The Frustrations of a Woman
The short story, “The Chrysanthemums,” by John Steinbeck is one of painful realization and grave disappointment. The female character, Elisa, in the story is a strong willed and very proud woman that is overwhelmed with the frustrations in her life. Her frustration is rooted in her desire for children and a loving husband in which she has neither in her life. The only escape from her disappointments she has is her tiny fenced in flower garden where she grows her chrysanthemums. The author, John Steinbeck, symbolizes Elisa’s inner femininity and sexuality with the chrysanthemums.
In the beginning of the story is a crude description and overview of Elisa lending little noticeable importance of the chrysanthemums to her. Steinbeck’s preliminary depiction of her is one of manly attributes. “Her face was lean and strong” and “her figure looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume” (Steinbeck 171). She is a woman yet her description is more fitting of a man her age. It isn’t until her husband approaches that the importance of the chrysanthemums begins to first emerge. Her husband, Henry, observes that she has got a gift for growing strong crops of chrysanthemums. He even semi compliments her by saying, “some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across” (Steinbeck 171). Only to follow it with saying he wished she could raise apples as big as her flowers with a sarcastic overtone. Her reaction to this belittling comment was angry and strong. “Her eyes sharpened” and she retorted by saying that she had a gift for these things and “maybe I could do it, too” (Steinbeck 172). The reaction she has towards her husband represents her frustration that Henry doesn’t recognize her femininity and ability to anything more complicated than growing flowers. Her desire to care for children is displayed in her care for the chrysanthemums. She gave great attention making sure there were pests or...