Symbolism in Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums".
Extracts from this essay...
Symbolism in Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" "The Chrysanthemums" is one of the short stories of the famous American writer John Steinbeck.. Symbols are an essential part of the great short story, because they give the reader more to think about. In this essay, I would like to focus on the usage of symbols in this short story The short story is opened by the description of the landscape in which the farm of Henry Allen is situated. I would like to write a few sentences about the setting of the story, because from my point of view it helps to create the character of Elisa Allen. Allen's farmhouse is situated in Salinas Valley, near San Jose. The valley is described as closed off from the sky and from the rest of the world. It is December and there is no sunshine, but a fog. ...On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made the great valley a closed pot... This description gives us the picture of a sad atmosphere of the valley. Everyone who lives there must have the feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. In the second paragraph the narrator continues: It was a time of quiet and waiting...The life in the farm is very hard, but in this season there is not much to do.
And I can beat the dents out of little pots. I could show you what a woman might do." From these sentences we realize that men's and women's worlds were completely different in that time. These different worlds are described in the beginning of the short story as well. Elisa Allen, working in her flower garden...They smoked cigarettes and studied the machines as they talked...Elisa - flower versus men - cigarettes and machines. However, women's world is not enough for Elisa. From my point of view, Elisa Allen pays so much attention to the flowers because she is neglected by her husband. Elisa does not feel herself to be appreciated by her husband and so she takes care of her chrysanthemums, symbols of how beautiful she really is. Her gardening area is her own world where she can protect herself from anything harmful. Knowing that her husband does not show the interest in her chrysanthemums gives her the thought that he does not have interest in her. Important part of the story is the one in which the mender arrives. Henry Allen is gone for the cattle when the mysterious man on the junky wagon appears. First, Elisa is not interested in him and she is a bit angry because she does not need anything to be repaired. "I'm sorry," Elisa said irritably. "I haven't anything for you to do."...
She knew. She tried not to look as they passed it, but her eyes would not obey... From these sentences it seems that Elisa expected finding the seeds. Now Elisa knows that she was abused by the stranger. In a moment it was over. The thing was done. She did not look back..."Now you're changed again," Henry complained. He took one hand from the wheel and patted her knee. Elisa becomes the woman she was before and Henry is satisfied with her change. That last sentence of this short story is: She turned up her coat collar so he should not see that she was crying weakly - like an old woman. Elisa has lost her confidence and her self-esteem to keep her head high. She becomes again a typical woman of that time. The woman who takes care of her husband and her house, the woman who is dependent. To sum up, I would like to say that the symbols are the essential part of this short story. "The Chrysanthemums" is about the internal problems and desires of Elisa Allen. Elisa's passion in growing chrysanthemums reflects her inner world. Her desires do not match the archetype of woman of that time. Elisa tries to follow her desires, but after a while she knows that it is not possible. She knows that she must live as she was used to. It is the story of the independent woman in patriarchal society.
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