The Chrysanthemums Literary Criticism

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In the story “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck, takes place in a time when women were living in a male dominated society. The female protagonist Elisa, is an intellectual and passionate woman who struggles with feeling trapped in her unfulfilling life as a typical housewife and gardener. She longs for purpose in her lonely life and in her relationship with her husband. She has an unexpected encounter with a tinker, who arouses her femininity. From this encounter her hope in life and marriage have been renewed but is quickly dismissed due to her less than romantic husband. The story demonstrates patriarchal ideology through the male characters and their interactions with Elisa, which leads to her frustration and confinement within her life…show more content…
The chrysanthemums symbolize Eliza’s feminism but unlike the chrysanthemums, Henry does not appreciate or acknowledge her femininity. Their lack of connection as husband and wife leaves Elisa feeling vulnerable. During which time, the tinker shows up admiring Elisa’s chrysanthemums, making her ecstatic for the acknowledgement of her beautiful flowers. The tinker dotingly described her chrysanthemums as “a quick puff of colored smoke” (Steinbeck 4). While enjoying the tinker’s company, Elisa inquired about his life as a traveler. The tinker quickly reinforced the patriarchal judgement that life on the road was no place for a woman. The tinker embodies how society views a woman’s life to be not the life desired. After the encounter with the tinker, Elisa’s sense of femininity and sexuality as a woman is rejuvenated and restores hope for her marriage. Elisa begins getting ready for her date with Henry and gets all dressed up and puts on “the dress which was the symbol of her prettiness” (Steinbeck 6). Her hopes of restoring her marriage are quickly removed by Henry’s unflattering compliment “You look strong enough to break a calf over your knee, happy enough to eat it like a watermelon” (Steinbeck 7). Once again, he failed at appreciating her qualities as a
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