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Character Analysis Of "The Chrysanthemums".

1026 words - 4 pages

John Steinbeck's short story, "The Chrysanthemums," revolves around the protagonist, Elisa. She lives on a ranch with her husband in a very isolated part of the country. Yearning for a more fulfilling life, Elisa falls prey to momentary attractions and ends up being crushed for her efforts. Through her actions and the environment that surrounds her, the reader is given an accurate portrayal of Elisa's many character traits. However, Elisa's most profound traits are her loneliness, her sexual repression, and her role and desire as a nurturer. Throughout the story, the author provides a very accurate view of these attributes.The story begins by introducing the setting: "The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and the rest of the world" (1269). This vivid illustration unconsciously gives the reader a look into the dominating theme-Elisa's loneliness. However, it is not until the climax of the story that the reader begins to notice Elisa's true pain and need for her own self-identity. The fog "sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot"(1269). Elisa has no place to go from her current position. She is confined to her garden and isolated from all that is outside this "closed pot" (1269). Moreover, the fog, like a closed society, keeps things in step and restrained. These borders dominate her and her actions throughout the story.Another piece of the setting which plays an equally important role is the fence that surrounds Elisa's garden. It is a reoccurring symbol that represents the barriers that separate Elisa's garden from her husband and the rest of the world: "he [Henry] leaned over the wire fence that protected her flower garden from cattle and dogs and chickens" (1270). Henry always approaches the fence calmly and carefully never wanting to disrupt her wife's universe. She is isolated from the real world, from the man's world. Also, like the fences, the narrow paths and ordered rows of her garden, are the symbols of society which demands from her to stop thinking, follow the paths, and don`t go outside of the boundaries. Because of her feeling of loneliness and overall oppression, she is bound and restricted to the only world she knows-her garden. Elisa Allen and her repressed sexuality are introduced to the readers through a manly appearance with a small clue of a womanly figure making an effort to peer through. This suppressed sexuality will eventually symbolically emerge. Elisa's symbolic clothing shows her concealed passions. "Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume" (1269). Elisa tries to subdue her sexual desires by hiding beneath manly clothing, tools, and even her home. "She wore a man's black hat, clod-hopper shoes...[and] heavy leather gloves" (1269). She carried " short and powerful scissors and her house was "hard-swept and hard-polished" (1269). Although she had a manly appearance, she was still doing the woman's job of tending a flower...

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