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Symbols and Symbolism - Flowers as a Symbol in John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums

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Flowers as a Symbol in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

 
    In romantic or sexual context, a woman is often said to be as beautiful as a flower. In John Steinbeck's short story "The Chrysanthemums", Elisa Allen never receives this recognition. Although she is a strong woman, she is frustrated because her husband will not admire her romantically in any way. This frustration only deepens because she is childless and feels the need to be a mother. She discovers an outlet for her frustration in a flower garden where she cultivates beautiful chrysanthemums. Steinbeck uses these elegant flowers as a symbol to represent the tender, inner-self of all women, including Elisa.

First, the chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa's children. She tends her garden
and handles the chrysanthemums with love and care, just as she would handle
her own children. Elisa is very protective of her flowers and places a wire
fence around them; she makes sure "[n]o aphids, no sowbugs or snails or
cutworms" are there. "Her terrier fingers [destroy] such pests before they
[can] get started" (240). These pests rep...


... middle of paper ...


...s and her emotional needs. The encounter with the tinker
reawakens her sexuality and brings hope to Elisa for a more exciting and
romantic marriage, but her realization that her life is not going to change
is crystallized when she sees the flowers thrown on the road. It devastates
her completely to have to settle for such an unfulfilling life.

Work Cited

Steinbeck, John. "The Chrysanthemums." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1995. 239-47. 


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