Reviewing The Book The Chrysanthemums English Literature Essay

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In John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" the reader is given a look at the lives of a couple who lives in a farm valley in California. The valley they live in is always foggy and cold in the winter. The two people's names are Henry Allen and Elisa Allen. The husband sells his animals for meat and the wife, Elisa, plants her chrysanthemums in her garden. Elisa has dreams of doing something else but there are certain objects in the story that symbolize a block. There are many instances throughout this story where the theme and setting relate. John Steinbeck examines Elisa Henry through his use of setting in the story "The Chrysanthemums" to present the themes of repression of women.

The first way the setting and character interrelate is the garden that Elisa works in. The garden that Elisa works in has boundaries that keep her there. This could signify as being locked in or trapped. This did not bother her though; she loved to garden and claimed to have planter's hands. She said this because a person with planter's hands could grow just about anything and so could she. "Elisa Allen, working in her garden, looked down across the yard and saw Henry, her husband, talking to two men in business suits" (Steinbeck 192). This is a good example of what the garden's fence does. It keeps Elisa in her garden and does not let her explore new things. From the start you can see that Elisa has dreams of such things. Even though she loved to plant, she also had bigger and better dreams of one day being outside the valley. The time the characters are in also effects what Elisa can do. Women at this time were supposed to stay home and take care of the house. If a woman wanted to go explore new things she could not.

The second way the setting and character interrelate is the fog of the Salinas Valley. In the book, Steinbeck says that the fog and rain do not come together. It is either rainy or it is either foggy, but never both at the same time. This means they do not mix much like the characters. "The natural elements of the foothills ranch seem as unwilling to confront each other as the characters that inhabit its environs" (Palmerino 164). What he is saying is that Henry and Elisa are not confrontational toward each other and don't resolve issues. This is much like the rain and fog that don't confront each other. Another way the fog interrelates is how dense and unclear it is. Elisa has dreams that are unclear to her how from all the fog that collects over the valley. "The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world" (Steinbeck 192). This quote is also a good example of how the fog affects the characters. The fog traps Elisa Henry in a way in the valley by not letting any sunshine in. A grey sky all the time could make Elisa depressed and this could also make her dreams disappear. Steinbeck says it also blocks them from the rest of the world. This constant grey sky could make Elisa Henry feel shut off from the rest of the world which could give Elisa no hope in ever pursuing her dreams

The third way the setting and character interrelate is the valley walls. The valley walls that surround Henry and Elisa's farm in the valley trap them in. The walls keep them from exploring and broadening there lives outside the walls of the valley. Both of them have dreams of doing things but there skewed by the "big fence" or valley walls that trap them in. When Henry and Elisa go out for the evening to celebrate the sell Henry had made they enjoy their time outside the walls of the valley. They decide they should go out more often for dinner and wine. "She turned her coat collar so he could n see that she was crying weakly-like an old woman"(Steinbeck 199). This quote is when Elisa realizes that society wouldn't support her dreams in a way. She wants to go to the fights that night but knows by the way Henry talks about it that woman do not usually go to the fights. Even though the reader knows Elisa wants to go Elisa says no when Henry asks her to go. She maybe realizing that some of the dreams she has can not be met even though she is outside the valley walls. This shows the reader that repression of women back then was strict with what they wanted women to be like.

John Steinbeck examines Elisa Henry through his use of setting in the story in the story "The Chrysanthemums". This shows that the character is trapped in this place with dreams to go places and experiencing new things in life. Sometimes these dreams can't be met because of certain inalienable circumstances like the garden fence, the fog, and the valley walls. The garden fence keeps Elisa Henry in her place a way. Even though she loves to garden, she would also love to do something new. The fog traps Elisa in and makes her dreams unclear. The fog, with the cold weather, could also make Elisa depressed and make her want to leave even more. The valley walls trap her in also and keep her from achieving her dreams. Steinbeck has all these symbols in the story to tell the reader what Elisa really wants. Even though she could maybe someday escape the repression of women would hold her back.

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