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The Effect of Symbolism and Gender Roles in “The Chrysanthemums”

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From all areas of the world, people have been changing their forms of government in an attempt to decide on what’s best for their country. Apart from most, Communism is targeted toward making all equal, and it eliminates the concept of a dictator. The contradictory fact is that the concept fails when people cannot reach an agreement themselves, and then they realize a leader is needed to make the final decisions. Of course, with greed to be on top, people do not stray from this empty position for long. As unfortunate as it is, even when people decide to become equal, someone always wants to be the king. When this thirst for power is between men and women rather than the dictator and the country, men try to be in control while women serve as the poor villagers of the communistic country. “The Chrysanthemums” was written to show us how men blindly take over and women are degraded in the process. Steinbeck shows how society mistreated women by using gender roles and symbolism to put the reader in the “clod-hopper shoes” and “heavy leather gloves” of Elisa Allen during the 1930’s. Symbolism is first used in the setting to show how Elisa’s life is like the land that surrounds her garden. This example explains why she is unable to escape: The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot (Skredsvig 4). If the valley represents Elisa’s life, then it obviously shows that she is being sheltered or trapped, cut-off by the sky. One critic explains this by writing: “Within this closed pot, Elisa operates within even narrower confines” (4). The tinker’s dogs symbolize the three main ... ... middle of paper ... ...vid Leon. "The Chrysanthemums: Overview." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Watson. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. Palmerino, Gregory J. "Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums'." The Explicator 62.3 (2004): 164+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. 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 Resource Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. Sullivan, Ernest W., II. "The Cur in 'The Chrysanthemums'." Studies in Short Fiction 16.3 (Summer 1979): 215-217. Rpt. in Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 2011. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.
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