Romanticism And Symbols In John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums

Improved Essays
John Steinbeck 's recognized story "The Chrysanthemums" is about a full of pride, strong woman named Elisa Allen who feels unfulfilled with her actual life. Her frustration derives from not having children and from her husband not being able to make her feel like a real woman romantically. The only way out of her frustration is her beloved garden where she plants and takes care of beautiful chrysanthemums. The author uses chrysanthemums as symbols of Elisa inner-self and of every woman who could be in this situation.
To begin with, the chrysanthemums represent Elisa 's children. She takes good care of her garden and treats the chrysanthemums with a lot of affection and caution, just as the same way she would handle her own children. Protectiveness
…show more content…
The description of Elisa caring so much for the chrysanthemums as if they were her children is undoubtedly a feminine image, but her masculine image is also shown in their "hard-swept looking little house and hard-polished home” (205). This image is passed over into her relationship with her significant one. Elisa feels that her husband doesn 't identify nor appreciate her femininity, and this makes her feel bad and sees him like someone who doesn’t value what he has. There is a feeling of dislike towards her husband. Henry doesn’t see his short-comings, but Elisa also fails to make him understand what he’s doing wrong. There is an obvious absence of harmony between them, which makes Elisa to become unhappy with her husband. When he is observing her flowers, all he says is, "I wish you 'd work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big" (205). The failure to see Elisa 's needs makes her exposed in her meeting with the tinker. The encounter with the tinker makes Elisa’s feelings of femininity and sexuality renew as a woman. Her opposition to his everyday matters disappears after the tinker describes in a romantic way the chrysanthemums as a "quick puff of colored smoke"(207). By admiring the chrysanthemums, he metaphorically is admiring her. The flowers symbolize her sexuality, and she "tears off the battered hat and shakes out her dark pretty hair"(243). With some nice placed words from …show more content…
Elisa removed her old self by scrubbing and cleaning bringing out change in her and a new life. She begins to prepare for her night out with her husband. She dresses, standing in front of the mirror and approves her body and her femininity. She puts on a beautiful dress and carefully applies her make-up. She is really looking forward to her evening with her husband. She hopes he will this time distinguish her needs as a woman and give her that romance and excitement that she’s been waiting for, for so long. However, this hope and new light is quickly destroyed. Her husband’s best compliment on how she looked after she changed was: "You look strong enough to break a calf over your knee, happy enough to eat it like a watermelon" (210). This unappealing comment on her appearance didn’t do much for Elisa 's ego as a woman. Her hope is now completely gone when she sees the flowers that she gave the tinker on the roadside. She felt devastated by the tinker 's insensitive rejection of her very own soul. He, like her husband, has failed to understand and appreciate the qualities that make her unique. This small symbolic action has left her hopeless. She then realizes that her life is not going to get any better or change for that matter. Her sexuality and femininity is never going to be fulfilled

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    The shorty story “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck, deals with a person who is at odds with an unjust society. The story is about Elisa Allen who is unsatisfied with current life. Elisa’s frustration stems from not having a child and that her husband fails to appreciate her passionately as a woman (Kennedy). To ease her frustration, Elisa nurtures flowers in her garden where she grows chrysanthemums. The chrysanthemums are Steinbeck’s symbol for Elisa’s inner self and the inner self of every woman (Kassim).…

    • 1495 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    When Henry complements her flowers, he is only looking at the size of it, not their beauty. Elisa is involved in the same situation one more time. When Henry complements the way she looks but does not look at her inner beauty,” (Bily). Elisa feels that Henry does not see her femininity and this is causing her to be like an enemy towards Henry. There is a visible resentment towards the man she…

    • 785 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    John Steinbeck’s ‘’The Chrysanthemums’ is about a proud and resilient woman, Elisa Allen, who is frustrated with her life. Her inability to conceive a child and her husband’s failure to love her are major issues in her family. The flower garden is her only distraction from all her marriage issues. In the garden, she tends lovely chrysanthemums. “Chrysanthemums’ symbolizes Elisa’s and every other woman’s inner-self.…

