“The Chrysanthemums” Essay

“The Chrysanthemums” Essay

1. Introduction
In John Steinbeck’s short story “The Chrysanthemums” the fighting for equal rights are depicted though the character of the Elisa Allen. Women are generally considered to be the weaker sex and men’s subordinates. I say that without any grain of approval or disapproval- it is just the way things happen in our world. There is an opinion that women and men are not socially equal, as men usually work and earn money, and women take care of the house and children, but it is unfair to think so. The equality of two sexes is not in what people do, but in how they feel in doing what they choose to do. And women are often trying to destroy stereotypes that they are the weak sex by doing hard men’s job and trying to become more independent in their decisions and judgments. They are not trying to understand themselves and to find their own identities, but just to do what the society does not expect them to do. So, in “The Chrysanthemums” John Steinbeck talks about Elisa character, her endless energy, inner potential and her frustration with her present life and how the author implies symbolism to reveal those traits of character.

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2. Elisa and Her Chrysanthemums
Elisa Allen in John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” seems to be dissatisfied with her life and marriage. She is isolated from the whole world in her house, where she lives with her husband Henry and dogs, and isolated from her true feelings. There is an impression that she understands that something is wrong with her life, but she is simply unable to identify the source of her dissatisfaction. She is very energetic, and is ready for more that remote life and working in the garden. She is not satisfied and wants more; she doesn’t ask herself whether she is happy, and if not, she is not thinking about changing something.

However, gardening was the thing she really enjoyed, and the thing that brought her inspiration. Her real passion was chrysanthemums. The meaning and symbolism of chrysanthemums varies from country to country- in some they symbolize death and lamentation, in others are symbol of honesty. But I think that for Elisa, chrysanthemums were the thing to care, like about children, which she never had. She loves and cares chrysanthemums; she protects them from the environment, as any good mother would protect her children from harmful outside influence.  Elisa is happy to have the possibility to nurture those flowers, and she is very proud when her husbands compliments her flowers, however he equally says that he hopes she had raised apples which would be as good as flowers. And that very note makes Elisa upset, as she understands that her husband doesn’t realize her needs. She is just thirty-five years old and she needs more passion and romance in her life.

She wants that her husband admired her more like a woman, and not just treated her warmly as the partner and friend. To this extent, chrysanthemums can be the Elisa’s real nature, the sexually attractive woman, who knows what she wants from life. Chrysanthemums are the symbol of her femininity. And there is a conflict between her femininity and her husband’s attitude. But it is not solely her husband fault that he treats her like that, as she equally cannot tell him and point out what she wants their relationship look like. And may be if she could tell him, everything would change. As she is silent, and Henry thinks that she is absolutely happy, and Elisa thinks that he simply doesn’t care. Elisa is thinking too much instead of trying to talk and to know what feels her husband in reality. She is living in the illusion, wanting something and waiting for something she even cannot express.

The arrival of the tinker renews Elisa’s feelings and freshens her experiences. “…he was a very big man. Although his hair and beard were graying, he did not look old. His worn black suit was wrinkled and spotted with grease…His eyes were dark, and they were full of the brooding that gets in the eyes of teamsters and of sailors”. At once she shows no interest in tinker and in the services he provides. They are talking about life and she rejects all the propositions to repair something.

After tinker understood that his strategy doesn’t work, he decided to admire Elisa’s chrysanthemums and say that he knows someone who is interested in chrysanthemums. It was the right choice, as “Elisa’s eyes grew alert and eager”. Tinker by showing interest to chrysanthemums figuratively showed interest to her, to her femininity and sexuality. For tinker, it was the right marketing step to sell his services and get the pot, as being probably the good psychologist; he understood how to appeal to the women and how to make her change her mind. Tinker gave Elisa what she needed- admiration with her passion. It was the key to her soul. It was very important to Elisa to know that someone also may be interested in her passion for gardening, and therefore she may be interesting to the world.

Tinker gave her the thought that she can do more in her life and play the greater role in society. And Elisa even became attracted to that man and his style of life and even seems that she is willing to leave everything- her house, and garden and husband and to change her way of life. She would like to have the liberating life style and go from city to city mending things, but the big question is whether it would make her happier. But the fact is that the tinker profited from her emotionally instable state and earned 50 cents and a red pot. Red pot with flowers seems to be symbolic as well, as Elisa shared the part of her sole with tinker, as she hoped that someone really needs her flowers and her. Elisa said to tinker that she could also do the same things as he did, by a sort of proposing herself, but she is being rejected with the phrase: “It ain’t the right kind of life for the woman”. The very vivid sign that tinker was not interested in flowers is reflected in the moment when Elisa asks him “to keep the sand damp” and he relied: “Sand, ma’am?…Sand? Oh sure. You mean around chrysanthemums. Sure I will”. It simply meant that as soon as he received his 50 cents and the pot, he totally forgotten about the main issue that was important to Elisa- chrysanthemums.

After the man on the truck leaves, Elisa feels herself an absolutely renewed kind of woman. She experienced awakening of her sexuality, as she felt that she might be interesting to others. She rushed to take the bath: “In he bathroom she tore off her soiled clothes and flung them into the corner…she scrubbed herself with a little block of pumice, legs and thighs, loins and chest and arms, until her skin was scratched and red”. Like a lizard, she wanted to get rid of her long tail of past and to renew the skin for light and happy future. She was looking at herself in the mirror and she enjoyed what she saw. When she got dressed, she wanted that her husband noticed the change that happened with her, but for Henry she was all the same. And even though Henry was rather clumsy in expressing his feelings and attitudes, he still cared of Elisa: “I’ll get out the car. You can put on your coat while I’m starting”.

When Elisa saw the flowers that were just thrown away on the road, she understood that her fairy-tale is over. She felt rejected, deceived and emotionally deflated. At that very moment she realized that the only thing that tinker perceived was the pots, and everything that happened to her was the big illusion. It is always hard and painful to get disillusioned.

3. Conclusion
In the conclusion I would like to summarize that the main problem of Elisa is that she was not knowing exactly was she was looking for. She was feeling dissatisfaction with her life, but was not looking for the roots of that dissatisfaction. And even though tinker made her feel sexually attractive and gave her the possibility to feel that her flowers are needed and could impact to the society, in the long run, when she got disillusioned, it hurt her even more, as she was left again face to face with herself. Elisa’s energetic character appears to be incompatible with the environment she was living in, but she accepts it along with her future.

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