Chrysanthemums And The Yellow Mule: A Literary Analysis

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Everyone, at some point in their life, has encountered the injustices of stereotypes. Those suffocating labels that society places on individuals can dampen spirits and destroy dreams. John Steinbeck and Zora Neale Hurston explore the effects of such stereotypes in their poignant stories “The Chrysanthemums” and “The Yellow Mule,” respectively. Both main characters find themselves trapped in a box deemed appropriate for women. Steinbeck’s Elisa invests herself in her garden taking care of her beloved plants. She carries a distant dream, however, to be able to travel the world and live in a wagon like the salesman she meets. Their encounter enlivens Elisa as she delights in the stranger’s interest in her flowers. Hurston’s Janie has a grimmer reality as an African-American woman trying to achieve her hopes and dreams in a male-dominant town. Her frustration is streamlined through the pity she takes on the town’s mule. She…show more content…
In “The Chrysanthemums” Elisa’s husband comments, “‘I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big.’ Elisa then replies, ‘Maybe I could do it, too. I’ve a gift with things’” (Steinbeck 1238). This subtle jab at the worthlessness her husband presumes upon Elisa’s hobby highlights the insensitivity he shows toward her growing ambitions. “The Yellow Mule” paints a similar picture in the beginning when the narrator describes, “Janie loved the conversation and sometimes she thought up good stories on the mule, but Joe had forbidden her to indulge” (Hurston 1231). This establishes the lording nature Janie’s husband possesses and the acute isolation that the woman is placed in. In both stories the husbands are domineering, patriarchal characters, although it comes more out of ignorance and self-absorption than intentional cruelty. They treat their wives as inferior beings, confining them to a simple and monotonous

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