The "Chrysanthemums" was written by John Steinbeck and introduced in 1937. In this story it is evident that Elisa has suppressed sexual desires that are awakened. At the ripe age of thirty-five, Elisa is at her sexual peak, but because of being betrayed by men, she is unable to fulfill those desires.
Elisa Allen is a strong woman. She is strong because of her manly qualities. Her masculinity shines through because of the way she covers up herself. There was a feminine part of her wanting to emerge as she wore the "print dress" (279) while working in her flower garden. However, the men's clothing and accessories she wore covered this up. The "squatting" (281) position she engaged in to work in her garden was not the feminine kneeling that a true lady would have chosen. She "shoved the thick scissors in her apron pocket" (282), which was not the delicate way a woman would have done it. She was not able to cultivate her chrysanthemums in a way that was gentle and loving because of her masculine traits. She was not squeamish when it came to protecting her flowers. She would simply use her "fingers" (280) to eliminate any type of pest that was a threat to them. A true woman would have gagged at the very thought of using her bare hands to mash a bug. Elisa was a hard and successful laborer because her chrysanthemums "had ten-inch blooms" (283); however, she still had not succeeded in child bearing.
Elisa and her husband had no children; therefore, she had no one to give her love and attention. As a result, she channeled all her attention and nurturing into her beloved chrysanthemums. Like a mother making sure her child had a nurturing environment, Elisa, "[w]ith her trowel she t...
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...a wanted was to receive the kind of love and attention that she put into her chrysanthemums. She was a hard worker and a good woman; although, this did not compare to the fact that she wanted to be a desirable woman. Her brief experience of feeling sexually aroused made her feel pretty and desirable. After she realized that she had been used by the tinker, the emotion that was stirred within her went silently and tearfully away. The devastation she was experiencing will no doubt cause her to become more masculine and even less desirable to her husband. Resulting in the fact that she will never reach the ecstasy of her desires, and she will never know the joy of having a child to give all of her love and attention to.
Steinbeck, John. “Chrysanthemums.” Forty Short Stories: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Beverly Lawn. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2001.
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