The Chrysanthemums The Chrysanthemums Summary At a ranch in the Salinas Valley, Elisa Allen tends to her chrysanthemums while watching her husband talk business with some men down by the tractor shed. She does her gardening work with ease and eagerness. Her husband returns from his successful business deal, and he wants to go into town to celebrate. They plan to finish their work for the day and head into Salinas for dinner. With Henry off working, Elisa returns to her chrysanthemums.
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Plot Summary[ edit ] The story opens with a panoramic view of the Salinas Valley in winter. Elisa is thirty-five, lean and strong, and she approaches her gardening with great energy.
Then he offers to take Elisa to town so they can celebrate the sale. He praises her skill with flowers, and she congratulates him on doing well in the negotiations for the steer. They seem to be a well-matched couple, though their way of talking together is formal and serious. While talking about their plan to go out, Henry jokingly asks Elisa if she would like to see a fight.
They agree on dinner and a movie instead. Elisa decides to finish her transplanting before they get ready to leave for town.
He travels from San Diego to Seattle and back every year. The man chats and jokes with Elisa, but she admits that she has no work for him to do. When he presses for a small job, she becomes annoyed and tries to send him away.
Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke? The man tells her about one of his regular customers who also gardens. He claims this customer has asked him to bring her some chrysanthemum seeds if he ever finds some in his travels, leading to the captivation of Elisa.
She gives him full instructions for tending them. In a moment of extreme emotion, she nearly reaches for him but snatches her hand back before she touches him. Instead, she finds him two pots to mend, and he drives away with fifty cents and the chrysanthemum shoots, promising to take care of them until he can deliver the chrysanthemums to the other woman.
Elisa goes into the house to get dressed for dinner. She scrubs herself vigorously and examines her naked body in the mirror before putting on her dress and makeup.
It turns out the man tossed her chrysanthemum shoots out of his wagon, but kept the pot Elisa had put them in. Henry does not notice and Elisa does not mention it to him. She asks if "women ever go to the fights".
She agrees and says the night out alone will be plenty. She turns her head so he cannot see her crying. She also says she feels like an old woman.
Characters[ edit ] Elisa Allen - A thirty-five-year-old woman who lives on a ranch just across the Salinas River with her husband, Henry. Elisa is described as having a "lean and strong" face and eyes as "clear as water" and when wearing her gardening costume, she looks like she has a blocked and heavy figure.
The Man - A travelling mender who arrives on the road in a wagon that has a canvas painted with the words "Pots, pans, knives, sisors, lawn mores, Fixed. Symbolism[ edit ] The Language of Flowers often translate to symbolism commonly within literature. In "The Chrysanthemums," the chrysanthemum flowers are frequently used as a symbol throughout the story. The chrysanthemums are mentioned throughout the story and can be seen a symbol of Elisa.
However, the flower itself is delicate and tender which represents the parts of Elisa that are feminine. The contradictory characteristics of chrysanthemums being both strong yet beautiful epitomize how Elisa is atypical of a woman for being both masculine and feminine.
Elisa viewed it as letting herself be free and just getting hurt as an end result. It is seen periodically throughout the story by how Elisa cares for and protects her chrysanthemums. In the beginning, they symbolize her children, but as we continue reading, they start to symbolize her femininity and sexuality. Elisa gets annoyed with her life because of the fact that a child and romantic encounters are nonexistent in her marriage. Her husband, Henry, also does not cater to her emotional needs and the qualities of her womanhood.
She eventually thinks that things will change, but once she sees the chrysanthemums in the road, she realizes that her hopes have died as well.
Symbolism in "The Chrysanthemums" There is also the symbolism about confinement. The story opens by describing the setting of the fog over the Salinas Valley "like a lid on the mountains and [make] of the valley a closed pot.
“The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck
On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot. On the broad, level land floor the gang plows bit deep and left the black earth shining like metal where the shares had cut. On the foothill ranches across the Salinas River, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine, but there was no sunshine in the valley now in December. The thick willow scrub along the river flamed with sharp and positive yellow leaves. It was a time of quiet and of waiting. The air was cold and tender. A light wind blew up from the southwest so that the farmers were mildly hopeful of a good rain before long; but fog and rain did not go together.
The Chrysanthemums Summary and Analysis
Roosevelt had just been reelected president. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, unions were developing, and child labor in manufacturing was terminated Jones She was one of the few women in her time to gain equality in a male-dominated society. For most women, liberation was a bitter fight usually ending in defeat.