In the world created by John Steinback, in the story of “The Chrysanthemums”, being an intelligent girl whose accepted into the society is a hard task. Elisa is caught up in all the household work while not being able to enjoy any of the outside world. She’s shown to have the life and struggles of a typical house wife, who is passive and not strong enough, lacking the attributes it takes to step out of her comfort zone and take responsibility and action to make herself content. The setting sets the mood of the story, as the fog represents her being unable to clearly see the realities of life.
The author does a great job of keeping the narration somewhat discreet, which keeps the reader thinking, and let’s us figure out the motivations of the characters ourselves. When Elisa and Henry are first introduced, their relationship seems friendly but lacking love and passion. The way they compare their work, her garden and his business, and how they go about their daily routines makes them seem like friends or business partners, but not much more. This reminds me of “The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross, in which Ann and John live in a passionless isolation on their farm.
I noticed the use of literary devices such as similes to enhance the story; for example, “like a fawning dog. ” I also noticed that Elisa’s bulky and restrictive clothing was a metaphor for her true desires and personality being suppressed, as a woman. The theme of gender inequality is present, and can specifically be seen in the conversation Elisa has with the man from the wagon, in which he says the life he lives is not for a woman. I also noticed the author employed symbolism to enhance this message through the chrysanthemums.
The chrysanthemums could be seen as a symbol for women, in that they are pleasant to look at, yet when they are offered up for a purpose, they are often rejected, as the chrysanthemums were. More specifically, the flowers symbolize Elisa, in that they are strong and beautiful, but also face rejection as she does. I think the author’s purpose of writing this story is to say that the unfair treatment of women is a prevalent and existing issue that needs to be addressed. In evaluation, the story was quite effective, as it got to the point clearly, concisely, and quickly, while portraying a strong and meaningful message.
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