The Chrysanthemums

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Boris Grushin
"The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck

The short story "The Chrysanthemums" shows how extraordinarily forward thinking the author, John Steinbeck, was in his understanding of the pressures that women dealt with in his time. Through the exploration and illustration of women's emotions, Steinbeck gives us a view into the struggle of women in the early 20th century to find a place for themselves in society as well as establishing their own sexuality(Charters, 502).

The story starts out with the description of a grey fog over the place where the story is set. The significance of this is to set the mood of the story. It also is a possible representation of how the main character of the story, Elisa Allen, feels about her life. Elisa is first introduced working in the garden planting her flowers, and while doing so looks up to see her husband talking to two men in suits. She later asked him who they were and he said that he sold them some steers and "got nearly my own price, too"(The Chrysanthemums, 2). This shows the fact that all the business of the family was handled by the man, and that in general women's inputs were not considered, if they were ever given. However Elisa is by no means a woman who is unable to do things herself, Steinbeck makes a point to mention that "The chrysanthemum stems seemed too small and easy for her energy". In the narration and description of Elisa's garden and her chrysanthemums are strong and that she raised very good flowers in the past year as well. All of these things help the reader to empathize with Elisa and make her easier to identify with.

The world that she lives in is a man's world, and her husband is a "man's man" and this is illustrated in his actions when talking to the men in suits "They smoked cigarettes and studied the machine as they talked". This idea of it being a man's world is a recurring theme in the story, another example of which is Henry's attitude towards Elisa and...
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