The Chrysanthemums

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Like the Salinas Valley, Elisa Allen lives in a fog, closed off from the rest of the world. Like the bland, bleak winter landscape, Elisa was quietly waiting for a change of seasons. It seems as though she is bored with the stillness of life. She seems to envy the men, including her husband who shares cigarettes and conversation with businessmen and farm workers. They have important things to do, to discuss. Steinbeck uses the word, strong, to describe Elisa’s features. Elisa describes the chrysanthemums as having the potential to be strong in the coming year. Everything about the flowers holds her interest. She’s in complete control of their destiny. Like most women of her time, Elisa was not in control of very much. She did not make the decisions to sell the cattle, to go out for the evening or where she would dine. When the scruffy, traveling repairman shows up, Elisa is interested but unwilling to offer him anything to fix. She could decide whether or not she wanted his help. Elisa envied him too. He was rough, rugged and living a totally unstructured life. He was free like the long and winding Los Angeles Highway and the river where those willows grew sharp and positive. She enjoyed telling him about her flowers and how to nurture the sprouts. She made it very clear that the sprouts needed attention and could not be neglected. There were very specific things that needed to be done so they would grow well. They needed attention. They needed the rich earth, water, sunlight and someone to challenge them by pinching off the buds and forcing them to search deeper to develop stronger, bigger, brighter and more beautiful. Like her environment, Elisa is strong but she is wilting, slowly. Rather than finding renewal like the land and her flowers, Elisa, though she fights like a rpize fighter against it, she is losing. She is confined and left with little time and opportunity to change paths.
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