Chrysanthemums: Literary Criticism At the turn of the 20th century, women were considered inferior to men: they were only required to stay at home, take care of households and children. “The Chrysanthemums”, as told by John Steinbeck, is a story of a woman during that period who tries to change the course of her destiny. In this story, the two-fold issues of femininity and symbolism play a critical part in explaining this helplessness. Steinbeck uses the narrative to signify the hope for change of the woman as well as her character by illustrating different similarities between Elisa and her flowers. Readers are able to comprehend how a lady feels when she is caged within her life, and the struggles to disengage from such oppression. At the end of the story, the writer expresses a sense of hopelessness for Elisa because, although she might try as much as possible to free herself, reality will rise up and keep her entrenched in a subdued role. At the beginning of the story, we encounter loneliness that forces Elisa to dedicate her energies and love to her flowers. The creation and setting of this narrative gives an impression of isolation and a miserable ambiance. The setting is in autumn, a season characterized by dead leaves and chilly whether. In addition, the place where Elisa stays is compared to a “closed pot” (Steinbeck 175) and it is set apart from the rest of the universe by the “grey-flannel fog” (Steinbeck 175), which is representative of the pot’s cover. The images created by the author depict isolation or seclusion. The seclusion of the husband and wife is depicted and reinforced by the river and fence which surround their homestead. Indeed, as we can see from this narrative, the woman never goes outside the fence alone, which symbolically disconnects her from the rest of the world. Henry, who is the husband of Elisa, is also disconnected from her in many ways; he is more concerned with business and generating
Cited: Steinbeck, John. The Chrysanthemums Fiction: A Pocket Anthology, 3rd ed. New York: Longman, 2002. 175-185. Print.