The Chrysanthemums Essay

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David Van Nostrand
Professor McRaniels
English Comp II
13 September 2006

The Chrysanthemums Essay

In his short story "The Chrysanthemums," John Steinbeck writes of a married couple and examines the psychology of the unhappiness in their marriage. It is a good depiction of marriage in the 1900's which followed traditional roles, where the man is the chief breadwinner and the wife tends to household duties. The setting and the story's protagonist, Elisa Allen, offer similar traits after his own birth place of Salinas, California and his first wife, Carol Steinbeck. Although she is just considered a housewife, Elisa Allen also carries another passion of gardening and growing Chrysanthemums. Steinbeck uses vivid illustration with regard to the environment to make the setting seem callous and closed off, "The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world." (255) This environment is cause for Elisa Allen's need to have more affection in her life and gives reason for her using gardening as an expression of all the suppressed romance she feels. The climax of the story comes when Elisa is visited by a stranger who has gotten lost and their ensuing conversation and the outcome of the stranger's actions.

Elisa and Henry Allen are noted to be a fairly normal middle aged couple who live in rural California. Henry Allen is a hard working rancher who raises and sells cattle, assisted by a ranch hand. Elisa Allen is a housewife who maintains the country household and tends to gardening, growing Chrysanthemum flowers. Steinbeck gives many instances in the story talking about Elisa's strength and her maternal instincts in giving so much care and attention to her gardening. It is not hard to divulge from the story that she may be compensating raising the flowers with so much care, due to the fact that she has never had any children with her husband Henry. He tends to the typical male roles of provider and...
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