The Chrysanthemums John Steinbeck Essay examples

Submitted By courttroark
Words: 1013
Pages: 5

In the year of 1938, women lived in a man’s world, they were treated unequally compared to men. The responsibilities that women had were plain and simple: get married, take care of the house, cook the meals, care for your husband, and have children. Doing anything besides these jobs was outrageous and should never even be considered. In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums,” as a woman who portrays her wishes through her “planters’ hands” (282), Elisa Allen is stuck in a time when her biggest responsibility was to take care of her home and her husband, when all that she desires is to be able to live on her own and be free. To Elisa, home feels more like a prison, and she has been sentenced for life. The opening of this story refers to Elisa’s hometown: “The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot,” (281). This quotation shows that, for Elisa, there is no escaping of this boiling pot that she wishes she did not have to call home. It is very clear that Elisa goes day to day doing the same boring routine. As her husband, Henry, approaches her in the garden, he says, “At it again” (282), which shows just how often Elisa spends her time in her garden, tending to her flowers. It is quite simple to get tired of doing the same thing every day, every week, and every month of every year, which is the exact reason as to why Elisa feels so stuck and unable to escape her home. While Elisa is working in her garden, a tinker shows up, and this man acts as a light of hope to Elisa in the cruel world that she lives in. The tinker lives a life that Elisa could only dream of. “I go from Seattle to San Diego and back every year. Takes all my time. About six months each way,” (284). This is something that automatically forms a jealousy within Elisa: “It must be very nice. I wish women could do such things,” (286). This just goes to show how much Elisa would like to be free from her society and be able to live out on the open road, like a man is able to do. The tinker proves how underappreciated Elisa truly is when he tells her that the lifestyle he leads is unfit for a woman. Solely due to the fact that Elisa is a woman living in the 1930’s, her beautiful spirit and passion are ignored by the tinker, but that does not mean that Elisa’s light of hope is put out quite yet. Throughout the story, Elisa’s beautiful chrysanthemums are one of the main focuses, hence the title of Steinbeck’s writing. These chrysanthemums that Elisa has raised from nothing, are simply a symbol of Elisa herself. Her flowers portray the image that Elisa sees as herself, strong, beautiful, but also underappreciated. When Henry approaches Elisa in her garden, he tells her, “You’ve got a gift with things. Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across. I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big, (282). Henry believes Elisa’s flowers to be strong and beautiful, but it is very obvious that he does not appreciate them when he asks Elisa to work in the orchard rather than on her flowers. Until the tinker comes along, Elis is the only one who appreciates her chrysanthemums. Although he is only using Elisa, his fake interest in the flowers keep her going. Upon the realization that the tinker only wanted Elisa’s flowers for the pot, it is shown that the flowers and Elisa are almost treated exactly the same; they were both used. The chrysanthemums were used by the tinker as a