The Chrysanthemums

862 Words4 Pages
Anyone who has ever read a story is familiar with the symbols that authors use to help portray the theme or set the mood. All stories have them, whether it is a flower or a pot or a hat. These symbols give the reader a better picture of the story and a better understanding of the plot. In The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck, and The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, symbols are used to show the theme and the progression of the plots and characters throughout the stories. In The Chrysanthemums, Steinbeck uses chrysanthemums as a symbol of Elisa’s inner self and her strength. When Elisa is caring for her chrysanthemums, she is strong and happy. “...even her work with the scissors was over-eager, over-powerful. The chrysanthemum stems seemed…show more content…
The pots start as a symbol of the entrapment of Elisa and women in society. “On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot.” (Steinbeck 277) The valley is described as a pot, trapping Elisa, which symbolizes the way women are trapped in society by the men. When the tinker arrives and takes the chrysanthemums, Elisa gains hope that maybe she is not completely trapped. As the tinker drives away, Elisa whispers “‘That’s a bright direction. There’s a glowing there.’” (Steinbeck 284) Elisa discovers a man that seems to care for her chrysanthemums and her, which symbolizes Elisa’s hope that not all men control the women in the Salinas Valley. When Elisa realizes the tinker kept the pot, but dumped the flowers, her hope for freedom disappears. Henry notices that Elisa has changed again and is not as strong and then Elisa cries weakly like an old woman. Elisa has come to the realization that the tinker is just like all other men and still controls her without care for her interests. The symbol of the pots progresses throughout the story to represent the entrapment of women in a society where men are in…show more content…
When Laura first receives the hat, it symbolizes Laura’s mother’s beliefs about the different social classes that she is trying to pass on to Laura. Laura’s mother gives her the hat while they are arguing about cancelling the party. Her mother tries to change Laura’s mind about cancelling the party by giving her the hat and showing her that they are above the lower class. When Laura sees the hat in the mirror, her views on the lower class begin to change into the views that her mother holds. “Never had she imagined she could look like that. Is mother right? She thought. And now she hoped her mother was right. Am I being extravagant? Perhaps it was extravagant... it all seemed blurred, unreal, like a picture in the newspaper.” (Mansfield 8) Laura has accepted her mother’s beliefs and the issues in the lower class do not seem so real to her anymore. Near the end of the story, when Laura goes down to the cottages in her hat, she feels embarrassed and out of place. “How her frock shone! And the big hat with the velvet streamer- if only it was another hat!” (Mansfield 10) Laura wishes she had worn another hat and not the hat representing her mother’s beliefs because she now sees how petty social classes are and does not hold the same beliefs as her mother. The hat represents the separation between the classes which Laura does not think matters at the end of the
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