Boundaries of Life: John Steinbeck's Story The Chrysanthemums

Topics: Salinas, California, John Steinbeck, Salinas Valley Pages: 3 (1043 words) Published: June 23, 2014
Boundaries of Life
Elisa Allen, the main character in John Steinbeck's story The Chrysanthemums, is a lonely farmers wife who is stuck in her roll due to the views society has on women. She is an eager person who fiends for excitement and passion in her life. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond her control, she is virtually isolated from society trapped in the fenced of the country farm. Despite Elisa Allen’s physical appearance that is more masculine that feminine, she tries to have her womanly side shine through. John Steinbeck uses the symbolic representation of Elisa’s dress to show that Elisa wants to display her feminine side, but the fence surrounding the garden to represent the boundaries and blockades Elisa has experienced and is currently experiencing in her life.

Elisa Allen’s physical appearance is introduced in a manly way. Steinbeck introduces her to the reader as more of a man, instead of a woman. “Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume” (Steinbeck 243). Elisa tries to control her sexuality of being a woman by hiding beneath manly apparel such as clothing, tools, and even her home. “She wore a man’s black hat, clod-hopper shoes…and heavy leather gloves” (Steinbeck 243).Despite the shameful manly appearance, Elisa still obtained to her garden on a regular basis.

Elisa lived a very confined life away from a large sum of society. Steinbeck uses imagery to formulate a picture for the reader as to how isolated Elisa was from the rest of the world. “The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas valley” (Steinbeck 242). The fog surrounding the Salinas valley is a representation of the barrier of the detachment between Elisa and the rest of the world. The house is described as being across from the river, which adds to the seclusion she feels. Steinbeck placed Elisa’s house away from the town and all types of civilization to not only symbolize, but highlight exactly how lonely she is, despite her having a...
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