.” (p.297) This sentence confirms that Winifred had the authority in her family. Comparing the authority in the two social classes it could be taken as a conclusion that in England, My England the authority has the mother and in Odour of Chrysanthemum, the authority in the family belongs to the father.
All in all, England, My England and Odour of Chrysanthemum differ in their treatment of social class in a way that a couple of characteristics typical for people shows in which social class they belong to. It could be suggested that one is a working class and the other is middle class.