Symbolism In The Chrysanthemums

1091 Words5 Pages
In “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck the chrysanthemums are a recurring symbol which represent Elisa. As the story progresses, it is evident that Elisa is eager to explore more in life and experience what is beyond her farm in Salinas Valley; however, she feels trapped much like her chrysanthemums that are planted inside “the wire fence.” When Elisa gives away flowers to the peddler, she feels as if she is growing out of the constraints of society like a chrysanthemum blossoms when given attention and proper care. Unfortunately, her hopes start to wilt as she is driving to dinner with her husband and sees the flowers she gave away discarded on the side of the road, suggesting that she has not made progress in trying to escape from the norms of society. The theme in Steinbeck’s short story reveals that women in the 1930s were assumed to lack potential, and when they tried to break free of their constraints in society, they were tossed aside and ignored. In the beginning of the short story, Elisa is illustrated as a vibrant and energetic woman who is yearning to grow like the chrysanthemums. Steinbeck portrays Elisa a lady whose “face was eager, mature, and handsome.” As Elisa works diligently inside the fence, it is evident that she takes pride in her chrysanthemums. The flowers are bright yellow, some of which “were ten inches across.” Elisa gives the chrysanthemums the attention that she wishes people demonstrated towards her, and she allows for her flowers to have potential to grow, a quality that people have not seen in her. By investing her “over-eager and over-powerful” energy into her flowers it is suggested that they are the the one thing for which she is truly passionate. Because she is a women in the 1930s, Elisa is... ... middle of paper ... ...the men and convince them how adept she truly is; however, she recognizes that this will not be the case because she is a woman treated with inequality in the 1930s. Through Elisa and the chrysanthemums, Steinbeck has brought to the readers attention how onerous it was for women to prove themselves as significant during this time. The authors intent was to point out how women were turned down before they were given a chance to live and perform to their full potentials. The symbol supports the theme during this short story especially when the chrysanthemums do not make it out of the farm, revealing that they are never given the chance for full growth outside of the farm. Furthermore, Steinbeck successful uses Elisa as a way to convey a message about the hardships of women during this time period, and how they were convinced that their talents were insignificant.
Open Document