Elizabeth, a coal miner's wife, waits anxiously for her husband to return for dinner, concerned for his safety and at the same time angry at the trouble he has made for her by coming home late, and drunk, so often. She ponders their unsatisfactory relationship and tries to keep up appearances with her two young children.

Then word comes that there has been an accident and that her husband has been killed. His body is brought into the house and laid out (undamaged because he died of suffocation). Washing the body with her mother-in-law, she goes through a complex series of reactions, including curiosity, anger, sympathy, forgiveness, and cool appraisal. She sees that the two of them had long ago rejected something deep within the other, and that they had lived utterly separate lives. At the end she is “grateful to death, which restored the truth.”


This is a gorgeous, complex narrative whose riches can only be suggested in a short summary. The story's greatest value to medical studies is probably its dramatization of the unpredictability of the effects of a death in the family. Elizabeth's emotional and cognitive turmoil, as convincing as Lawrence makes it seem, could not have been predicted by the woman we see in the first half of the story.

Primary Source

The Complete Short Stories, vol. 2



Place Published

New York