The Chrysanthemums Analysis

506 words | 2 page(s)

John Steinbeck’s short story ‘The Chrysanthemums,’ it is a story about Elisa Allen, a frustrated wife who devotes herself to looking after her chrysanthemum flowers. Elisa’s frustrations result from her inability to conceive and her husband’s failure to admire and respect her as the woman she is.

In the story, the flowers symbolize Elisa’s sexuality and femininity. Elisa takes great care of her flowers, and she is very proud of them. She devotes herself into the tendering of the garden to grow her beloved flowers. The firm connection between Elisa and the flower reinforces the fact that despite her disability to bear children, she can produce such attractive flower hat act as a replacement for her missing children. When the tinker comes along and asks for a few of the flowers to take to a customer down the road, Elisa is very excited that someone is taking interest in her work. Elisa proceeds to put a few of the flowers in a flower pot for him to carry on his journey. Elisa then goes ahead and gives the tinker two pans to repair. As it turns out, the tinker was only using the flowers to soften Elisa’s resolve in order for her to give him work and also so that he can take the flower pot along with him.

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The chrysanthemum flowers are an indicator of Elisa views her life. Elisa’s husband, Henry, does not appreciate the work that Elisa does. He talks mockingly of her work on the flowers she’s so proud of and rarely takes her out for supper away from home. At one time, Henry tells Elisa that she is just good in working with the flowers. The statement indicates that she is just good at bringing up the flowers and nothing else. Elisa feels unappreciated and when she sees the flowers tossed on the road, she comments, “he might have thrown them off the road. That wouldn’t have been much trouble, not very much. But he kept the pot,” she explained. “He had to keep the pot. That’s why he couldn’t get them off the road.”(Lawrence 67). She sees her relationship with her husband as lacking in love and affection, similar to that of the tinker and the flowers.

In addition, when the chrysanthemums bud up, they grow back and blossom. It is an indicator of Elisa’s strength, and that she can rise again from her turmoil with her husband. Elisa even boasts of how strong she is yet she never knew that something attractive could come out of her hard work.

Elisa is a very strong and independent woman, just as the blossoming of the chrysanthemums indicates. However, she craves her husband’s care and affection, and she is reminded of the lack of this when she sees her beloved flowers tossed on the roadside. As the story comes to an end, Elisa weeps faintly like an old woman.

  • Lawrence, D H. Odour of Chrysanthemums and Other Stories. Moscow: Progress Publ, 1977. Print.

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