The characters in this story can be studied in their relationship to one another. It is in the attitudes of Elisabeth, Walter, Walter's mother and the children that their thoughts on each other become clear. The most important symbol in this story, the chrysanthemums, also refers to the bond between the two main characters, Elisabeth and her husband Walter.
This story is rather predicable because of the indication to the chrysanthemums in the title and the beginning of the account: Beside the path hung dishevelled pink chrysanthemums... (p. 2317). These flowers are linked with death and in a way announce the decease of one of the characters, namely Mr. Bates.
The chrysanthemums also refer to the kind of relationship between Elisabeth and Walter Bates. Like all flowers, chrysanthemums grow, blossom and fade. This can be compared to the development of their life as a married couple: It was chrysanthemums when I married him, and chrysanthemums when you were born, and the first time they ever brought him home drunk, he'd got chrysanthemums in his buttonhole (p.
2321). In the beginning everything is alright -as it always is when two people are just married- , but gradually problems begin to surface (here: Walter's drinking problem). In the end, they just stay together because they have no other choice: Walter brings in the money and Elisabeth takes care of the children and does all the housekeeping. It is not a question of love anymore, but their life together has become a sort of habit.
Elisabeth's waiting for her husband evokes certain memories and bitter feelings towards Walter. As she is expected to do as a good housewife, she has always taken care of him; but she blames him for drinking too much and for wasting their money on...