Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck Essay

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Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck


"The Chrysanthemums", one of John Steinbeck's masterpieces, describes a lonely farmer's wife, Elisa Allen. Elisa Allen's physical appearance is very mannish yet still allows a hint of a feminine side to peek through. John Steinbeck brings symbolism into play to represent Elisa Allen's frustrations and hidden passions. Isolation is another representation through symbolism found in "The Chrysanthemums." Elisa's failing detached marriage is represented through two symbols. The two reoccurring symbols are the chrysanthemums and fences. John Steinbeck draws pity from the reader for Elisa Allen who desperately wishes to experience the passions of a fulfilling marriage and the stimulation of
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" A figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron with four big pockets (Steinbeck 1463)." Steinbeck, by allowing the dress to be seen, is showing the readers Elisa passion that long to be unbridled. The manly gloves that she wore to protect her hands show that she still wants to be a women yet long for the adventure a man's life contains. Clothing was not the only symbol of repression in John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums."
There are many symbolic references to Elisa Allen as a sexually repressed and frustrated woman. One representation of the chrysanthemum is Elisa's passion and eagerness to live and experience life a content woman. While tending her chrysanthemums "she pulled out the crisp little roots and trimmed of the leaves of each one with her scissors (Steinbeck 1464)." This is a symbolism of Elisa Allen closing off all opportunities to grow as a sexual woman; She has resigned herself to the monotonous life as a complacent farmer's wife (Lee 1). The "figured print dress (Steinbeck 1463)" under the apron shows the readers that Elisa is aware of her sexuality but instead of acting on it has chosen to subdue it. She keeps her sexuality and passions under control like she cares for her chrysanthemums "laid [in a] small [and] orderly pile (Steinbeck 1464)" (Lee 1). Elisa begins to allow this sexuality to emerge when the traveling tinker romantically describes her…