Chrysanthemums She was wearing “a man’s black hat…clod-hopper shoes, heavy leather gloves” and “a big corduroy apron” doing her best to cover up her femininity. In John Steinbeck’s short story, “The Chrysanthemums”, we are introduced to Elisa Allen. Elisa is living during a period after the Great Depression when women’s rights issues were becoming a topic of public concern. Steinbeck uses the character Elisa Allen to portray the women’s struggle for equality. She is a woman deprived of social, personal and sexual fulfillment in a male-dominated world. Elisa struggles to find satisfaction in her womanhood and a desire to escape from her isolated world. “She was thirty-five. Her face was eager and mature and …show more content…
She fights for his attention and acceptance throughout the story. This makes her turn weaker and weaker until the point where she does not care anymore and accepts the fact that she is a woman and consequently, inferior.
“On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made the great valley a closed pot.” Steinbeck is showing how isolated Elisa feels and how hard it would be to escape the “pressure of the closed pot”. In many parts of the story she seems very frustrated and trapped with her life and has a need to let go. She envies the freedom of the visitor, “you sleep right in the wagon…it must be nice”. However, he reminds her of her sexuality by saying “it ain’t the right kind of a life for a woman”. Elisa becomes very defensive by this remark, the feeling of hopelessness comes over her and she realizes that she is indeed inferior to men.
Elisa tends her garden with care and finds happiness and strength in it. Figuratively speaking, it takes the place of the children she does not have; it defines her sexuality and femininity. She cares for her flowers so delicately and motherly, placing a “wire fence that protected her flower garden”. This wire fence symbolizes her isolation from the rest of the world as well as her closed off heart towards her husband. Elisa waits for the time when she will be
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In the 1930’s John Steinbeck wrote two stories, The Chrysanthemums and Of Mice and Men. In these stories, Steinbeck highlighted the struggle and oppression of women during that time Both of his writings took place on a ranch in Salinas, California during the 1930’s, during the great depression. Both Elisa from The Chrysanthemums and Curley's wife from Of Mice and Men had internal conflicts and despised their husbands. Steinbeck's women proved to be strong and intelligent, especially compared to the men around them.
If he gave her any personal praise, as a woman of distinct qualities (one who was vital to the farm's survival), he might be empowering her. Thus, he keeps his praise for her superficial skills, growing flowers. In this way, Henry frustrates Elisa by not seeing into her true character. The flowers represent Elisa trying to find some way of escaping from her frustrated and repressed husband, not from her own sexual frustration.
In the portion of the story where Elisa is talking to the "Fixer-Guy" who happens to pull down the road to her farm, Steinbeck shows Elisa's eagerness for attention and how she comes to the realization that there is a more exciting life outside the farm. In the “Fixer-Guy”, Elisa finds somebody who sees her as more than a housewife, someone who can appreciate her from an unbiased viewpoint. He offers his services and she turns him down saying “I tell you I have nothing like that for you to do.” At first she resists conversation with him. Then when he asks about her plants Steinbeck writes “The irritation and resistance melted from Elisa’s face.” “I raise them every year, bigger than anybody around here”, she boasts. She is now very eager to talk about her chrysanthemums. Elisa's face becomes "tight with eagerness" as she talks about them, as if they were her children. The vibes from her infatuation with these flowers are picked up by the old man, and there is an unspoken connection between these two perfect strangers as they have both chosen their own preoccupation in life, his being a passion of pots and hers a love of chrysanthemums. It is this connection that ignites the realization that she longs to break free from the everyday routine she calls life. This feeling is so strong that "her hand went out toward his legs in the greasy black trousers" as if to grasp a piece
Elisa protects her garden with “wire fence that protected her flower garden from cattle and dogs and chickens.” (Steinbeck 210) The fence also protects Elisa from the man’s world. It isolates her and gives her a clear view but does not let her get tangled in it. The fence is her boundary of her world and as long as she stays within the boundaries she will be safe. Elisa does step outside the fence when the tinker comes to visit. He shows her a little bit of attention by taking interest in her chrysanthemums so that she will find him something to fix. He describes the chrysanthemums as “Kind of a long-stemmed flower? Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke?” (Steinbeck 212) she finds herself flattered by his comments. The chrysanthemums symbolize her femininity and sexuality when “she tore off the battered hat and shook out her dark pretty hair. The tinker restores her feeling about her femininity and sexuality. He made her realize that she did not need to step outside of her boundaries. All she needs to do is to make herself look more feminine. “She scrubbed herself with a little block of pumice, legs and thighs, loins and chest and arms, until her skin was scratched and red.” (Steinbeck 214) Elisa wears her best dress “which is the symbol of her prettiness” (Steinbeck 214) to impress Henry. He
In “The Chrysanhemums” and “A Rose for Emily” are both about how women are oppressed by the societies in which they live. In “The Chrysanthemums”, Elisa is going through a tough time dealing with how her husband and the world view her. She wants to break free of the traditional view of the woman, and tries to push forward into a manlier role. She does this because she is tired of the life she is experiencing as a woman at home. She feels as though if she inhabits the part of a man, that she will be able to experience more than she does at home in a woman’s atmosphere. Although she wants to break free from the woman status, she is unable to suppress her emotions and falls back to her womanly state. From here, she tires to impress her husband by dressing up and
Firstly, Elisa and Mrs. Mallard related in the fact that they both faced the sad reality that women in their time periods were unbearably unequal to men. For example, in "The Chrysanthemums," it was clear that women had no say in the business aspects of things such as running a ranch. This is
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
Elisa’s garden is her private escape, where she is free to daydream, yearn, and wonder about life outside of her valley. Her little fenced in garden not only keeps the dogs and cattle out, but her husband does not trespass in it either. It is hers and hers alone. Elisa shows signs that she is miserable in her marriage and her life, by being curt and dismissive to her husband, uninterested in his buyers, and equally rude and dismissive towards the panhandler that rides up in an ancient, rickety, covered wagon. being pulled by an old horse and a mule.
