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Essay The Chrysanthemums: Planting a Garden for Ourselves

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John Steinbeck is one of the most successful prize winning writers in the twentieth century. He has become a household name as his works of literature are still popular to this day. He has a "skill with which the themes, symbols and moral vision are expressed... and ensure his place with the best writers of his generation" (McCarthy 392). A few of his stories, such as "The Chrysanthemums" examines the "psychology and sexuality of strong women who must somehow express themselves meaningfully within the narrow possibilities open to women in a man's world." (Mitchell 517). Self-identity is an important focal point for the main character, Elisa Allen. She must endure the pain of hiding who she really is, "brilliantly exposing mankind's 'grievous faults and failures' while reminding us of our forgotten commitments and dreams" (McCarthy 392).

The setting of a story is important to induce a sense of feeling for the reader. The story takes place in Salinas Valley, California. The atmosphere of Salinas is described as "the fog of winter...sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a great closed pot" with "pale cold sunshine" (Steinbeck 180). We get an imagery of a very dark, damp, isolated place. A gloomy disposition is instantly created through the use of the author's somber tone aswell. This place seems to be one of hopelessness and sorrow. This is foreshadowing of Elisa Allen's, denouement. We can see the distance between Elisa and her husband Henry. While she is working on her gardening, he is far away. As he suddenly arrives by her side, she is taken aback as she "started at the sound of her husband's voice. He had come near quietly" (Steinbeck 181). We can infer that they have a lack of communication and pleas...


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... proposes no solution for the psychological conflicts which plague human interactions. There will always be predators and victims in life which is comprimised of mere plateus of contentment between joy and despair (Mitchell 516).

She will always be a female at the root no matter how strong it appears otherwise.

Despite the constant battles between strength and weakenss, which leave us only in heartache, hiding our identity is the most difficult. At our most vulnerable moments, we are at a loss of self control to refrain from exposing it all. This susceptible time is where our identity radiates the most. Acceptance of ourselves is the pivotal importance to having a garden filled with joy. Nurturing our own heart's garden is the only way to having flourished chrysanthemums. Too much of sunshine burns, and too much of water only drowns our heart.



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