How Boundaries Limited Elisa’s Pursuing for Self Fulfillment
“The Chrysanthemums”, “a brilliant piece of writing, perhaps the best story Steinbeck ever wrote”, as expressed by Jay Parini in his article Lawrence’s and Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums”, is one of the most interesting and ambiguous story of this writer. Steinbeck’s little story shows to the reader the reality of women during the nineteenth hundreds and the great depression.
In order to show this reality, Steinbeck uses the world and behavior of a woman, Elisa Allen a thirty five years old wife of a farmer, who is surrounded by multiple boundaries which prevent her of living a happy and satisfactory life.
The author presents the story to us by using personified landscape as well as metaphors to better express Elisa’s character and fertility. A very accurate and polished landscape is described by the author, and things such as rain and fog in the Salinas Valley represent husband and wife. However, most of the story concentrates in Elisa’s duality between true-self and desired-self.
The boundary of time period and men’s domination over women is strongly reinforced in Elisa’s life. Taking into account the time period in which this short story had place, it is very easy to see Elisa’s frustration with an enclosed routine. In this time period in which the Great Depression was a reality, women’s matters were defined as what was private when on the other hand, men’s matters were constructed as all that is public. We can clearly see this realities’ distortion at the beginning of the story when Steinbeck narrates “Elisa Allen, [was] working in her flower garden… [When she] saw Henry, her husband, talking to two men in business suits” (Stein...
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...e other sex, distributed punishment unfairly. Nonetheless, like a cut chrysanthemum root before its bloom, she would “grow right up again” (Steinbeck186).
Skredsvig, Kari Meyers. "Women's Space, Women's Place: Topoanalysis in Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums.'." Revista de Filología y Lingüística de la Universidad de Costa Rica 26.1 (Jan.-June 2000): 59-67. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 135. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Palmerino, Gregory J. "Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums'." The Explicator 62.3 (2004): 164+. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.
Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums.” The Language Equation. Ed. R.M. Stambaugh and C.M. Clark. Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2008. 181-190. Print.
Parini Jay. “Laurence’s and Steinbeck’s 'Chrysanthemums'.” Class Handout.
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