Dualism And Symbolism In The Chrysanthemums By John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck’s short story, “The Chrysanthemums,” establishes an explicitly ironic and dismal tone towards female empowerment in society through the contradictory characterization of Elisa and her duality as both a strong, independent woman, and a wife who is constantly being socially oppressed by the world around her. Steinbeck reinforces this idea through constant, selective detailing of the environment surrounding Elisa, and the inclusion of symbolic visual imagery throughout the text. Throughout “The Chrysanthemums,” Elisa’s characterization is developed in such a way that is all but feminine; she is constantly referred to as a “lean and strong” woman, with a “blocked and heavy” figure and robust frame. In addition, she is also often …show more content…
For example, in the beginning of the story, the narrator describes the valley the characters live in as a “pot”, and the heavy fog that hovers over the land as its “lid.” Through this imagery, the narrator symbolizes the continually growing character of Elisa, as well as the idea of feminism, as a pot, and the opposition created by the men in the story and by society as the “lid,” which exists solely to manage, oppose, and oppress the advancement of the former. This bleak reality is enforced through the narrator’s use of words with negative, dreary connotations to describe the setting, such as “dark,” “black,” “pale,” and “cold.” Collectively, such word choice helps develop the narrator’s desolate, somber, and mournful tone, which also further accentuates the irony and bleakness of Elisa’s situation; though seemingly empowered and independent, Elisa falls victim to the same gender roles and archetypes as any other member of society. “The Chrysanthemums,” narrator relies on an increasingly ironic, dismal, and doleful tone towards female empowerment in society in order to illustrate the conflict between a woman and the social expectations thrust onto her. Through the contradictory characterization of Elisa as superficially empowered, yet actually subservient, as well as constant, selective detailing of the environment, and the inclusion of symbolic visual imagery throughout the text, Steinbeck is able to effectively reinforce this specific and negative narrative

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