The Chrysanthemums By John Steinbeck

982 Words4 Pages
“The Chrysanthemums” is a short story written by John Steinbeck. The story was originally published in 1937 before later being released as a part of his The Long Valley collection. This is an important story as it expresses women in a way that is more realistic, showing their true boredom, ambition, and capabilities. Some scholars interpreted this story differently, but C. Kenneth Pellow interprets it as “radically feministic.” The Great Depression was finally ending and women’s rights were rising in importance when this work was published. I believe strongly that Steinbeck 's main purpose for this story was to illustrate feminism.
The story begins describing Salinas Valley, covered by a thick layer of fog. Then the focus shifts to Elisa,
…show more content…
Though there is sunshine nearby, the light cannot penetrate the heavy fog that covers the land. This claustrophobic setting gives the audience a hint of the way Elisa must feel on the inside. She is confined to her house and her garden, she rarely leaves the premises of their property. Conversely, the life of the tinker is free and ever changing. As we learn about his life on the road, Elisa speaks simply that she wishes “women could do such things.” Elisa yearns for freedom and adventure, and is only held back from her full potential based off of which gender she happened to be.
Consequently, Steinbeck uses clothing to note the transmogrification of Elisa. From an androgynous gardener, who wears heavy and blocky clothing, to a beautiful young woman wearing a dress that was “the symbol of her prettiness.” Elisa’s masculine gardening clothes is an example her nonsexual existence. After talking to the man, however, Elisa is both intellectually and sexually stimulated. While she talks to the man you can recognize her femininity beginning to blossom, as she removes her clunky gardening gloves, and later her hat to reveal her hair. She chooses her fanciest undergarments, a dress, and makeup to reveal her new sexually driven persona. Finally, she pulls up her coat collar to hide her tears, showing her regression as she chooses to once again hide her body away from the world.
Nevertheless, one of the most important symbols in this work is the chrysanthemums
Get Access