The Use of Symbols in John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums"

Topics: Flower, Symbol, John Steinbeck Pages: 2 (720 words) Published: February 1, 2006
In John Steinbeck's short story, "The Chrysanthemums," he uses the flower to symbolize his main character's thoughts and ideas. There are many examples of such symbolism in this work. Elisa Allen is a lonely woman who enjoys growing and nourishing her chrysanthemums. Since her husband is always working the cattle in their farm, she never has enough attention or any kind of affection. The result of this dispassionate marriage leads Steinbeck to describe his main character as follows, "Her face lean and strong…Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume, a man's black hat pulled low…clod-hopper shoes…completely covered by a big corduroy apron…" (Page 206-207) This neglect from her busband causes her to turn to her "chrysanthemums," of which she is very proud. Her husband's remark, "I wish you'd work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big" (Page 207), shows how little his interest he has for her chrysanthemums/herself. As shown here, Elisa does not feel appreciated by her husband and so she takes care of her chrysanthemums, symbols of how beautiful she really is. Early in the story, Steinbeck uses little symbolic phrases to let the reader know that the chrysanthemums are an extension of Elisa. Chicago

Her gardening area could be described as a "cage" to protect herself from anything harmful. Knowing that her husband does not show interest in her chrysanthemums, gives her the thought that he does not have interest in her. The flowers and Elisa have interchangeable meanings that are explained later on in the story. When her husband goes off with one of the cattle buyers, a mysterious man on a junky wagon approaches her. Although appearance is not the greatest, she is interested in him. The reason being is that he shows interest in her chrysanthemums in order to persuade her to find something for him to fix. Again, the connection there is that he was interested in her flowers, meaning herself. The man says,...
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