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The Chrysanthemums. Essay

922 words - 4 pages

During the history of mankind, women have been often regarded as inferior to men. Consequently, many women have audaciously strived to liberate themselves from this long-standing prejudice, and highlighted the female ideal of independence. John Steinbeck's short story, "The Chrysanthemums" reflects the struggles of a stereotyped woman of the time, Elisa Allen to find her own identity in the oppressive world of men.First, Elisa is isolated and constrained in a masculine world. The description of the Salinas Valley has close relation with the lonely thirty-five-year-old woman's life. Despite its beauty, this place looks like a prison in which one can be trapped: "The high grey-flannel fog of winter ...sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot" with "pale cold sunshine." The valley can be considered a metaphor for Elisa's existence. Feeling cut off from "the rest of the world," she seems to know how the remaining part of her life is going to be, and she is not happy being so limited in choices. Elisa lives in a male-dominated world with many abilities hidden under her "man's black hat," "clodhopper shoes," and "a big corduroy apron" she wears to garden. When her husband says she should "work out in the orchard and raise some apple that big, "she confirms immediately, "I've a gift with things." Moreover, the fact that Elisa is childless suggests that she needs more fulfillments in her life. She wishes to take care of someone, and since she has no one other than Henry, who does not seem much of help for her, she transfers these maternal instincts to her flowers. The chrysanthemums Elisa grows every year are the key symbol of her secret: they are an integral part of her. The success of her chrysanthemums is a contrast to her inability to have a child, and her lack of communication and passion with her husband - Henry is more "practical, with greater involvement in physical concern" and fails to think highly of his wife as well as what she treasures. However, there is a wire fence encircling her flowers. It is a symbol of the real life boundary that Elisa is not allowed to cross. She must maintain her position of being a domesticated woman with all the traditional standards. Her potential is limited by her circumstances and her stereotypical role as a woman. She senses an important part of her is dying.Second, Elisa represents the feminine ideal of equality of the time and its inevitable defeat. Elisa's meeting with the tinker changes her point of view about the kind of life she wants to experience. At first, Elisa is quite annoyed by his presence. But when he shows a slight interest...

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