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Essay on Struggles with Individuality in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinback

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“Elisa stood in front of the wire fence watching the slow progress of the caravan. Her shoulders were straight, her head thrown back, her eyes half-closed, so that the scene came vaguely into them. Her lips moved silently, forming the words 'Good-bye—Good-bye.' Then she whisprered: 'That's a bright direction. There's a glowing there.'” (American Short Stories 321) John Steinback's story, The Chrysanthemums centers around a young woman named Elisa Allen and the struggle she faces with her individuality. The uniqueness of Steinback's story can be accreditted to his use of symbolism throughout his writing to create and prove the central theme of equality within genders. An analysis of the characterization, setting and theme of The Chrysanthemums, as well as John Steinback's internal experiences support his modernist veiwpoint.

Elisa Allen reveals two very different sides of herself in The Chrysanthemums- the person she forces herself to be outwardly and the person she inwardly craves to be. As the story opens, Elisa is very quiet with her husband, giving him brief responses that lack enthusiam. After exchanging a few words with her husband, consisting much of the word “good,” “she said: 'I'll have plenty of time to transplant some of these sets, I guess” (American Short Stories 315). Here, Elisa's responses are neither affirmitive nor a reflection of how she truly feels. Progressively, though, Steinback unveils an eager, overly-expressive Elisa as she encounters a stranger that come to visit her. With the pot fixer, Elisa shares her passion for growing chrysanthemums and expresses a personality trait that is in direct opposition with her otherwise passive attitude. “'It must be very nice,' she said. 'It must be very nice. I wish...


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...es away the most beautiful people; and, as a result, it is not often these characters bloom. Steinback expressed his modernist viewpoint through the story's many metaphorical resonances. The characters, setting, plot and theme of The Chysanthemums give a modern perspective on mid-century life, reminding us to abondon stereotypical views that bind people from embracing their gifts.


Works Cited

Steinback, John S. "The Chrysanthemums." American Short Stories. By Rebecca Burke. Logan, IA: Perfection Learning, 2012. 313-24. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.

Magill, Frank N., John Steinback, Micllichap, Joseph R., ed. Critical, Survery of Long Fiction: English Language Series. Pasadera: Salem Press, 1991. 3149-3162.

Magill, Frank N., John Steinback, Shuman, Baird. R., ed. Magill's Survey of American Literature: Volume 6. New York: Marshall. Cavendish Corporation, 1991. 1885-1899.


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