Literary Criticism of John Steinbeck's the Chysanthemums

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Jamie Jones
Section #1542
Assignment #2

Importance of Criticism

To fully appreciate literature, we must look at it from every angle possible. There are many ways to criticize a piece of literature. Each way helps a reader to better understand the work in its own different way. I hope to outline and give examples of the many different ways that the short story The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck can be interpreted.

The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

One morning an energetic housewife named Elisa Henry is working busily in her garden, watching in secret interest as her husband sells cattle to another man. When a peddler drives up to her gate, she is intrigued by the peddler's lifestyle. She talks to him and he mentions chrysanthemums, and she eagerly gives him a few chrysanthemums in a bright new pot. She gives him some pots to fix and they talk about his life. When he goes on his way, she feels decidedly more powerful. She cleans and dresses herself for a date with her husband. When they are driving on the road she sees a spot that she knows must be her discarded chrysanthemum gift. She then resigns to being her old self and weeps like an old woman.

Moral/Intellectual Criticism

When using the Moral/Intellectual criticism, the analyst approaches the content and values of the story. The intent of the Moral/Intellectual approach is to find the underlying message and/or lesson that is in the story. The message or lesson that is found in the work can then be applied to either the main character or the reader.

In The Chrysanthemums, John Steinbeck intends to suggest that women are not equal to men in society. Elisa experiences this when she is not able to participate in male-oriented activities that her husband takes part in. Elisa, the woman, is thus a lesser person because of her gender. It leads me to believe that myself along with all other women may not be suitable for certain kinds of work.

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