Analysis: The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

Topics: Woman, Short story, John Steinbeck Pages: 3 (957 words) Published: November 17, 2013

Prompt: How do the chrysanthemums as well as other symbols throughout the short story show women’s role in society? A Potential for Equality
           Humans, just as flowers, cannot fully live without sunlight. They cannot develop without nourishment, and most of all they cannot flourish if not carefully tended to. Just as the Chrysanthemums fight to stay strong and meaningful in the short story, “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck, the main character, Emily, tries to do the same. Both the setting and overall mood of the characters, support the comparison of Emily to her Chrysanthemums. She is faced with many obstacles such as her oblivious husband and her lack of exposure to the world. Steinbeck’s description of the setting, his ignorant tone, and his use of symbolism each reveal even more meaning to Elisa’s view of herself as a woman in society.

Steinbeck introduces the setting by describing it as “cold and tender” with “no sunshine in the valley” (Steinbeck 1). Not only does this description present an overall dreary mood, it symbolizes Elisa’s invisibility in the world. With a “lid of fog” that hides her true talents, Elisa fails to be anything but ordinary in the eyes of her husband, Henry, as well as the rest of society (Steinbeck 2). Her husband appears to be everything a woman needs. He provides for her and treats her with a facade of respect. He gives her warm gestures of chivalry as well as compliments regarding her “gift with things”; but what Elisa really seeks from him is a deeper level of understanding and appreciation (Steinbeck 7). Henry’s ignorance of Elisa’s hard work is shown in the story when he brings up what a nice job she has does with her chrysanthemums. As soon as Elisa begins to set higher goals, such as raise other crops on their farm, Henry responds with a discouraging comment, “well, it sure works with the flowers” (Steinbeck 9). Elisa initially reacts to each situation as a man would; confident and willing to try. But...

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Woman Bound By Society. Lone Star College System, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
Steinbeck, John. "The Chrysanthemums." Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth
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