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The Chrysanthemums

Uploaded by anerces on Apr 26, 2002

Throughout history, women have often been portrayed as the subordinates of men or the "weaker sex". As a result of these unfair social assumptions, women have been working hard to dissociate themselves form this stereotype and become more independent with their lives. Many famous writers have addressed this issue in their novels or short stories. John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" is one of those famous stories which describes Elisa Allen's frustration with her marriage, her sense of isolation from the world and her hidden desires to express herself as a woman, to explore her sexuality and to live a fuller more passionate life.

The Chrysanthemums themselves and other symbols tell the reader a great deal about Elisa's struggle to find her own identity. She seems completely not in touch with her sexuality and is unable to articulate the source of her dissatisfaction. Her initial appearance in the story is very manly yet still allows a feminine side to be noticed: “Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume." She wore “a man’s black hat, clod-hopper shoes and heavy leather gloves". She was also wearing “ A figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron." This image represents her repression of her own sexuality. Despite her hiding behind these symbolic clothes she was still doing the seemingly “female" job of tending a flower garden. Her chrysanthemums meant a great deal to her. They were almost like her children and she took care of them like a mother. We see this when she talks about them so passionately with the tinker. However “the chrysanthemum stems seemed too small and easy for her energy". This symbolic scene makes it clear to the reader that she wants more from life than just being a gardener.

The setting also plays a major role in the story. It reinforces Elisa's feelings of isolation form the world. The story is set in the beautiful valley of Salinas, California. But with all its beauty, this location takes on the role of some sort of prison in which one would feel trapped: "The high grey flannel fog of winter closed off the Salina's valley from the sky and from the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot". We can see how this atmosphere can have a negative...

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Uploaded by:   anerces

Date:   04/26/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   5 pages (1,080 words)

Views:   2606

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