“The Chrysanthemums” John Steinbeck, in his short story "The Chrysanthemums" depicts the trials of a woman attempting to gain power in a man's world. Elisa Allen tries to define the boundaries of her role as a woman in such a closed society. While her environment is portrayed as a tool for social repression, it is through nature in her garden where Elisa gains and shows off her power. As the story progresses, Elisa has trouble extending this power outside of the fence that surrounds her garden. Elisa learns but does not readily accept, that she possesses a feminine power weak for the time, not the masculine one she had tried so hard to achieve through its imitation. The action of the story opens with Elisa Allen working in her garden. She is surrounded by a wire fence, which physically is there to protect her flowers from the farm animals. This barrier symbolizes her life. She is fenced in from the real world, from a man's world. It is a smaller, on-earth version of the environment in which they live. As Elisa works on her garden, she looks through the fence out to where her husband, Henry, is talking with two men in business suits. They look at a tractor and smoke, manly things, as they conclude their man's work. As she looks
Finally she asks, "'Do women ever go to the fights". Elisa realizes her mistake and gives into the man, finding him a few old pots to fix. After failing for a fourth time to interest Elisa, in fact, only succeeding in irritating her, he asks about her flowers. Now Elisa turns to preparing herself for the evening out with her husband. Her use of the scissors is described as "over-eager" and "over-powerful". An example comes when he quickly recants his statement that the chrysanthemums smell "nasty" at first, to agreeing that they have a "good bitter smell" as Elisa replied. Elisa's sense of power hits a bump in the road, as they drive into Salinas. She questions him: "Do you see that Can you understand that". Elisa notices the "calloused hands he rested on the wire fence were cracked, and every crack was a black line". Elisa cries at the end, making her look "like an old woman" with the realization of this fact, that indeed, she will continue to age into the role of an old woman still enclosed by society. As becomes apparent, the peddler has taken the tactic of trying to connect with Elisa on a personal level so she will have emotions for him, ultimately buying his service. While she wants to seem strong, it seems to violate her role of being the pretty wife. A "big corduroy apron" covered the dress making "her figure look blocked and heavy". But in this case they describe a woman attempting or at least imagining living as a part of such a man's world.
Some topics in this essay:
West Coast, Elisa Allen, Its Hot, Mother Nature, Salinas Elisa, Why- Elisa, John Steinbeck, mans world, Henry Elisa, feminine power, gain power, attempting gain power, elisa power, garden elisa, life woman, chrysanthemum sprouts, role woman, wire fence, attempting feminine, gain power mans,
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