Online Custom «"The Chrysanthemums"» Essay Sample

In John Steinbeck's story "The Chrysanthemums," the author focuses on depicting a woman who seems strong in nature. The name of the woman is Elisa Allen. In this case, Elisa seems to be quite disappointed with her life. After reading the story, one understands that her disappointments are  result from being infertile in that she cannot have children. In fact, her husband fails to understand her condition and ignores her intimacy. To avoid being stressed up by the whole situation, she works in the flower garden, where she keeps herself busy. In the short story, the author uses the chrysanthemums as a representation of Elisa's ego or self-esteem. This also applies to the other women in the society. In this paper, I will examine the use of symbolism and tone in Steinbeck’s story “The Chrysanthemums.”

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First, the chrysanthemums are used in symbolizing Elisa's child. The short story shows how Elisa tends her garden while handling the chrysanthemums with care and love as if she is raising her children. Elisa does everything to protect her flowers and even fences them with a wire. Elisa ensures that there are no cutworms, sowbugs or snails to destroy the chrysanthemums (Bausch and Cassill 240). In this case, the insects in the excerpt are applied as clear representations of natural injury caused to the flowers. This is a symbol of the harms that can be prevented by a mother taking care of her child. Moreover, one can understand that the chrysanthemums are applied to represent children and that Elisa is quite cautious and proud protecting her flowers. When Elisa is praised by her husband on how she is taking care of the flowers, she feels ery happy, and she expresses self-satisfaction (Bausch and Cassill 240). Her joy further strengthens the fact that it is part of children’s happiness.

Furthermore, in the second section, the author applies the chrysanthemums as a symbol of Elisa’s femininity and sexuality. In this case, her feminine formation is depicted by her care for the flowers. The image is also used in illustrating Elisa’s relationship with her husband due to the fact that she has a feeling that her husband does not appreciate her femininity. Consequently, she becomes aggressive towards her husband. However, Henry fails to realize the failures and weaknesses. In this case, Elisa is not interested in assisting him realize them. There is no agreement in their family, and when he sees Elisa taking care of the flowers, all he can say is that he wished that Elisa could be working in an orchard growing apples (Bausch and Cassill 240). 

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Most importantly, the tinker seems to be attracted to the chrysanthemums, which implies that he symbolically likes Elisa. In this case, the chrysanthemums are used to represent her sexuality. Therefore, Elisa giving him a red flower is a representation of her feelings. One can deduce that the tinker acts as a symbol of a stimulant in Elisa’s life. Therefore, she begins to have hope and much brightness in her marriage life. It is through taking a bath after the tinker leaves that she scrubs her past off and accepts a new life (Bausch and Cassill 254). However, something wrong happens when she finds the flowers that she had given to tinker on the road. In her understanding, tinker had rejected her just like her husband.

Tone is normally used to show the author's attitude toward the subject matter. The short story “The Chrysanthemums” demonstrates the tone of oppression and confinement. In most cases, Elisa is isolated and confined both emotionally and physically. This fact is revealed through the description of Elisa’s homestead. The house is seen not to be close to the rest of the houses, but it is isolated and, in addition, enclosed by the fence. Besides, her garden is enclosed by the fence. Their homestead is seen to be surrounded by a low-lying of fog.

The tone in the novel contains some envy towards men. Despite the fact that Elisa is a hard-working lady who is always tending her garden, her husband does not appreciate her. The tone of the short story changes a bit, when Elisa talks to the man in the wagon; she becomes interested in how the man lives in the wagon. As Elisa is taking a bath, the tone changes again and she becomes feminine. This is because after the bath she is seen to look in the mirror, which is a common thing to all ladies.

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In the short story “The Chrysanthemums,” Steinbeck has managed to use imagery to clearly covey his message to readers. The chrysanthemums have been used in representing Elisa's children. Elisa is seen taking care of them and ensuring that nothing interferes with them. The chrysanthemums have also been used to represent the feminine nature of Elisa. Steinbeck has also managed to use tone properly at the start of the short story, which reflects envy towards men. Hence, Steinbeck has managed to use both imagery and tone in expressing the story’s idea.

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