How Does Steinbeck Use Symbols In The Chrysanthemums

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In the short story “The Chrysanthemums” John Steinbeck shows how a woman, Elisa Allen, is emotionally disappointed with her life. Elisa feels that her husband does not appreciate her womanly needs and not having children makes her feel that she has an unfulfilling life. Elisa finds a way to clear her thoughts on her life by tending her flower garden and creating beautiful chrysanthemums. The use of symbolism is used throughout the John Steinbeck's short story “ The Chrysanthemums” with the flowers and the Salinas Valley. Steinbeck uses symbolism to show how Elisa Allen feels with her emotional needs as a women.
The chrysanthemums are a symbol of Elisa Allen's children, which she does not have. The reader gets a sense that the flowers …show more content…

When Steinbeck first gives an image of Elisa with her chrysanthemums as a mother it is clearly a feminine image, but the house gave a more masculine look with a “ hard-swept looking little house with hard-polished windows ” (Steinbeck 228 ). This statement represent the relationship between Elisa and Henry, her husband. Henry does not notice her femininity, because he is always working on the farm with the cattle, which makes Elisa feel hostile against him. Their poor harmony towards each other make them dissatisfied with each other. For example when Henry makes a comment towards her chrysanthemums he says that “ I wish you'd work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big ” ( Steinbeck 228 ). This gives Elisa a weak and sensitive feeling towards the tinker because Henry was unable to fathom her womanly emotional needs. Once the Elisa meets the tinker her sexuality and womanly qualities appears to be reawaken as a woman. The tinker points out her chrysanthemums in a romantic manner by saying “ Kind of a long-stemmed flower? Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke? ” (Steinbeck 230). When the tinker praises the flowers, he metaphorically admires Elisa. With the chrysanthemums symbolizing her sexuality she began to tear “off the battered hat and shook out her dark pretty hair” (Steinbeck 231). Elisa gives the tinker chrysanthemums in a flower which is symbolizing her inner-self. By the …show more content…

While Elisa takes a bath by scrubbing herself “ with a little block of pumice, legs and thighs, loins and chest and arms, until her skin was scratched and red ” (Steinbeck 232 ). Steinbeck is showing how Elisa transforming into a new woman by washing out of her old self and bringing a new change into her life. Elisa starts to get ready for her night out with Henry, while she is getting dress she looks at herself in the mirror, and lauds her femininity with her body. Feeling confident with her womanly qualities, Elisa puts on a gorgeous dress and makeup, hoping her husband will notice her femininity needs as a woman and will be romantic towards her. However, Henry crushes her hope by saying “You look strong enough to break a calf over your knee, happy enough to eat it like a watermelon” (Steinbeck 233). Henry's so called flattering compliment towards her appearance, is insulting and Elisa sexuality does not feel so much as a woman. Once Elisa sees her chrysanthemums, that she gave to the tinker, on the side of road her dream is crushed. Elisa is heartbroken due to the tinker’s inconsiderate rejection towards her soul, because the chrysanthemums symbolize her inner self. Similar to her husband, the tinker did not admire her womanly features that makes her a distinctive woman. The flowers leave Elisa feeling and realizing that their is no hope of her life

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