Analysis of Elisa's character in the short story "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck.

Essay by nguyenhienUniversity, Bachelor's November 2005

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Quite often, the limits that bound a woman to her conventional standards are the cause of women's sufferings. The battle for equality has not come to pass because men hinder their ways. For a long time this has been accepted in society as the ways things are. John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" mirrors Elisa's frustration she feels in a masculine world, and her aspiration to enjoy the life that a true woman deserves.

Elisa has to suppress her identity to conform to a male-dominated society. When Elisa works in the garden, she is described as having masculine qualities both in her appearance and actions. Steinbeck portrays her figure as "blocked and heavy in her gardening costume," her work with the scissors is "over-powerful," and her fingers "destroyed such pests." The home in which she lives has the masculine characteristics of being "hard-swept" and "hard-polished." The author uses words such as "handsome" to prove her not being typically "ladylike."

Elisa feels neglected by her husband, Henry, who is always busy with handling the ranch and finances. He further separates himself from Elisa by saying, "I wish you do work in the orchard and raise some apples that big." His lack of affection and appreciation causes her to become a very "strong "and determined looking woman. This strong look is clearly a barrier of her inner feelings and loneliness. Elisa turns to cherish and nurtures the chrysanthemums, a symbol of her true female beauty, as a result of her strained marriage. And to some extent she appears not to be in touch with her own sexuality, and is not able to unearth the deep source of her dissatisfaction.

Elisa instinctively lets go of her masculine side, and allows her covered emotions to emerge. The arrival of the handyman in the story plays...