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The Chrysanthemums

senior short story
by

Patricia Eeckhout

on 22 July 2009

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Transcript of The Chrysanthemums

The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck BORN 1902—DIED 1968 HIS BEST KNOWN NOVEL IS THE GRAPES OF WRATH
THE CENTRAL THEME OF HIS WRITINGS IS THE QUIET DIGNITY HE SAW IN THE POOR AND THE OPPRESSED HIS CHARACTERS ARE TRAPPED IN AN UNFAIR WORLD.
SETTING AND CHARACTERS THE SETTING OF THIS STORY IS SALINAS, CA.
THE CHARACTERS ARE HAPPY TO BE MAKING A DECENT LIVING BUT THEY SENSE THERE MAY BE SOMETHING MORE TO LIFE.
ELISA HAS THE TRADITIONAL ROLE OF A WOMAN’S PLACE. SHE DISPLAYS NO PARTICULAR STRENGTH, BUT WE LEARN THAT SHE IS A SENSITIVE, LOVELY WOMAN WHO LOVES HER FLOWER GARDEN.
STEINBECK’S QUESTION TO THE READERS OF THIS STORY IS…SHOULD A PERSON SETTLE FOR SECURITY AND A LACK OF PAIN OR SHOULD HE OR SHE RISK HIS OR HER DREAMS IN AN ATTEMPT TO LIVE MORE COMPLETELY AND INTENSELY. THE STORY SUGGESTS THAT THE RISKS ARE HIGH AND A PERSON COULD GET HURT. ELISA ALLEN IS GRATEFUL FOR HER HUSBAND. HE IS KIND AND A VERY HARD WORKER, BUT THE STRANGER GIVES HER THE ATTENDING WHICH HAS BEEN MISSING OUT OF HER LIFE. THE PARADOX IS THAT THE STRANGER HAS MANIPULATED HER EMOTIONS TO FULFIL HIS OWN NEEDS—OF MONEY—HE HAS NO CONCERN FOR HER. STYLE AND TECHNIQUE ELISA’S SELF WORTH IS TIED TO THE LAND AND CONNECTED TO ELISA’S PSYCHIC STATE.
ELISA IS EARTH BOUND—ROOTED TO HER GARDEN BUT ALSO HELD DOWN BY IT.
THE STRANGER IN CONTRAST IS NOT BOUND BY ANYTHING—HE HAS A FREEDOM TO ROAM THE COUNTRY THE CONTRAST IS FROM ELISA AND HER GARDEN TO THE WORLD BEYOND.

SYMBOLISM   Henry Allen is the husband who is a hard working cattle farmer and does not give his wife a lot of attention.    Elise Allen is his wife who is a strong woman and receives very little romantic attention from her husband.  Her frustration deepens because she is childless and feels the need to mother. Her outlet is her flower garden.  The chrysanthemums are a symbol which represent her tender, inner self.  The flowers symbolize her children, and she loves and cares and protects them.     Elisa becomes interested in the “junk man” because he shows interest in her chrysanthemums ( in order to persuade her to find something for her to fix)    With the junk man’s comments about her chrysanthemums, she feels appreciated and attracted to him.    In their exchange she gives the man a potted chrysanthemum—which is a part of herself.  She now has confidence in her womanhood and she transforms from a gardener to a model.   The stranger’s interest in her chrysanthemums gives her personal confidence to grow and blossom in herself. The last critical scene is when Elisa sees her precious chrysanthemums on the ground minus the pot they were in.    She was fooled into giving a part of herself to a stranger only to find that part of her, her precious flowers, is discarded.      As she begins to cry she reverts back to her old self as she loses her self confidence.
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