Sexuality in John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums Essay

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Sexuality in Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums Reading over this excellent story once more, I am again filled with the same emotion (if it can be called that) that I experienced when first reading it. Steinbeck planned for that. In a letter to George Albee in 1933, Steinbeck comments on this story and his interest in Albee's opinion of it. "...It is entirely different and is designed to strike without the reader's knowledge. I mean he reads it casually and after it is finished feels that something profound has happened to him although he does not know what nor how." I knew after reading this, that Steinbeck is truly a marvel. It is one thing to have enough luck to leave your reader's with…show more content…
He doesn't quite catch onto the eroticism of the story, and in stead, chooses to focus on the more crude innuendoes. "...The chrysanthemum stalks seem to be phallic symbols, and Eliza's "over-eager" snipping of them suggests castration. Then in the "rooting" bed, Eliza herself becomes masculine, inserting the "little crisp shoots" into open, receptive furrows" (Hughes 235). He goes on explaining how the shoots became Eliza's children and how she communicates with the tinker on how to care for them. This makes perfect sense, but Eliza seems more concerned with the loss of her own life. For too long, the chrysanthemums have served in place of children. She is looking into reclaiming her own life, not finding another electric connection to live her life through. Hughes seems to ignore this, because all women by nature want to procreate and have children, right? The androgyny of Eliza's character, however, would suggest otherwise. She isn't as pulled by that biological need as Hughes would suggest. Elizabeth E. McMahan is strong in saying that although people will agree that "The Chrysanthemums" is a story of a woman's frustration, no one can adequately explain why. McMahan attributes the frustration to her unhappiness with her marriage. She explains that although she and Henry have a relationship of "mutual respect," he has no gift
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