Essay on Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

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Symbolism in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

"A symbol is an act, person, thing, or spectacle that stands for something else, by association a usually broader idea in addition to its own literal meaning" (Cassill & Bausch, 1728). John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" may seem as a story describing a simple day with the Allen couple. It begins with Elisa Allen working in her garden and her husband, Henry Allen, negotiating with two suited business men that want to purchase steers. They seem to engage in conversations and go about their day as they normally would do. By the time the story ends, they are on their way to dinner and a movie. At first glance, this story may seem as nothing special, just a day in the life of fairly …show more content…

This description of the Salina Valley is closely related to her character. Elisa's isolation and constraint is represented by the description of the valley. Elisa feels cut off from the rest of the world; she has no independence, and lives in a male dominated society. The valley being described as a, "closed pot" can also be considered a metaphor for Elisa's existence, she knows how the rest of her life is going to be, and she is not happy knowing that she is so limited in choices.

Elisa lives in a masculine world with countless qualities hidden under her man's hat, clodhopper shoes, and a big corduroy apron she wears to garden. One of the reasons that Elisa may feel more restricted is because of the fact that she does not have any children to distract her, therefore spends the majority of the time contemplating about her life. This gives a slight indication that they might not be able to have children. During the period of time that this story was written, it was very unlikely for a married woman, especially at the age of thirty-five, not to have children. The fact that Elisa is childless makes it even more evident that she seems to need more fulfillments in her life. The importance of Elisa's gardening abilities is that she wishes to take care of someone, and since she has no one other that Henry, which does not seem much of help for her, she transfers these maternal instincts onto her flowers. As one can see already, the Chrysanthemums that Elisa

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