Elisa's Characterization in "The Chrysanthemums"

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Elisa’s Characterization in “The Chrysanthemums”

In Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” Elisa Allen is a lonely woman who enjoys growing and nourishing her chrysanthemums in the valley of Salinas, California. But, with all the beauty of the beautiful valley she feels isolated from the world. “The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salina 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.”(347 paragraph 1) Elisa is frustrated with her marriage to Henry and this makes her feel more isolated and closer to her garden which she finds connection with her flowers. Gregory Palmerino explains their lack lustful relationship in The Explicator, “Both Elisa and Henry equally suffer from conflict avoidance and appear to habitually withdraw from each other spiritually, intellectually, and, presumably, physically: she to her immaculate garden and hard-swept house and he to his shaggy-coated steer and tractor shed.”

Cynthia Bily explains in Short Stories for Students essay, “Elisa already leads a lonely life, in terms of her connections with other human beings. Her only passion is for her garden, and when is she in the garden she is her truest self.” She is so proud of her garden that she tells Henry that she has “a gift with things.” She feels one with nature and loves being outside especially at night. It makes her feel electrified when she sees that stars pointed in the night sky. She dreams to live the life of the tinker and just “follow nice weather” and sleep in the wagon under the stars at night. But, she is brought back to reality when the tinker tells her it would not be nice when you have to go to sleep without anything to eat. It no longer sounds as glamorous as she would have dreamed it to be.

After the tinker leaves, Elisa regains her confidence and realizes how beautiful she is. With the new found confidence she retreats back to the house...
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