The incompatibilities between the couple in "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck

Essay by glasscoin2011 January 2008

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In Vietnamese literature, it is not difficult to look for a work which is about women’s fate and their tragedy in life. We would be surely surprised when realizing that, in the western society along with the developmental industry, women fall into the same situation. “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck is one of the stories that contribute to sketch out that grievous picture.

“The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world”. “The Chrysanthemums” begins with the depiction of a gloomy atmosphere in Salinas Valley, which seems to foreshadow miseries and sorrows in the life of Elisa, the protagonist of this short work. The story shows the readers the day of a woman who devotes time at home doing housework and taking good care of the chrysanthemum garden. Her husband, Henry is talking to some strange guys from the city and hoping for a prospective business.

The couple is going to spend a night having dinner at a restaurant. All Elisa can do is to be ready and wait for the husband. We can see a very happy and perfect family at the beginning. However, there is a frustration smoldering in Elisa since she feels stuffy living in a boring and lack of caring life. Then, a stranger appears. The tinker has awaked Elisa’s dream, hope and desire. The miserable woman who suffers a stifling life now becomes aware of her hidden femininity and beauty. She hopes her husband would discover and appreciate that. However, she is disappointed after being sowed the seeds of hope. “The Chrysanthemums” ends with the protagonist’s bitten tears, “She turned up her coat collar so he could not see that she was crying weakly--like an...