    • 822 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    The image of Little Flower evokes highly emotional responses from people around the world. Lispector calls attention to many individual reactions, yet two noted receptions of Little Flower echo the emptiness of love and silence. The shorter of the two reads, “In another house, in the consecration of spring, a girl about to be married felt an ecstasy of pity: ‘Mama, look at her little picture, poor little thing! Just look how sad she is!’ ‘But,’ said the mother, hard and defeated and proud, ‘it’s the sadness of an animal. It isn’t human sadness.’ ‘Oh, Mama!” said the girl, discouraged” (387).…

    • 1322 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Henry comes out of the house and looks at her telling her “Why- why, Elisa. You look so nice!” (355) But by Elisa’s reaction we can tell that, that was not the response that she wanted. So in trying to make things better Elisa is once again noticed for her strong appearance, but not in the way she was expecting. He tells her “It’s a kind of play. You look strong enough to break a calf over your knee, happy enough to eat it like a watermelon.” (355) But it now seems clear to herself that yes, even though she is depicted to be a rancher’s housewife and nothing else, that she is strong.…

    • 1637 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    The importance of Materialism over family of Mrs. Dickinson and Hester “To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible” – Marie Von Ebner – Eschenbach. The short story “Tears Idle Tears” written by Elizabeth Bowen, and “The Rocking – Horse Winner”, written by D.H Lawrence, possess main characters with similar characteristics. Both stories are written about a mother who does not show the usual emotions that a mother should towards her son. Mrs. Dickinson and Hester live what would seem to an outsider as successful lives but neither are satisfied. Their materialism causes them to neglect their families.…

    • 931 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    At the time she starts to talk with the tinker that appeared on the road, and how he fixes things and how he compliments her chrysanthemums, the feminine side she had lost before when talking with her husband suddenly came back. Her romance was missing in her marriage and her husband cannot appreciate or recognize her emotional needs and femininity very well. She was very vulnerable when the tinker came, but seeing how the tinker admired her and her flowers, she started to think that there could be actual hope that her marriage would gain more romance after all. But little by little her realization that her life is never going to change is crystal clear when Henry tells her a very unflattering remark on her appearance that brings Elisa’s ego down, he says that “(she) looks different … strong enough to break a calf over (her) knee, happy enough to eat it like a watermelon” (Steinbeck). And moreover, when she sees the chrysanthemums she gave the tinker on the side of the road.…

    • 836 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    She can’t achieve the expectations he has, and he can’t understand her weird thoughts. He hates the silver Christian statue she finds in their house, and “most of all he [hates] it because he [knows] that Twinkle [loves] it” (Lahiri 157) since he knows that if she loves it, he has no choice other than let her keep it. He always compromises and never really tries to change her. While she just needs to happily be herself, he has all kinds of internal struggles because letting her be who she is means that he needs to break his own rules and abandon his own idea about how a wife should be like. Their uneven contribution to their marriage will unbalance their relationship, and what…

    • 1128 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    This is because she rebukes her husband for complimenting the cook: ‘(reproachfully) Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things –’ and she is also her husband’s social superior. She is very aware of rules of etiquette and social behaviour, although she shows a lack of understanding in of how other people live other than herself. She expresses her lack of understanding of how the lower class live through her snobbish comments. In Act 2, page 47 she categorizes Eva when she says ‘a girls of that sort’ and by saying this she is discriminating Eva, not just to Eva, but all the working class people since Eva is from the lower class. Eva’s surname, Smith, is very common English names and it suggests that she is just like all the other from Mrs Birling’s perspective and in other words – she’s like the rest of the people from lower class and she has no respect for them.…

    • 1206 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Precious Humanistic Theory

    • 2839 Words
    • 12 Pages

    Due to Hergenhahn (1994) positive regard means receiving warmth, love, sympathy, care and respect as well as acceptance from the important people in your life. Precious did not receive this from her mother and father as the mother despises her for ‘stealing’ her man, she is envious towards Precious and so she doesn’t want Precious to make anything of herself. The mother looks at Precious with hatred in her eyes. She beats her and uses food as punishment as she wants Precious to be unattractive. The love of a mother is very important as nurturing is a big theme in this film.…

    • 2839 Words
    • 12 Pages
    Superior Essays