Symbolism in the Chrysanthemums

Category: Symbolism
Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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Aliya Grayman Professor Gulliksen English 131 (D8) 24 October 2012 Your Inner Chrysanthemum How many people sit down and think about what symbolizes their lives? A symbol is a person place or thing that suggests something other than its literal meaning. In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” Elisa Allen lives on a ranch with her husband Henry in Salinas Valley. Henry is off talking to men about the livestock on the ranch while Elisa is tending to her garden. A tinker comes up to their yard and begins to talk to Elisa about his work and all of his travels.

He tries to get Elisa to let him work, but she does not feel that she needs any work done. The tinker notices the garden of chrysanthemums, and tells Elisa that he knows a woman that wants to grow them. Elisa develops a short lived attraction to the tinker as she is offering him the flower and giving him careful instructions on taking care of them. Steinbeck uses symbolism throughout this short story. Things such as the wire fence around the garden, the changing of Elisa’s clothing, and the chrysanthemums themselves mean something beyond their literal meaning.

Everyone has an item or person that symbolizes their life. Because the title of the short story is “The Chrysanthemums,” the chrysanthemum is an obvious symbol. Elisa’s beautiful garden of chrysanthemums is very important to the story. They are Important because the chrysanthemums are Elisa, meaning they represent her throughout the story. The chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa’s life. Like her they are unimportant to the men in her life. When the tinker asks her about the flowers Elisa brightens up. When Elisa offers a flower to the tinker, she offers herself as well.

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When the flowers are rejected it symbolizes society’s rejection to women being anything other than mothers and housekeepers. Both the Elisa and the chrysanthemums seem to be simply decorative, and add little importance to the world. The wire fence surrounding the garden of chrysanthemums shows how Elisa lives her life. Elisa lives a very guarded life. Elisa only tends to the garden inside the fence, never venturing out into the world of work on her ranch. Henry takes care of all of the business deals on the ranch. The fence represents the sheltered life Elisa has been living.

The type of fence has significance as well. The wire fence shows that Elisa can look outside of her garden with ease; a wooden fence would keep everything out and in. Steinbeck gives great detail of Elisa’s clothing. In the beginning of the story she is wearing bulky gardening clothes and a man’s hat. After her conversation with the tinker, there is an abundant amount of detail as Elisa is preparing to go out to dinner with her husband. The description of what she chooses to wear shows her masculine persona becoming feminine.

The sentence “When she had dried herself she stood in front of a mirror in her bedroom and looked at her body”(247), shows her new found sexuality. Everything has more than one meaning. When an object is a symbol of something else the meaning becomes much more important. Steinbeck meant for his readers to see the true beauty of a chrysanthemum, and by having them symbolize the main character in the story he did just that. Showing inner beauty and strength gives an inanimate object life. Everything has an inner chrysanthemum.

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Symbolism in the Chrysanthemums. (2016, Dec 18). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/symbolism-in-the-chrysanthemums/

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