Character Development through the Use of Symbols and Images

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Lucas Culliton

Character Development Through The Use of Symbols and Images
John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums and James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues are two stories that contain many symbols and images and it is through these symbols and images that we learn about Elisa and Sonny and how they change over the course of the story. Both characters undergo significant changes that leave the reader question ing what they have read at some points. Symbols and images employed in Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums and Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues reflects the transformations of Elisa and Sonny both emotionally and physically throughout the story and are present to enhance our understanding of both characters and the overall point the author is trying to make. The supporting arguments will demonstrate how symbols such as the chrysanthemums, the Salinas Valley, heroin and the cup of trembling reflect the transformations of Sonny and Elisa. The beginning of The Chrysanthemums has a rather sad and depressing opening few paragraphs and it begins with “The high grey-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.”(Steinbeck 1) This is the first description of the setting of the story and it is also the first symbol the reader comes across in the story. The Salinas Valley is used to show how Elisa is “trapped” in a fairly boring life of gardening . The story was written in a time when women were not considered equal to men and the way Steinbeck describes Elisa being “lean and strong” and “blocked and heavy” gives the reader the impression that Elisa has characteristics that are more common for men to have. After reading

the opening page the reader has the impression that Elisa is capable of much more but is trapped in this life of gardening because she is a woman. As the story progresses and after Elisa has her encounter with the tinker,...
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