Interpretation "Smile"

Topics: Death, Short story, Meaning of life Pages: 4 (1425 words) Published: November 16, 2005
Interpretation "Smile"

Never could a smile have been more disgraceful for Matthew than the one he bared in the short story "Smile", written by D.H. Lawrence. Matthew, the main character, receives a telegram informing him of his wife's critical health. Then, he goes to see Ophelia, his wife, in the convent where she resides. The relationship between the couple is problematic; they have separate 12 times. Once at the convent, the setting of the story, the Mother Superior informs Matthew that his wife is dead. He is not able to contain his new feeling of freedom and exalts his joy by smiling to his wife's dead body right under the nose of the three flabbergasted nuns. Matthew then focuses on his self-contempt because he is bounded by social conventions. In the short story "Smile", Matthew realizes that his wife and social conventions have prevented him from being a "man alive" and have condemned him to martyrdom.

First of all, Matthew is limited by the social conventions he follows. The social conventions prevent him from fully exposing his happiness and being a "man alive". He feels like smiling but he takes "the look of super-martyrdom" instead. Even though he is extremely happy, Matthew is trying to show he is sad because smiling at a dead body is considered disrespectful. Incapable of hiding his smile behind a false facial expression, he tries to blame "himself [, who] had not been perfect", for the bad relationship with his wife. "Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa", he cries, "dwell[ing] on his own imperfections." He thinks that if he concentrates on his own faults his smile will go away. The poor man feels self-contempt instead of feeling the exaltation of the new life he is starting. For him, Ophelia has been a source of anxiety and trouble for the past years. He is totally relieved when he fully realizes that Ophelia "[is] gone forever." He has been living for ten years with a woman who is a burden to him without ever considering divorce because social...
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