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Published: 03-12-2019

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Symbolic Aspects Depicted by John Steinbeck

In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums,” nature represents Elisa Allen’s confinement, the chrysanthemums symbolizes Elisa herself, and the tinker embodies Elisa’s wants. The narrator compares the Salinas Valley to “a closed pot” simply because “[a] high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the [valley] from the sky and from all the rest of the world… [and] it sat like a lid on the mountains” (350). This imagery mirrors Elisa due to the fact she feels trapped and deprived as observed with her husband and the tinker. The narrator also mentions that “the foothill ranches across the Salinas River… bathed in… sunshine,” even so “there was no sunshine in the valley” (350). The symbolism here suggests that happiness is within Elisa’s reach, but not in her presence. This essay discusses the several events in the story that are symbolic, including the climate and setting, the chrysanthemums and the tinker.

The narrator states that the “farmers had been mildly hopeful of a very good rain… but rain and fog do not go together” (350). Rain is a universal symbol that represents rebirth or sadness. This is observed when Elisa “[cried] weakly – like an old woman” (356). Elisa and Henry Allen also represent the rain and fog in that they do not belong with each other. He minimizes her although he recognizes that her talent is raising flowers. The fog (Henry) covers the mountain and is the lid to the pot (350), the very same way Henry contains his wife. When Henry tells Elisa that he has sold thirty steers for “nearly [his] personal price tag,” Elisa responds with, “Good. Very good for you” (351). This suggests that they both have nothing in common he is more interested in organization and funds and she is interested in the life and development of her flowers.

The chrysanthemums symbolically represent Elisa, or element of her. They are noticed as Elisa’s non-existent children since of the way she nurtures them. When she inspects the flowers for “aphids… sowbugs… snails [and] cutworms [,] her terrier fingers [would destroy] such pests just before they could [start off]” (351). This is a motherly attribute that symbolizes the protection a mother offers to her young. On the other hand, the flowers take nine months to develop, similar to the development of a human child in the womb of his, or her, mother. The chrysanthemums are also described as “strong” and gorgeous (351-353). The beauty and strength of the flowers are parallel to Elisa’s “lean and sturdy [face]” (350) as well as “the dress [she wore to dinner] which was the symbol of her prettiness” (355).

As the tinker pulls up in his “old springwagon” with painted words that are misspelled as “pots, pans, knives, sisors, lawn mores,” it leads us to believe that the tinker is not wise (351) though his greying hair and beard suggests otherwise and that he has knowledge (352), and he symbolically represents Elisa’s wishes. In the dialogue amongst them, the tinker brags about his freedom: “I go from Seattle to San Diego and back every year,” (352) and then he tells Elisa, who dreams of girls undertaking such factors, that his way of living “ain’t the appropriate sort of life for a woman” (354). Steinbeck also reveals Elisa’s longing for sexual fulfillment when “her breast swelled passionately” (353) in front of the Tinker.

Extra events in the story are symbolic as nicely. For example, Elisa took off her gardening gloves when she was talking to the Tinker (352) and subjected herself to disappointment. The gloves symbolize protection, specially in boxing, and without having them she became vulnerable. When she spots “a dark speck” in the middle of the road (355), she knew what it was and feels portion of her die inside as the flower is a component of her. The gloves and other symbolic components described right here enrich and strengthen the story.



Work Cited

Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. 5th Compact ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2012. 350-356. Print.
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