Essay on John Steinbeck’s Short Story, The Chrysanthemums

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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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