Gender Criticism Essay of John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums"

702 Words Dec 27th, 2012 3 Pages
Gender Criticism Essay of John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums”
When John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” was first published in the 1930’s, it was a time of great societal change. Women, who had always been seen as fragile and weak, were struggling for equality in a male dominated society. This story was Steinbeck’s attempt to draw attention to this subject, and bring these issues to light.
This story is centered on the main character Elisa Allen. Elisa is unhappy and frustrated with her position in life, and she is struggling to establish masculinity in any way that she can. Her character is first introduced as “blocked and heavy”, with clodhoppers, heavy gloves and a man’s black hat. Her face is described as “eager and mature and
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She then relents and goes to find some work for the man. This scene points to a woman’s weakness for flattery. Elisa doesn’t realize that the man was manipulating her.
Her attraction to the handy man seems to bring out the feminine side of Elisa. She goes in to get ready for dinner with her husband and scrubs herself “until her skin was scratched and red”. She is retreating back to her feminine traits without really thinking about it. She then puts on her best underwear and dress and applies makeup. Her husband comments on how nice she looks, and this flatters her.
While on the way to dinner with her husband Elisa finally realizes that she had been taken advantage of. She sees that the handy man has discarded her beloved chrysanthemums in the ditch on the side of the road. She realizes that the man used flattery of her and her flowers to get work. This realization makes her break down and cry. She then understands that she is doomed to her current role in society, a passive woman, and she hates it.
This story also points to the arrogance and assumptions of men. Elisa’s husband never thinks that there could possibly be anything for her to be unhappy about. Elisa starts to get combative toward him and challenging his compliments when they are getting ready to leave the house. She is upset that he told her she looked nice, when earlier in the day he described her as strong. Then after she sees the flowers on the side of the…

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