Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

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Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

"The Chrysanthemums", one of John Steinbeck's masterpieces, describes a lonely farmer's wife, Elisa Allen. Elisa Allen's physical appearance is very mannish yet still allows a hint of a feminine side to peek through. John Steinbeck brings symbolism into play to represent Elisa Allen's frustrations and hidden passions. Isolation is another representation through symbolism found in "The Chrysanthemums." Elisa's failing detached marriage is represented through two symbols. The two reoccurring symbols are the chrysanthemums and fences. John Steinbeck draws pity from the reader for Elisa Allen who desperately wishes to experience the passions of a fulfilling marriage and the stimulation of a man's life. Through symbolism in "The Chrysanthemums," John Steinbeck creates a sexually repressed and discouraged Elisa Allen who is isolated from society however still retaining their values and is also trapped in a fruitless marriage.

Elisa Allen and her repressed sexuality are introduced to the readers through a manly appearance with a small clue of a womanly figure making an effort to peer through. This suppressed sexuality will eventually symbolically emerge. Elisa's symbolic clothing shows her concealed passions. "Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume (Steinbeck 1463)." Elisa tries to subdue her sexual desires by hiding beneath manly clothing, tools, and even her home (Duncun 1). "She wore a man's black hat, clod-hopper shoes…[and] heavy leather gloves (Steinbeck 1463)." She carried " short and powerful scissors (Steinbeck 1463)" and her house was "hard-swept and hard-polished (Steinbeck 1463)." Although she had a manly appearance she was still doing t...

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Steinbeck, John. "The Chrysanthemums". The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Ed. R.V Cassill and Richard Bausch. New York: W.W. Norton andCompany, 2000. 1462-1470.
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