The Chrysanthemums Essay, Research Paper
On Henry Allen’s ranch east of Salinas
Elisa plants yellow chrysanthemums as
Henry is selling thirty head of cattle to
agents of the Western Meat Company.
After he and Scotty go to round up the
cattle, a tinker shows up. He asks for
work which Elisa says she hasn’t. He
asks for seeds for a lady on his route.
Elisa gives him seedlings with
instructions, and then she finds work for
him which he does professionally. To
celebrate the sale Henry drives her to
Salinas for dinner at the Cominos Hotel
and a movie; they drive past the tinker
on the road and she privately weeps.
2. The White Quail
Mary has her garden designed before
its lot is bought, before she’s married.
She picks Harry because she thinks the
garden will like him. After the house is
built and the garden established Harry
finds her perfect though untouchable.
She doesn’t care for his occupation
(making loans for cars); it’s unfair. She
routinely locks him from her tiny
bedroom on the garden. He tries the
lock and leaves quietly. She refuses to
let him have a setter pup since it might
damage her garden. After a white quail
visits the cement pond she fears a cat
will come and asks Harry to put out
poison fish. He refuses but will try to hit
such a cat with his new air rifle. Next
morning he shoots the white quail then
tells Mary it was the cat he buried.
Mama Torres makes Emilo and Rosy
fish when they can. Pep?, who is
beautiful but lazy, is sent to Monterey
for medicine and salt. At Mrs.
Rodriguez’s he kills a man with his
father’s black switchblade knife. He
returns before dawn, then rides into the
high hills as his family bids him, now a
man, adios. After a day’s riding he
sleeps and is awakened by a horse
down the trail. He rides another day
before his horse is shot out from under
him. He exchanges shots and receives a
granite splinter wound in his right hand.
He runs on for several days and is
finally shot dead.
4. The Snake
Young marine biologist Dr. Phillips
brings a sack of starfish from the tide
pool to his laboratory on the cannery
street in Monterey. The lab:
rattlesnakes, rats, cats; killing a cat.
Arrival of a tall, lean woman just as he
begins timed work making a starfish
embryo series. While she waits he
begins embalming the cat. She wants to
buy the male rattlesnake which she
wants to keep in the lab. Her snakish
behavior during the feeding annoys
Phillips. The starfish series is ruined.
She never comes back.
A cold pre-dawn, by a country road, I
see a tent with a lit campstove. A girl
nurses a baby while preparing coffee,
bread and bacon. A younger and an
older man came from the tent. I’m
asked to breakfast. They’re cotton
pickers, working twelve days already.
They go to work. I leave.
6. The Raid
Root and Dick head out of a packing
plant town on a dark night, stopping
finally at an abandoned store where
they put up posters. After an hour a
man warns them to leave, but they have
orders to hold it. Dick reminds Root: It
isn’t them hitting you, it’s the System; it
isn’t you being busted but the Principle.
And: when it comes, it won’t hurt. Root
greets the raiders as comrades and is hit
with a club. He stands again and passes
out. He wakes in a hospital cell. Dick
says they’ll probably get six months.
“Forgive them” vs. “opium of the
7. The Harness
Randall’s ranch east of Salinas and
across the river is an ideal blend of
bottomland and upland. After Peter’s
annual business trips Emma becomes
sick for several weeks and the
neighbors bring cakes and pies. When
she dies Peter becomes hysterical.
Alone with Ed, he removes his shoulder
brace and girdle, gets whiskey from the
barn, tells of his one week a year at San
Francisco fancy houses, of his dream of
filling the bottom land with sweet peas
and the house with fat women. DeWitt
says he’s crazy to plant sweet peas, but
they are so beautiful schoolbusses drive
out to see them. At the Ramona Hotel
in San Francisco, to meet his wife’s
cousin from Ohio, Ed sees Peter come
in drunk from a fancy house on Van
Ness Avenue. He says Emma kept him
worried all year about those peas: she
didn’t die dead.
8. The Vigilante
Mike watches the crowd depart after a
lynching. The bartender opened up
thinking the boys would be thristy but
only Mike comes in. Mike tells of the
raid on the jail, the beating, the lynching.
The bartender buys a swatch of the
dead man’s pants from Mike to hang up
at the bar. They walk to their homes.
Mike’s wife accuses him of being with a
woman. In the bathroom Mike realizes
that’s exactly how he feels.
9. Johnny Bear
I’m in Loma to drain the swamp north
of town. I’m at the Buffalo Bar with
Alex when Johnny Bear comes in. For
whiskey he imitates a dialogue between
me and Mae. Next he imitates the
Hawkins sisters, neighbors of Alex.
After Sunday chicken dinner at Alex’s
Johnny imitates the doctor asking
Emalin why Amy tried to hang herself.
After two weeks of trouble with the
dredging, we learn that Amy has killed
herself. Johnny’s imitation includes
Amy’s pregnancy. Alex punches Johnny
and explains later.
10. The Murder
Jim Moore visits the Three Star in
Monterey on Saturdays. He marries
Jelka Sepic who is obedient but quiet.
George tells Jim, on his way to the
Three Stars (he’s “hunting”) he’s seen a
calf of his dead. Jim investigates, then
returns home to find a horse in his barn.
He finds Jelka in bed with her grown
cousin. He shoots him, then brings out
the coroner and deputy sheriff, then
takes a bull whip to Jelka in the barn,
then ate the breakfast she made him,
then went to town for lumber to build a
new house down the hill.
11. Saint Katy the Virgin
In P- in the year 13- Brother
Clement drowned and Roark laughed.
Katy prevented Brigid and Rory from
sucking; later she ate them. Then she
ate chickens and possibly children.
Roark grew fonder of Katy. The boar
which mated with her became sterile,
and she ate all her babies. As he’s
about to kill her, two monks ask Roark
for a tithe so he gives them the pig.
Katy bites Colin; he and Paul climb a
tree. Paul waves a crucifix at her and
screams APAGE SATANAS! As he
dangles the cross in front of Katy she
falls to the ground making the sign of
the cross. Roark becomes a good man.
Paul recites the Sermon on the Mount
in Latin to the sobbing Katy. Fr.
Benedict is angry because Katy, being
a Christian, can’t be slaughtered. Kety
becomes a saint and, in the advice of a
barber, a “virgin by intent” (in spite of
her litter). Her relics cure female
troubles and ringworm.