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Fragrant Conflict: Steinbeck "Chysanthemums" Essay

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Within Steinbeck's story, "Chrysanthemums," the main character, Elisa Allen, is confronted with many instances of conflict. Steinbeck uses chrysanthemums to symbolize this conflict and Elisa's self-worth. By examining these points of conflict and the symbolism presented by the chrysanthemums, the meaning of the story can be better determined.

The first time the reader encounters conflict occurs when Elisa is tending to her chrysanthemums in her garden. As she works, Elisa handles the flowers with care and compassion; she makes certain that nothing will come to harm them as though they were her own children; "No aphids were there, no sowbugs or snails or cutworms. Her terrier fingers destroyed such pests before they could get started." (273) When her husband comes to her, as she is working, he does not commend her for her work, but he scorns her, saying "I wish you'd work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big." (273) A high degree of "man against man" conflict is generated by the husband who fails to appreciate his wife and what she treasures. The presence of this conf...


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