The “Chrysanthemums” written by John Steinbeck is a masterpiece which has gained an enormous amount of praise over the years, being acclaimed as one of the finest works in American literature. The plot in “Chrysanthemums,” being enriched in symbolism is set in America around the year 1930, based on the life and relationship between Elisa Allen and Henry, her husband. In the story by Steinbeck a literary based and symbolic referencing to the concept of age and the factor related to “growing old” can easily be located in the story, as well as symbolic references towards rejuvenation and renewal.
The discussion will proceed along the lines of symbolism and gender based roles in the story.
Around the time of twentieth century, the specific gender role of women realized their position in society’s social structure and began and uprising to earn their place and equal rights. However, this feministic revolution faced many barriers but amidst all these issues there were options that proved to be useful for their cause. In the story by John Steinbeck, brings about the perspective of women in a society dominated by the male gender. This perspective of a repressed gender is displayed through Elisa’s life in the story, as her character is shown with a flare of life in terms of her being intelligent, passionate and owning an interesting character. The story presents the injustice towards women through Elisa’s point of view.
The story is set around the winter seasons in Salinas, California with the story describing Elisa’s house being in an exemplary location, with a beautiful ranch at the bottom of the hill and the overall view being quite breathtaking. From a symbolic representation present in the story are in the form of the house in Salina’s and the Chrysanthemums. The Chrysanthemums are a depiction of Elisa’s unfulfilled and unsatisfied life. The symbolism is in a close relation to female gender, such as the wintery weather settling in is described as a close pot, which can be interpreted as Elisa’s closed life, trapped and surrounded by elements that make her tired and exhaustion. Sun being a representation of happiness and joy, is less apparent around the place Elisa’s home is in. Shrouded in layers of snow, it is a representation of Elisa’s emotional state of mind, being deprived of any joys and surrounded by people that offer nothing but add to the gloomy, dark state of affairs.
Tinker and his dog, represent a feeling of hope since she realizes how easily Tinker can go to places, does what he wants and suits his needs. This is a clear reflection of how one gender has more benefits over the other. Being a male, Tinker has the advantage of pursuing his free will, whereas Elisa being a female is bound by several restrictions that enslave her. Being a woman, Elisa is full of caring emotions that bind her to show sensibility, care and an emotional response towards each scenario, however, Tinker is the complete opposite of her but with the advantage of being a man, he can carry on with his life without any care to offer these problems.
John Steinbeck makes a detailed and fascinating account of things in his book “The Chrysanthemums” as he discloses the life of Elisa and her family. Her life with his husband Henry, and her perception towards Tinker. Steinbeck conveys the daily life of the people living around, the manner in which society operates around him and the issues that surround them in their life. Elisa is used as a representation for the women living in his neighborhood and the reasons which gave birth to the feministic revolution in the United States.