Symbolism in the Chrysanthemums

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Aliya Grayman
Professor Gulliksen
English 131 (D8)
24 October 2012
Your Inner Chrysanthemum
How many people sit down and think about what symbolizes their lives? A symbol is a person place or thing that suggests something other than its literal meaning. In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” Elisa Allen lives on a ranch with her husband Henry in Salinas Valley. Henry is off talking to men about the livestock on the ranch while Elisa is tending to her garden. A tinker comes up to their yard and begins to talk to Elisa about his work and all of his travels. He tries to get Elisa to let him work, but she does not feel that she needs any work done. The tinker notices the garden of chrysanthemums, and tells Elisa that he knows a woman that wants to grow them. Elisa develops a short lived attraction to the tinker as she is offering him the flower and giving him careful instructions on taking care of them. Steinbeck uses symbolism throughout this short story. Things such as the wire fence around the garden, the changing of Elisa’s clothing, and the chrysanthemums themselves mean something beyond their literal meaning. Everyone has an item or person that symbolizes their life. Because the title of the short story is “The Chrysanthemums,” the chrysanthemum is an obvious symbol. Elisa’s beautiful garden of chrysanthemums is very important to the story. They are Important because the chrysanthemums are Elisa, meaning they represent her throughout the story. The chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa’s life. Like her they are unimportant to the men in her life. When the tinker asks her about the flowers Elisa brightens up. When Elisa offers a flower to the tinker, she offers herself as well. When the flowers are rejected it symbolizes society’s rejection to women being anything other than mothers and housekeepers. Both the Elisa and the chrysanthemums seem to be simply decorative, and add little importance to the world. The wire fence surrounding the garden of...
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