Symbolism in “Chrysanthemums”
John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” is a story that is full of symbolism. At first, it just seems like a story about a woman and her garden but upon further examination, the story is actually about a woman’s yearnings and exasperation in her life. Steinbeck uses many examples, such as the flowers, her clothing, and The Salinas Valley.
The Chrysanthemums are flowers that are used to symbolize Elisa’s thoughts and ideas and the limited opportunity in her life. Like Elisa, the Chrysanthemums are strong, exquisite, and flourishing. Elisa is a lonely woman that gets pleasure from growing these flowers. Her husband Henry is always working on the farm and neglects Elisa, which causes her to turn to her flowers. When Steinbeck writes about how Elisa cares for the Chrysanthemums, he says “she turned the soil over and over, and smoothed it and patted it firm”. Which made me assume it meant she was childless and not by her choice and she cares for the flowers as if they were her children.
Elisa’s clothing in “Chrysanthemums” changes as she goes from masculine to feminine after the visit from Tinker. When the story begins Elisa is wearing a gardening outfit, such as heavy shoes, thick gloves, a man’s hat, and an apron. The narrator describes her body as “blocked and heavy.” When tinker visits she soon becomes to feel. She removes some of her clothing revealing her hair and body. She gets tidied up and reveals a new beautiful woman and her strength.
The Salinas Valley symbolizes Elisa’s emotional life. The writer says “the grey flannel fog of winter that closed off the Salinas valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world,” symbolizes the Elisa’s isolated life. “The Chrysanthemums” is a very well written story. WIthout all the symbolism and conflict the story wouldn’t be the same. Steinbeck’s use of symbols such as Chrysanthemums, Elisa’s clothing change, and The Salinas Valley makes this story much more interesting and...
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