Literary Analysis the Chrysanthemums

2 February 2017

Name Professor Course Date: Chrysanthemums: Literary Criticism At the turn of the 20th century, women were considered inferior to men: they were only required to stay at home, take care of households and children. “The Chrysanthemums”, as told by John Steinbeck, is a story of a woman during that period who tries to change the course of her destiny. In this story, the two-fold issues of femininity and symbolism play a critical part in explaining this helplessness. Steinbeck uses the narrative to signify the hope for change of the woman as well as her character by illustrating different similarities between Elisa and her flowers.Readers are able to comprehend how a lady feels when she is caged within her life, and the struggles to disengage from such oppression. At the end of the story, the writer expresses a sense of hopelessness for Elisa because, although she might try as much as possible to free herself, reality will rise up and keep her entrenched in a subdued role.

At the beginning of the story, we encounter loneliness that forces Elisa to dedicate her energies and love to her flowers. The creation and setting of this narrative gives an impression of isolation and a miserable ambiance.The setting is in autumn, a season characterized by dead leaves and chilly whether. In addition, the place where Elisa stays is compared to a “closed pot” (Steinbeck 175) and it is set apart from the rest of the universe by the “grey-flannel fog” (Steinbeck 175), which is representative of the pot’s cover. The images created by the author depict isolation or seclusion. The seclusion of the husband and wife is depicted and reinforced by the river and fence which surround their homestead. Indeed, as we can see from this narrative, the woman never goes outside the fence alone, which symbolically disconnects her from the rest of the world.

Literary Analysis the Chrysanthemums Essay Example

Henry, who is the husband of Elisa, is also disconnected from her in many ways; he is more concerned with business and generating money instead of his wife: “I wish you’d… raise some apples that big. ” (Steinbeck 176). In spite of her condition, Elisa is very strong in her character and very optimistic with a lot of drive because as the author says, “her face was lean and strong,” and “over-powerful” (Steinbeck 176). This kind of energy and drive is seen in Elisa’s attitude in cleaning the floor, which is “hard swept and hard-polished” (176).In addition, it is expressed through her concern for the chrysanthemums. Indeed, she takes care of the flowers as she would of her own children. The choice of chrysanthemum is also telling as it has different connotations in several cultures.

In Europe, it is seen as a flower of death and is presented in funerals to symbolize mourning and sorrow. In America, they are seen as symbols of happiness and beauty, while in other cultures, they represent honesty or loyalty. These attributes correlate well with Elisa’s situation as they depict her character in several ways.At first, we can identify that beauty is something common between Elisa and the flowers. On the other hand, although Elisa tries to hide her beauty by putting on clothes likes a man, her hair, face, shoes, eyes and gloves are all “symbol of her prettiness” (Steinbeck 183). Moreover, the flowers which the woman describes as “beautiful” (180) are considered in many cultures. In addition, the flowers as well as Elisa provide a sense of having energy.

The flowers have red, yellow and white colors which might suggest the energy of the sun.Moreover, the chrysanthemums come into bud from late autumn to early winter and have been considered to be “on cusp,” just like the woman. This is because Elisa is 35 years old, which might be considered a link between youth and old age. Elisa’s life is significantly transformed by the arrival of the tinker who comes with hope, which is also symbolized by the flowers. At first, this hope is predicted in the setting of the narrative, although it is subtle. Despite the fact that the valley looks like a closed pot, there are some “sharp and positive yellow; leaves” (Steinbeck 175).These bring about an image of encouragement in the midst of depression.

Readers are also able to see, through Elisa’s change of attitude, how she puts her hope in the pot of chrysanthemum that she gives to the stranger. At fist, she is repulsive to the tinker and shows little concern for him and keeps some distance from him. She looks at him “irritably” as her eyes move with “resistance” (Steinbeck 179) when the tinker requests to offer repair services for any of her broken item. However, this resistance changes from her face when he begins to talk about the chrysanthemums.She starts to gain more interest: Her “eyes (brighten) and (become) alert and eager” (Steinbeck 180). In addition, she opens one of the men clothes that she is wearing and makes her heart open to reality. From removing the gloves, to destroying the tattered hat, and shaking her beautiful hair, Elisa seems to be blossoming—like a flower (Steinbeck 179-180).

These images prove to the readers that the arrival of the tinker, and his interest in the flowers as well as his talk of love and life of Elisa, brings to life the hope and aspirations of a woman which have been oppressed for a long time.Elisa gives the flowers to the tinker who is standing outside the fence. The tinker, by virtue of being outside the fence, symbolizes a free life, which is only her possibility of linking with the outside world—the world of men and freedom. In addition, the place where Elisa washes herself is also symbolic as it infers the rebirth of a flower after a long winter. However, this hope is somehow diminished when she looks at the soil on the road. According to Steinbeck, the woman discovered that she will experience a life like a man in this society (184).When finally this reality dawns in her, she is no longer “on the cusp” and “cries weakly like an old woman” (Steinbeck 185).

From there, it is clear that there is no more hope left except death, which is symbolized by chrysanthemum in several cultures. From this analysis, it is clear that the author plays with several symbols. The character of the woman is expressed in the changing and feminine features of the flower. In addition, the two-fold aspect of death and life from the cornerstone of this wonderful story. Work Cited Steinbeck, John. The Chrysanthemums Fiction: A Pocket Anthology, 3rd ed. New York: Longman, 2002.

175-185. Print.

A limited
time offer!
Save Time On Research and Writing. Hire a Professional to Get Your 100% Plagiarism Free Paper