“The Epiphany in Steinbeck’s ‘The Chrysanthemums’”

Length: 3 Pages 859 Words

Short stores are written to deploy “hidden” messages. Although short stories are brief enough to skim through, the reader must read between the lines to understand its true meaning. There are a variety of types of short stories, one of which is epiphany. Epiphany is “some moment of insight, discover, or revelation by which a character’s life or view of life is greatly altered” (Kennedy, 14). John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” exemplifies an epiphany in which the main character struggles to find her identity. Steinbeck describes Elisa Allen, a lonely farmer’s wife. Elisa is introduced as a very manly looking individual with a little hint of feminism : “Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume.” She wore “ a man’s black hat, clod-hopper shoes and heavy leather gloves.” She was also wearing “a figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron.” (Steinbeck 254) Even if Elisa hid behind the symbolic attire, she was still doing the “female” job of tending a garden. Her ability to raise these chrysanthemums demonstrated her competence in creation, as well as her nurturing side. As a woman of that time, she feels trapped as an individual of society. Continue...


The epiphany that is exemplified in this story shows that a person can dream. When she had dried herself she stood in front of a mirror. That very moment is the start of the epiphany. Just like we have our "day dreams and our goals, Elisa had her feeling of significance. From the notions and description of his main character in the beginning of the story, the reader can clearly see an awakening as the main character changes her attitude, as well as her tone of voice. (Steinbeck 255) The salesman who later approaches her represents the kind of life Elisa Allen hoped to live. So, lesson learned: "Wake up and smell the coffee...and realize that you must have the patience to drink it until it is ready for you, otherwise you will get burned. The story ends with Elisa "crying weakly-like an old woman. Elisa is left feeling rejected and emotionally depressed. This is exemplified in the setting of the story : "The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. Like any other salesman, he won't take "No for an answer, so he continuously tries to persuade Elisa to buy into his services. (Steinbeck 261) But the realization is completely over when she sees her flowers dumped on the road, realizing that the salesman was only interested in business.