No Way Out Essay

No Way Out Essay

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The short story, The Chrysanthemums, by John Steinbeck, is a fascinating tale that involves the life of a beautiful, yet misunderstood, women as she battles with the prolonged sting of isolation. After years of captivity on a farm, Elisa finds it difficult to feel like a free woman. As a result, Elisa becomes guarded and closed-off to even her husband. Despite her masculine persona, Elisa lets her shielded exterior down when an opportunity to escape presents itself. Trapped in the confines of her farm, Elisa creates a kind of “intimate relationship” with her cherished chrysanthemums as a way to keep her sanity (French 64). Through the cunning use of symbolism, and the forces of human nature combined with the female limitations of the time, Steinbeck enhances the idea that happiness cannot fit between the bars of a cage.

Steinbeck first enriches the feeling of despondency with the clever use of symbolism. The story opens with a detailed description of the Salinas Valley. Here, Steinbeck relates the valley to a “closed pot,” which suggests Elisa’s inability to escape. Furthermore, Steinbeck describes that even though there is sunlight nearby, the Salinas Valley sees none. As sunlight is often associated with happiness, the implication here is that while others are happy, Elisa is not. To further the use of symbolic reference, Steinbeck relates Elisa to the hopeful farmers in the area. Farmers believe that rain is imminent due to the southwest wind that sweeps through the valley. Unfortunately, the encumbering fog repudiates any chance of this happening. Like the false hope that torments the farmers, Elisa is burdened by an illusion that happiness still might come for her. Also, Elisa’s garden is surrounded by a wire fence for pr...


... middle of paper ...


...ed to demonstrate how contentment and confinement do not coincide with one another.


Works Cited

French, Warren. John Steinbeck's Fiction Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1994. Print.

Beach, Joseph Warren. American fiction, 1920-1940. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1941. Print

"John Steinbeck (1902-1968)." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Joseph Palmisano. Vol. 77. Detroit:
Thomson Gale, 2005. 228-297. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. Glendale Community College.
15 April 2012

"The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anja Barnard and Anna Sheets-Nesbitt. Vol. 37. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. 320-363. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. Glendale Community College. 16 April 2012

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