When you begin to delve into Lawrence?s background you can see that the short stories and novels he writes are elaborations on his own personal past experiences. Most of his stories reflect his upbringing or some point in his life. For example, “Odour of Chrysanthemums” is set in a mining colony similar to that Lawrence himself would have grown up in and the tragic accident would have been commonplace to him. In “Tickets Please” he writes an account of a ticket collector on the trams being attacked by a group of girls – a similar experience to one he had at the hands of a group of female factory workers. If we know some information about Lawrence?s, as in the case of any writer, background then the reader is bound to relate more to the story itself. We feel confident that he knows what he is writing about and sympathise with his experiences.
The two stories I have chosen to look at relate to Lawrence?s young years living in the mining village of Eastwood with his parents and brothers and sisters and later at Walker Street. His parents had an unhappy marriage and disagreed about the children?s interests. His father worked in the mines and wanted the two brothers to work in them too. Lawrence was to fragile a child to work there however and went to school. With five children in the family they were quite poor, however the mother was proud and refused to allow her children to become servants or miners.
In Odour of Chrysanthemums he writes about the death of a minor leaving his family in the lurch. The story is set in a mining village which he describes in great detail and the wife in the story is modelled on his own Aunt Polly who lost her own first husband in a mining disaster. The way he describes the area he makes it sound gloomy and dismal – whether this is just his unhappiness at his childhood situation I am not sure. In the story the mother of the family takes centre stage which shows that he felt very strongly towards his mother and her situation. The similarities between the story and Lawrence?s childhood are very clear to see. The parents are often rowing and the children are afraid of their often drunken father. Both the son and the daughter in the story side with their mother as was true in Lawrence?s family and have to put up with the father?s tantrums. In the story the father is late returning home after a days work. The mother puts it down to a visit to the local pub and thinks nothing of it at first but as the night goes on she becomes worried. After inquiring of her neighbours she begins to expect the worst and her fears are confirmed when a friend brings news of a mining accident in the pit. Her husband is brought back by the other miners – ironic as she expected him to be carried back dead drunk and left in the parlour along with a bunch of chrysanthemums. The pallid odour of the flowers have been their all along the unhappy route for the wife. They were there at the marriage, the birth and now at the day of his death – the end of their unhappy relationship.
The second story I am to look at is “The Rocking Horse Winner.” It is the story of a young boy living in a poor household again under an unhappy marriage who sets out to prove to his mother that he is lucky. With the help of his rocking horse and gardener Bassett he starts to gamble on the horses and manages to collate a substantial amount of money. After the money starts to build up he begins to help out his mother as a secret benefactor and helps her to pay off her debts. Then he becomes obsessed and is unable to be “sure” about the winners. The story ends with the boy dead from a brain tumour after winning over eighty thousand pounds on the Derby – the final race he does.
We sympathise with the boy in the story who is desperately obsessed with getting more and more money for his family – a desire that Lawrence too probably shared. Had he had a talent such as this boys he too could have helped the situation his family were in. The boy seems to think that the money would solve everything as maybe the young naive Lawrence would also.
I believe that to fully appreciate his writings we need to look into Lawrence?s background in some detail. We can then see the deeper meanings and emotions at work inside the writer and understand clearly exactly what his aims were in writing them.