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The Chrysanthemums Essay

1669 words - 7 pages

John Steinbeck’s, The Chrysanthemums, was published in 1938 in a book of short stories, entitled The Long Valley. The Chrysanthemums has been a rather powerful draw for scholars because of its wide gap for interpretations and analysis of its main protagonist character, Elisa Allen and also the unique descriptions used to portray the deeper meaning behind the setting of the story. Themes of sexuality, oppression of women, as well as other numerous types of conflict portrayed in this rather somber short story have made it a popular study among scholars and students alike. Steinbeck also uses literary elements including a dramatic tone, rich symbolism, and personification which increase the stories feeling and value exponentially. Steinbeck was critically acclaimed for his portrayal of the “common man” through his ability to illustrate in a “realistic style rich with symbolism,” the essence of life in the 1930’s (Price, Victoria).
The setting of the story is unique because it has a direct connection with the author; Salinas California is Steinbeck’s birthplace (Millichap, Joseph R). Herein lays the stories first embodiment of dramatic tone as well as the description of the characters; which sets the stage for symbolism, personification, and dramatic tone for the rest of the story. The description of the setting is unique and important because of its symbolic representations of the conflict between the characters and also the interpersonal conflict of Elisa. The story opens with a panoramic view of the Salinas Valley, in winter, shrouded in fog. The Valley which is being, “closed off” from the rest of the world, is a symbolic representation for the way Elisa feels about her life. However, the weather in the valley is awaiting change- “It was a time of quiet and of waiting;” just as a moment in Elisa’s life is about to spark change (Ditsky, John). In conjunction with the symbolic representation of Elisa’s life, the dramatic description of the environment can also be seen as a unique representation of the relationship conflict between husband and wife. Steinbeck’s foggy description demonstrates conflict through the following statement, "a time of quiet and waiting." This description is interesting because the fields are personified as waiting for rain, however, “rain and fog do not go together” therein lies the conflict just as Elisa waits for a positive change in how her husband treats her (Palmerino, Gregory J). Gregory P. further points out that, “The natural elements of the foothills ranch seem as unwilling to confront each other as the characters that inhabit its environs. Hence, fog and rain can be seen as the female and male equivalents to Elisa and Henry.” This only further solidifies the deep rooted troubles within Elisa and her relationship with her husband. The setting of the story is personified to act as a symbolic representation of the couple’s relationship (Steinbeck, John 337-338).
The story concerns the unhappy marriage, which...

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