On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot. On the broad, level land floor the gang plows bit deep and left the black earth shining like metal where the shares had cut. On the foothill ranches across the Salinas River, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine, but there was no sunshine in the valley now in December. The thick willow scrub along the river flamed with sharp and positive yellow leaves. It was a time of quiet and of waiting. The air was cold and tender.

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Roosevelt had just been reelected president. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, unions were developing, and child labor in manufacturing was terminated Jones She was one of the few women in her time to gain equality in a male-dominated society. For most women, liberation was a bitter fight usually ending in defeat. Sweet, Jr. This frustration is evident when Elisa is first introduced.

Her home has the masculine qualities of being "hard-swept" and "hard-polished" Steinbeck Elisa is bored with her husband and with her life. According to Sweet, Elisa is unhappy with the traditional female role and is attempting to extend her abilities into masculine areas Elisa intially reacts to each situation as a man would, but is forever reminded that she is a woman.

When her husband, Henry, comments about her "strong" chrysanthemum crop, Elisa is pleased by the manliness the word implies, but her husband reminds her of her femininity by offering her an evening on the town. After this conversation with her husband, she goes back to her masculine role of transplanting the flowers. The next situation involves the tinker. According to Sweet, he is to Elisa what the meat buyers were to Henry The tinker then hits her in her vulnerable spot--her chrysanthemums.

He pretends to be interested in her love for her flowers. He compares her flowers to a "quick puff of colored smoke" Steinbeck She is attracted to the tinker because, as Stanley Renner points out, he represents a world of adventure and freedom that only men enjoy She allows her emotions to control her and lets go of her masculine side, freeing her central feminine sexuality, according to Sweet She has allowed herself to become emotional, "the trait women possess," whereas men conduct business unemotionally Sweet Elisa realizes her hopes for equality are nothing but a dream because she has been betrayed by her basic nature and by men.

She gives the tinker the seedling and retreats indoors to find him some pots to mend. After the tinker leaves, Elisa goes indoors to bathe. She scrubs herself "until her skin was scratched and red" Steinbeck By this action, Elisa is unconsciously withdrawing back to her feminine side and cleansing herself "of the masculine situation by turning to the feminine world in which she best functions" Sweet When she dresses, she puts on her best underwear and applies makeup to her face.

By doing these purely feminine things, according to Marcus, she hopes to accentuate her role as a woman Henry immediately notices the transformation and compliments her with the feminine "nice" instead of "strong," which is masculine. Elisa prefers "strong," but the meaning of it has changed from "masculine equal" to "feminine overlord" Sweet Henry warms the car up to go into town while Elisa gets herself ready.

As they drive along, Elisa spots the flowers she had given the tinker beside the road. Her dreams of feminine equality are so broken that she can never go back to being what she once was; thus "she must endure her typical social role" Sweet Her only goal is to become "an old woman" Steinbeck Because she has gone back to her feminine role, according to Renner, "she remains a pitiable victim of male domination and female disadvantage" Throughout the story, Elisa suffers a regression from the masculine role she sees as equality to the feminine role she sees as submissive.

Her frustration with the male-dominated society causes her to let go of her dreams for liberation and to become what society expects her to be--a passive woman. Steinbeck portrays women according to his time period. Works Cited Jones, James H. London: Scott, Foresman, McMahan, Elizabeth E. Marcus, Mordecai. Osbourne, William R. Renner, Stanley. Steinbeck, John. New York: Macmillan, Sweet, Charles A.


Formal Analysis of John Steinbeck’s ‘The Chrysanthemums’ Essay (Critical Writing)

Plot Summary[ edit ] The story opens with a panoramic view of the Salinas Valley in winter. Elisa is thirty-five, lean and strong, and she approaches her gardening with great energy. Then he offers to take Elisa to town so they can celebrate the sale. He praises her skill with flowers, and she congratulates him on doing well in the negotiations for the steer.


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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 only outlet for her frustration is her flower garden where she cultivates beautiful chrysanthemums. Upon deeper inspection, the story reveals strong symbolisms of children, vulnerability, and connection--being the most important, of the main character. And both felt oppressed to meet the standards set upon them while being dominated by the men in their life.


“The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck

Elisa, a married woman uncovers her deeply smothered femininity in an inconspicuous sense. Her life in the valley had become limited to housewife duties and the only sustenance that seemed to exist could merely be found in her chrysanthemum garden. Not until she becomes encountered with a remote tinker-man out and about seeking for work, does she begin to reach many of the internal emotions that had long inhibited her femininity. She kept her home hard swept and hard polished to uphold its best features. Her robust and mannish motions steadily suppressed her dignity and she slowly buried her sense of graciousness. There was a woman underneath the blocked and heavy gardening costume longing to emerge much of the same magnificence in comparison to a chrysanthemum itself.

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