Chrysanthemums Essay

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"The Chrysanthemums" is a short story by John Steinbeck which takes place in his birthplace of Salinas Valley, California. John Steinbeck weaves a tale about a woman's transformation. In this short story we follow the protagonist Elisa Allen, a thirty-five year old rancher's wife who holds a passion for growing chrysanthemums in her garden. Elisa is portrayed as a tough, strong person, and a masculine figure. "Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume, a man's black hat pulled low down over her eyes, clod-hopper shoes, a figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron." (45) Elisa possesses a great energy for working on the ranch with her husband Henry, but in a way she feels unappreciated by her husband and frustrated with her current life.

The married couple seems to get along relatively well, however, their way of talking together is very formal. Elisa's frustration stems from not having a child, and her husband's failure to admire her romantically as a woman. Elisa's outlet for her frustration is her flower garden, which she is exceptional at growing. It is shown by her fine chrysanthemums, "Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across" (46). Her husband however, doesn't really appreciate her gift for growing the flowers but would prefer that she used her gift to grow another crop. "I wish you'd work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big." (46) Henry sees Elisa as a laborer, instead of the effeminate woman which she yearns to be appreciated as, and this fuels her frustrations.

The chrysanthemums in this story symbolizes Elisa's confidence and her feminine side. While Henry was busy working, Elisa is approached by a wanderer, the tinker, who travels up and down the coast repairing pots and sharpening scissors. Elisa seems to be very standoffish at first and doesn't want to talk to the tinker, nor does she want to find him any work. However, when he compliments Elisa's...
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