'Gender Roles In John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums'

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In John Steinbeck's short story "The Chrysanthemums," the setting plays a significant role in conveying the protagonist Elisa's emotional and psychological state. Specifically, her gardening costume, which includes a man's black hat, clod-hopper shoes, a big corduroy apron, and heavy leather gloves, serves as a symbol of her desire to hide her femininity and present herself in a more masculine manner.
As Steinbeck describes, Elisa's choice of clothing suggests that she is deliberately masking her femininity and presenting herself in a more masculine way. The man's black hat pulled low down over her eyes and the heavy leather gloves protect her from the sun and soil but also obscure her face and hands, which are often considered traditionally …show more content…

This could be interpreted as a reflection of the limited opportunities available to women during the time period in which the story is set, as well as the societal expectations placed upon them. Women during this era were expected to prioritize domestic tasks and raise children, while men were seen as the primary providers and decision-makers.
By dressing in masculine clothing and engaging in outdoor manual labor, Elisa may be trying to assert her independence and challenge traditional gender roles. The heavy leather gloves that she wears while working also serve as a symbol of protection, both from the physical elements of her work and from the emotional vulnerability that comes with being a woman in a patriarchal society.
However, while Elisa may feel empowered by her ability to cultivate a beautiful garden, her sense of fulfillment is ultimately fleeting. When a stranger arrives and expresses an interest in the chrysanthemums that Elisa has carefully nurtured, she becomes invested in the possibility of sharing her passion with someone else. This desire for connection and recognition highlights the loneliness and isolation that she experiences as a woman who is unable to fulfill her

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