Literary Analysis on "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck

Essay by sarabeezyCollege, UndergraduateA, April 2010

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Life's Hostage

A garden represents life, an area full of living things that require attention and care. In The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck, Elisa's garden represents a very repressed life, her own. Elisa's garden differs a bit from a typical garden because she provides a most abundant amount of care and attention to her garden; it is like her children. Her garden keeps her very confined into her own little world, away from the dreadful reality of her life. Her garden is fenced, and the fence around the garden is introduced as nothing more than a barrier to keep the cattle and dogs out of her precious flowers. The reader can quickly gather that the fence may also quite well be keeping Elisa and all her hopes, desires, and energy inside herself. A simple event of meeting a stranger provokes feelings Elisa probably never knew she was capable of, and gets her to see the reality of her life.

Elisa is a woman that accepts her position in life. She cares for the house and cares for her garden, but she has a desolate life. She appears happy in her own little world, working so meticulously in her garden. There is not even a single bug to be found in her garden of chrysanthemums because "her terrier fingers destroy such pests before they could get started" (Steinbeck). Elisa's flowers mean everything to her and she cares for them as if they are her children. The flowers are all she has to tend to and fuss over. Elisa and her husband Henry are lacking almost all emotion in their relationship. Henry stays on the outside of the fence when he comes to talk to her. When he "came near quietly," (Steinbeck) and "leaned over the wire fence that...