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John Steinbeck "The Chysanthemums" Essay

957 words - 4 pages

Michael Banks

Michael Banks

18 November, 2010

English 1102

Mrs. Sullivan

The Chrysanthemums

Throughout history, women have often been portrayed as the "weaker sex". As a result, women have tried hard to dissociate from common stereotypes about ones' sexual identity and develop into an independent woman throughout her own life. Many writers have addresses the issue in his or her novels or short stories. John Steinbeck's short story, "The Chrysanthemums," describes a short story in which revolves around the protagonist Elisa Allen. Elisa's frustration with her sense of isolation from the world, her hidden desires to express herself as a woman, to explore her sexuality and to live a fuller more passionate life provides a very accurate view of attributes that sets the theme for Steinbeck's short story.

In the short story, the chrysanthemums and other symbols tell the reader a great deal about Elisa's struggle to find her own identity. The reader may feel as if she is completely out of touch with her sexuality. Her appearance early on in the story is that of a manly man yet still has a feminine side: "Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume." She wore "a man's black hat, clod-hopper shoes and heavy leather gloves". She was also wearing "A figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron with four big pockets to hold the snips, the trowel and scratcher, the seeds and the knife she worked with (Steinbeck 348)." This image represents her sexuality. The manly gloves that she wore to protect her hands show that she still wants her feminine side yet long for the adventure a man's life contains. However, clothing was not the only symbol of sexual repression in "The Chrysanthemums."

Despite Steinbeck's use of the clothes as symbolic, Elisa still does her "female" job of tending the flower garden. Her chrysanthemums meant a great deal to her and represent her children; which she took great care of, like a mother. The reader sense this when Elisa talks about the chrysanthemums so passionately with the tinker. For example, the tinker explained "You say they're nice ones?" "Beautiful," she said. "Oh, beautiful (350)." However "the chrysanthemums stems seemed to small and easy for her energy (348)." Steinbeck symbolic scene makes it clear to the reader of Elisa's true pain, her wants for more in life and less of her daily task of nurturing the garden.

The tinker plays an important figure in the story and represents the kind of life Elisa...

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