The Chrysanthemums

John Steinbeck, in his short story "" 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. In the end, 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 work begins with a look at the story's ...

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their enclosed lives. Steinbeck foreshadows, "It was a time of quiet and waiting" (396).
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. This man's world is dominated by business. 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. Just as their environment surrounds all persons, fences surround animals and men surround women.
As she looks out to these men, we look at Elisa. Although she is doing the "feminine" work of gardening, she is dressed like a man. She wore a black hat low on her forehead to cover her hair, thick leather ...

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the old roots" (397). Her fingers are described as "terrier," literally of the earth.

Yet Elisa is seemingly ambivalent about which side of herself to show to her husband and the world. While she wants to seem strong, it seems to violate her role of being the pretty wife. When her husband suddenly comes up behind her, she immediately pulls on her gloves again. This could be to cover her dirty hands, but it also covers them, hiding her femininity. Nevertheless, she is proud of her gardening for "in her tone and on her face there was a little smugness" with her husband's compliment (397). When Henry even suggests she could use her talents in the apple orchard "her eyes sharpened" ...

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The Chrysanthemums. (2005, December 30). Retrieved December 13, 2018, from
"The Chrysanthemums.", 30 Dec. 2005. Web. 13 Dec. 2018. <>
"The Chrysanthemums." December 30, 2005. Accessed December 13, 2018.
"The Chrysanthemums." December 30, 2005. Accessed December 13, 2018.
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Added: 12/30/2005 01:38:58 PM
Category: English
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 2608
Pages: 10

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