In a world where women are discriminated against, Steinbeck conveys through Curley’s Wife that people who are isolated often long for human connection. After Lennie buries the dog
In the 20th century, the average home life in rural Oklahoma was full of hard workers in the pursuit of the picture-perfect home surrounded by plentiful land. The sun rose over the land, signaling the commencement of the day ahead. The farmer had already been awake since before the sun broke the horizon, preparing his little equipment and his animals for his land’s work. The farmer’s wife was in the kitchen, cooking her husband a warm breakfast as a sign of her gratitude. Their children woke and soon were running into the kitchen, bellies growling. After gobbling up the breakfast, they ran outside to play and do chores of their own. The rest of the farmer’s wife’s day was spent cleaning, cooking, and looking after the kids until the sun went down and it was time for bed. Set in this time, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, holds contrasting female characters. Some characters show the defiance of the gender roles at the time, while others adhere to them. In some instances, a female character can surpass the expectations set upon her by the patriarchal society in which they live she lives, setting her free to use a voice she never was allowed.
In the story, the flowers are described as having a fence surrounding them, keeping out any unwanted pests but also, keeping the flowers in. This reflects on Elisa’s life because she, like the flowers, is trapped. It is apparent she feels held back when, as the man is driving away, she whispers to herself, “That’s a bright direction. There’s a glowing there” (321). She clearly feels that her life is dull and that it is not how she wanted to live. Since her husband, Henry, has the control over her life, she is confined to one place and not living or growing to her full potential, just like her flowers.
She does not help with the ranch or the cultivation of the orchard, but rather tends to her own garden. Her reportedly stellar chrysanthemums represent her delicate side. By maintaining and ensuring a yearly exemplary flourish, Elisa sustains and nourishes her suppressed womanly essence. Although Steinbeck reveals that, “The
The chrysanthemums symbolize both Elisa and the limited scope of her life. Like Elisa, the chrysanthemums are lovely, strong, and thriving. Their flowerbed, like Elisa’s house, is tidy and scrupulously ordered. Elisa explicitly identifies herself with the flowers, even saying that she becomes one with the plants when she tends to them. When the tinker notices the chrysanthemums, Elisa visibly brightens, just as if he had noticed her instead. She offers the chrysanthemums to him at the same time she offers herself, both of which he ignores and tosses aside. His rejection of the flowers also mimics the way society has rejected women as nothing more than mothers and housekeepers. Just like her, the flowers are unobjectionable and also unimportant: both are merely decorative and add little value to the world.
The house they live in is a farmhouse with lots of land separating one another from their neighbors. This means the contact Elisa has is just of her husband on a day-to-day basis. Her husband, Henry, believes she is a great green thumb. He leans over the fence to tell Elisa “You got a strong new crop coming” (Steinbeck 2). He goes out without her to the city to watch fights, but only jokingly asks her to come. Henry loves his wife, but when she talks about expanding her garden he never really says much back to her. For example, Elisa begins to talk about how she thinks maybe growing her garden would be a good idea and he doesn’t encourage her, he just skips to talking about date night. He says, "And I thought," he continued, "I thought how it's Saturday afternoon, and we might go into Salinas for dinner at a restaurant, and then to a picture show—to celebrate, you see” (Steinbeck 3).
In a small world, there is not much choice for a simple woman. Throughout history, women often are portrayed as the weaker sex. As a result of this assumption, women try to disassociate themselves from this custom and be more independent with their lives. One of John Steinbeck’s most accomplished short stories, “The Chrysanthemums,” a story which concerns a married couple and examines Elisa’s dissatisfaction with her life. The story takes place in the Salinas Valley of California in December at Henry Allen’s ranch in the foothills. Elisa is a woman whose life is narrow, unexciting and limited in what she can become by geography and opportunity. She is feeling trapped in a life of servitude and is suppressing a yearning for more. Therefore,