Our World Today…Back Then
Elisa Allen is portrayed as a middle class, smart, green thumb type of lady. The story opens up on a cool winter morning in Salinas Valley, California in 1930. The vivid description of Salinas Valley portrays an area of isolation, dullness, and of being trapped. Soon thereafter, Henry is seen telling her what they will be doing in the evening. This controlling characteristic of Henry is used often throughout “The Chrysanthemums.” Elisa is somewhat portrayed as an object, as she is being used left and right. In John Steinbeck’s story one can see the passion of Elisa Allen slowly being taken from her; by feelings of being controlled, being free, and most of all the feeling and knowledge of manipulation.
The Tinker shows Elisa how she can escape Henry’s control, but at the same time tells her that she could not handle that life. Elisa admires the Tinker’s life; how wonderful it must be to live like that, and how she only wishes women could have that life. Then most directly the Tinker exclaims, “It ain’t the right kind of life for a woman” (Steinbeck, 302). Keeping in mind in the 1930’s women were expected to stay home and tend to the home, make dinner, and bare children. This statement offends Elisa. She is immediately pictured being angered and getting testy with the Tinker. Then just as any manipulative person would do, he changes the subject and begins to collect his money from a now timid Elisa. During the Tinkers visit Elisa is taken on an emotional rollercoaster. She goes from a solid, confident, no; when the Tinker continues to ask for work, to the Tinker really hitting home with her when he switches their focus to her flowers. The Tinker finagled his plot so he could become closer to Elisa. Finally, when he asks for some work again she caves in and gives it to him.
The Tinker is the core of Elisa being upset with herself; she thought about leaving Henry in the first place, and how life could be better. When the Tinker talked about his life he made it sound as if it was a dream life, but occasionally he had to scavenger for food. He would talk about seeing the country and his regular customers. This made her begin to think about how wonderful her life could be, how much better her life could be! She seems to almost knowingly put herself down when she says, “I wish women could do such things” (Steinbeck, 302). Elisa is saying in a roundabout way that she knows she’s an object, a tool, and controlled; although she wishes she was free. She goes as far as telling the Tinker he might have some competition down the road; that she can do everything he just did. With an offended attitude the Tinker shoves his box out of sight and immediately goes on his way. Still trusting, Elisa shouts to him to keep the sand for the flowers damp. After saying good-bye,...