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Discussing the Chrysanthemums

In studying the various schools of criticism and using them to
decipher the inner workings of novels, short stories, and poems, it
becomes apparent that they all share a common factor: a theme. The
theme of a story is the general idea or insight, which is revealed by
the entire story (Kennedy, 195). Although there are many themes that
seem to be similar, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to find to
stories with identical themes. Two stories with similar themes,
however, are "The Chrysanthemums," by John Steinbeck, and "The Yellow
Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. These two stories show the
damage caused by male domination in the past.

The short story "The Chrysanthemums" gives insight into the life of
its author; John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas,
California. The locale of the story is of key resemblance to the
Salinas in which Steinbeck was born and bread. "Salinas was a typical
American small town, [differing] only in location and a few
distinctive features" (McCarthy 3). The story begins by displaying the
setting: "The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas
Valley from the sky and the rest of the world."

Though this does not directly illustrate the theme, the setting plays
a role in building Elisa Allen's "prison." The main protagonist in
"The Chrysanthemums," Elisa Allen, is a mid-aged housewife who also
has a passion for growing chrysanthemums. This passion expressed in
the planting of these flowers brings out the suppressed romance in her
life. The fact that she is childless seems to have sublimated her
motherly instincts to produce extraordinary flowers. Nevertheless,
"the plants and flowers cannot compensate for t...


... middle of paper ...


...nius soon tells Ophelia that she must seek out
Hamlet. Much to her dismay, Hamlet rejects her, and this begins a
downward spiral for Ophelia. She begins acting in a depressed fashion,
and everyone begins to think she has gone mad. Unfortunately, all the
negative light placed upon Ophelia leads to her death. It is not
certain whether she was murdered or whether she in fact committed
suicide, but she came to a tragic end by drowning.

The events in "Hamlet" and "The Chrysanthemums," though different in
appearance show a very similar topic. The problem of male dominance is
shown in both situations to devastate the emotions of the women. In
showing respect and obedience for the male characters, the females are
in fact hurting themselves. This theme of male dominance destroying
the psyche of women has been, and will continue to be a major theme in
literature.


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