Elisa Allen: A Mystified Identity
John Steinbeck's short story "The Chrysanthemums" is centered on the protagonist named Elisa Allen. The vivid portrayal of her character in different parts of the story makes the reader wonder who she really is. Steinbeck started by portraying her as a strong and knowledgeable gardener, with a sense of masculinity, following which she is portrayed as someone who yearns for sexual attention in her sensual encounter with the tinker, and concluded with her being described as a beautiful, feminine lady, and then back to her masculine self all within a span of a few hours. The evolution in the expressions, emotions, and the portrayal of Elisa Allen is an important element of Steinbeck’s “The Chyrsanthemums.” Firstly, Elisa Allen is described and presented in a very masculine manner. The words “strong”, “a man’s black hat” and “heavy leather gloves” showcase the masculinity. Additionally, her features described as, “her face was eager and mature and handsome……over-powerful.” lend substance to her masculinity. Interestingly, this description of Elisa is in stark contrast to the societal perception of females in that era who are meant to be more feminine. The fact that she is she is thirty five years old and has no children also de-emphasizes her femininity. However, this presentation of masculinity augurs well with her acuity for business which is demonstrated in her interest in knowing more about the conversation of her husband, Henry Allen with the men in business suits. Also, her negotiation skills with the tinker showcase the business acuity of Elisa that has gone unnoticed by Henry. The societal norms have dictated that she carry out her role as a gardener with penchant. As a result, Elisa devotes all of her energy to maintaining her house and garden. Although she rightly brags about her green thumb, Elisa’s connection to nature seems rather coerced and not something that comes as naturally as she claims. She knows a great deal...
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