The Use of Symbols in John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums”

Length: 3 Pages 691 Words

In John Steinbeck’s short story, “The Chrysanthemums,” he uses the flower to symbolize his main character’s thoughts and ideas. There are many examples of such symbolism in this work. Elisa Allen is a lonely woman who enjoys growing and nourishing her chrysanthemums. Since her husband is always working the cattle in their farm, she never has enough attention or any kind of affection. The result of this dispassionate marriage leads Steinbeck to describe his main character as follows, “Her face lean and strong…Her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume, a man’s black hat pulled low…clod-hopper shoes…completely covered by a big corduroy apron…” (Page 206-207) This neglect from her busband causes her to turn to her “chrysanthemums,” of which she is very proud. Her husband’s remark, “I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big” (Page 207), shows how little his interest he has for her chrysanthemums/herself. As shown here, Elisa does not feel a Continue...


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This is why symbols are an essential part of a great story, because it gives the reader more to think about. Knowing that her husband does not show interest in her chrysanthemums, gives her the thought that he does not have interest in her. The last sentence of this story is one that can have many meanings. The flowers and Elisa have interchangeable meanings that are explained later on in the story. In their exchange, she gave him herself for a little bit of attention. "After a while she began to dress, slowly. She was basically fooled into giving herself away to someone who showed some interest in her. When Elisa's husband got home and saw her, he said, "Why - why, Elisa. Her gardening area could be described as a "cage to protect herself from anything harmful. ppreciated by her husband and so she takes care of her chrysanthemums, symbols of how beautiful she really is. The reason being is that he shows interest in her chrysanthemums in order to persuade her to find something for him to fix. Early in the story, Steinbeck uses little symbolic phrases to let the reader know that the chrysanthemums are an extension of Elisa. You look so nice! With her boost of confidence now, she says "Nice You think I look nice What do you mean by 'nice' (Page 212) Elisa obviously goes on the offense and wonders why she just looks "nice. (Page 212) In this scene in which she transforms from gardener to a model, she goes through a revelation of thoughts.

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