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The Chrysanthemums Essay

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Everything is everything in the world of short stories. Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums is full of thick rhetoric that raises questions and stirs the mind and imagination. Everything from the title, to the last line needs to be thought about more than once. The story isn't just about a farmer's wife who likes pretty flowers. Not in the least! The Chrysanthemums is a story about how Elisa Allen is forced to a life that she feels is trapping her. The story is set in the early twentieth century and these times don't allow for just any woman to leave her ordinary, socially and politically correct life. Feminism is a large part of the story, and main character Elisa Allen's language, actions, and even the way she is described play a large part of the role of feminism. There is dialogue, the setting, and plenty of objects to interpret atop Elisa Allen alone.

The chrysanthemums themselves are an integral part of how we look at Elisa Allen. The chrysanthemum is a symbol of Elisa herself. Elisa is a strong woman who feels she can do almost anything. ."..I do have a gift with things, all right," she says on page 285 of 40 Short Stories. Much like Elisa in the story, the chrysanthemum is strong, but delicate. Every year the chryanthemums are cut low to the ground before they bloom. Elisa Allen also gets cut down in the story with the salesman/tinker scenario. She is given a little pitch about how nice her flowers are and asked if he[the salesman] could take some to one of his customers. Elisa took great pride in helping the traveling salesman with her speeches about proper care, how to get them growing strong and having "planters' hands." She even gave the man a flower pot and a few samples to take to the woman who "got nearly every...


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...tay down and avoid another humiliation. She is going to get back up and "fight like a man."

The use of the word "strong" is also a contributer to the overall theme of the story. The whole story is trying to show how women are equal to men. Steinbeck had to drill the word into our heads to get us believing that. When the story was written, feminism was not a thriving idea and Steinbeck was trying to show people how women were equally as "strong" as men. If the deliberate over-use of "strong" weren't enough, Steinbeck tries to show us through the description of the main character.

Rugged and handsome is the way Steinbeck gives away his main character Elisa. She is tough and can do her jobs just as well if not better than a man. Is that not what the practice of feminism is? Her power and eagerness is exaggerated to give the reader the feeling of masculinity.



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