The Chrysanthemums, by John Steinbeck

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In the short story “The Chrysanthemums” John Steinbeck uses symbolism to reflect the characteristics of his main character Elisa Allen. Elisa, a married woman uncovers her deeply smothered femininity in an inconspicuous sense. Her life in the valley had become limited to housewife duties and the only sustenance that seemed to exist could merely be found in her chrysanthemum garden. Not until she becomes encountered with a remote tinker-man out and about seeking for work, does she begin to reach many of the internal emotions that had long inhibited her femininity. The tinker subtlety engages an interest in Elisa’s chrysanthemum garden that encourages Elisa to react radically. When Elisa realizes that there are other ways to live she attempts to lift the lid off of the Salinas Valley, but unfortunately the tinker’s insincere actions resort Elisa back to her old self and leaves Elisa without any optimism for her hollow breakthrough. Steinbeck’s somber details of the setting, strong description of the chrysanthemums and meaningful illustration of the red flower-pot reveal the distant, natural, ambitions Elisa Allen desired to attain. The Salinas Valley is symbolic to Elisa’s inner feelings. The farm responsibilities Elisa shared with her husband Henry encouraged “cold and tender” thoughts that often left Elisa feeling “closed off from the rest of the world” (paragraph 1). Her consistent lonely and empty days began to “fog” the belief of any better days to come. The [quiet of waiting] was yearning for any “sharp and positive” (paragraph 2) notion that had yet to be nurtured. But until Elisa was given any chance to set free of such desires she had to remain forcibly content inside of her chrysanthemum garden. The chrysanthemu... ... middle of paper ... ...and ready to be rediscovered again. Early in the story Henry offers Elisa to a dinner in town and half heartedly suggests going to a local fight. Elisa not keen of fights refuses. In retrospect to her inner ambitions Steinbeck tactfully portrays the message that the only way to follow “the bright direction” Elisa strongly wants is to be willing to fight for it. Nonetheless, don’t be fooled to believe any such inspirations to be acquired will come to you. But Elisa verily on the edge at the end of the story asks Henry about the fights and he suggests if she wants to go. She refuses, Steinbeck again symbolically suggesting she is unwilling to fight for what she wants. So her chrysanthemums will remain out of reach until she decides to do so. Works Cited Roberts, Edgar, Literature An intoduction to Reading and Writing, Steinbeck, John "The Chyranthemums"
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