Symbolism In John Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums'

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John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” is a great short story filled with symbols. “Symbolism is the art or practice of using symbols especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations: such as an artistic imitation or invention that is a method of revealing or suggesting immaterial, ideal, or otherwise intangible truth or states” (Symbolism, n.d.). Steinbeck used symbolism throughout this work to create emotions and meanings. “The Chrysanthemums” takes place in Salina’s Valley during the winter month of December 1938. This story is focused on the relationship between Elisa Allen and her husband, Henry Allen. As the story opens, Elisa is on her husband’s ranch pridefully cutting down chrysanthemums in the garden. Her husband comes to praise her on how well she works with the flowers as she congratulates him on selling “thirty head of three-year-old steers” (pg. 359). Henry then asks her to head into town for dinner and a movie, which Elisa agrees. They seem to be a couple made well for each other by the positive conversation they briefly had. Henry goes off to finish some work and Elisa decides to finish taking care of her chrysanthemums when she hears squeaky wheels and hoofs on the road ahead. It is an unknown man who drives a wagon with the painted words on it “Pots, pans, knives, sisors, lawn mores. Fixed” (pg. 359). The man was looking for some work from Elisa who says
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