Living Inside The Fence You Create

analytical Essay
1169 words
1169 words

Elisa is a trapped woman. She is trapped in her “closed off” (Steinbeck 459) location of the Salinas Valley; trapped in her “blocked and heavy” “gardening costume” (Steinbeck 460); trapped behind her “wire fence” (Steinbeck 460). Elisa is trapped woman, however all of the things that keep her trapped are ultimately hers: “her wire fence” or her constricting clothing (Steinbeck 460). Elisa's inability to step beyond her boundaries ultimately leads to her continued unhappiness and feeling of entrapment in her feminine role. The wire fencing with which Elisa surrounds her garden is designed to “protect her flower garden from cattle and dogs and chickens.” (Steinbeck 460) What the fence truly does is keep Elisa in. Her energy is isolated to that which the fence encompasses: the house and the garden. In The Chrysanthemums the word ‘fence’ is repeated six times throughout the story with ‘chicken wire’, meaning the fence, said once. This repetition alludes to the fact that the fence is more than a mere object, but a symbol of Elisa's containment in her domestic role. The fence represents boundaries that Elisa will not allow herself to cross. Elisa's unhappiness in her role as the wife of a cattle farmer is clear in her gardening. Through the authors detailed diction it is clear that gardening is her way of freeing herself from her suffocating environment. “The chrysanthemum stems seemed too small and easy for her energy” which is “over-eager” and “over-powerful” (Steinbeck 460). The intensity with which she gardens, “terrier fingers destroy[ing] such pests before they could get started” suggests more than simply a deep interest, but a form of escape completely submerging her self into the task (Steinbeck 460). It is possible that some... ... middle of paper ... ... husband, men, or society” (Renner). It is “pointedly identified as 'Elisa's wire fence'” (Renner). Elisa life in the “closed pot” of the Salinas Valley is not one that she wants, but it is one that she cannot escape. Without the encouragement of a man, she cannot find the strength to look beyond her life of gardening and household chores. Until she does, she will remain trapped in role as a house-wife. Works Cited Renner, Stanley. “The Real Woman Inside the Fence in ‘The Chrysanthemums’.” Modern Fiction Studies. Vol. 31. No.2. (Summer 1985). 305-317. print; reprinted in Short Story Criticisms. Vol.37. eds. Anja Barnard and Anna Sheets Nesbitt (Farmington Hills: The Gale Group, 2000). 333-339. print. Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums”. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama. 2nd ed. Ed. Robert DiYanni. New York: McGraw, 2008. 459-466. Print.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how elisa's unhappiness in her role as the wife of a cattle farmer is clear through s detailed diction. the vigor with which she does her chores and her gardening illuminate her energetic spirit
  • Analyzes how elisa's life is collected, controlled, and clean while the tinker lives a life of careless freedom.
  • Analyzes how elisa's demeanor changes when the repair man turns to her chrysanthemums. the more the man shows an interest in her flowers, the more she lets her true self show.
  • Analyzes how elisa's inability to step beyond her boundaries leads to her unhappiness and feeling of entrapment in her feminine role.
  • Analyzes elisa's reaction when she sees her flowers strewn on the side of the road. she is aware of her power as a female, but she doesn't mind vocalizing her strength and pride in powerful statements.
  • Cites renner, stanley, and steinbeck, john. "the chrysanthemums" in modern fiction studies.
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