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Chrysanthemums, A Review Essay examples

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"The Chrysanthemums" introduces us to Elisa Allen, a woman who knows she has a gift for things, but can't make more use of it than to grow her chrysanthemums. She is trapped in the Salinas Valley, where winter's fog sits "like a lid...and [makes] the great valley a closed pot." Her human nature has made her complacent in ordinary life, but the short glimmers of hope offered by her flowers and a passing stranger reveal that there is more to Elisa than her garden. Her environment may be keeping her inside her small garden, but inside her heart there is a longing for more.

When we are first introduced to Elisa, she seems to look more like a man from afar than a woman who is gardening. She wears a man's hat, and her flower print dress is almost completely hidden by a large apron. She doesn't have a woman's dainty touch, but rather wears heavy leather gloves to protect her hands, much like a man. Her work with the chrysanthemums seems to be over powerful and overeager; the flowers seem too small for the force she has within her. As she is working, Elisa's husband approaches her small garden and comments on her gifts with flowers. Her reaction is a little smug, even defensive as she sharpens her eyes and insists she has planter's hands, and could even work in the apple orchard. She wants it to be clear that she can do more than grow some pretty flowers; she can work like any other man and make things grow. Here, we can see that Elisa keeps her distance from her own husband, as she keeps him out of her garden and behind the wire fence.

While she is working in her garden, a man approaches Elisa asking for directions and some work fixing pots or sharpening scissors. She is more than willing to help him, but bec...


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...nal entrapment, as she doesn't know how to balance her emotions and gain the freedom she so needs. She is defensive against her husband, even though he seems to understand her sorrow and wants her to take more freedom (working in the apple orchards; taking her to a fight). Elisa puts too much trust in a stranger who she can't see is using her, and chooses to remain behind the fence and cry in secret, rather than reveal her pain to the one man who does care for her. Her nature has made her complacent, and lazy to change. Elisa seems more willing to suffer and work on her flowers than to move on.

In the end, we see that the character is not so much a victim of her surroundings, but rather of her own naïve hopes. Elisa doesn't realize that she has the power to change her situation. Instead, she chooses to remain in her garden and plant her chrysanthemums.


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