Symbolism In John Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums'

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Today, sex is a much talked about subject, and roughly half of high school students participate in the act. Today the value of ‘saving one’s self for marriage’ is dated and carried out by few, but in ‘The Chrysanthemums’ by John Steinbeck, this ideal is presented to an extreme. Steinbeck begins the story by painting a descriptive picture of the Salinas Valley and describes it as “a time of quiet and waiting”. The story then introduces us to two of the main characters, Elisa and her husband, whose first interaction can best be described as awkward and curt . When her husband leaves, a tinker drives up to Elisas’ estate. While she is working away on her chrysanthemum garden, the man approaches Elisa. The tinker is gifted some chrysanthemum shoots and leaves. Later when driving down the road, Elisa sees her chrysanthemums destroyed on the side of the road. ‘The Chrysanthemums’ is seemingly, not about much, but there is an array of …show more content…
The flowers symbolize Elisa’s virginity. Rather than breeding her flowers, she bypasses normal fertilization and makes clones, propagating the flowers. She cares for her flowers in the most delicate of ways, “her terrier figers [destroying] such pest before they get started” (423). She also provides detailed instructions to the tinker on how to care for them, symbolizing the way she has protected her virginity until this time. When giving away her “beautiful” (423) chrysanthemums to the tinker, they are perfect and pure, where as in the end, they are “a dark speck” (425) on the side of the road. Just by seeing that dark speck, Elisa knows that her chrysanthemums have been thrown out by the tinker. Now, her flowers are a dark speck, quite contrasting to the beautiful description in the beginning. Elisa plans to lose her purity tonight and the flowers do an excellent job of showing

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