John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums: Analysis

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  • Topic: John Steinbeck, Woman, Symbolism
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AP English Literature and Composition

The Chrysanthemums
John Steinbeck

The third person point of view helps set up Elisa's initial perception of the world, one that includes the submissive role of women and their dismal role in anything work related. The symbolism, when combined with the point of view, is what brings out the best of Elisa and makes her realize that the things she does in life are not for other people to look down upon, but instead for people to bask in their glory as they provide nothing else but total sanctity, aloofness, and amazement, but there are still factors in the society that do not allow for such dreams to come true.

The initial detailed description of Elisa in the beginning of the story shows a very covered and repressed woman who is focused on her chrysanthemums. Her appearance “looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume, a man’s black hat pulled low down over her eyes”. Although Elisa is doing something that she enjoys, she keeps to herself as she sees her “husband talking to two men in business suits.” This scenario shows that men took care of business while women tended to the more petty of things. This third person point of view sets up this exact perception of the world that Elisa holds and is further revealed through the symbolism in the story.

It is obvious from the story that the daisies that Elisa plants and grow offer her a haven from the world and when they are praised, she turns into the happiest soul in the world, “’What’s them plants ma’am?’ The irritation and resistance melted away from Elisa’s face.” Furthermore, when speaking about her flowers, Elisa feels a freedom that would have otherwise been oppressed. “She took off the battered hat and shook out her pretty dark hair.” The flowers represent a source of isolation from the rest of the world and all its struggles. Also, the flowers bring upon hope and comfort along sometimes hazardous roads. "That's a bright direction. There's a glowing there"...
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