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Chrysanthemums By Steinbeck Evaluation Essay Research Paper

Chrysanthemums By Steinbeck Evaluation Essay, Research Paper The Chrysanthemums, by John Steinbeck, is set in the beautiful valley of Salinas, California, during a time when California was the land of plenty. A

Chrysanthemums By Steinbeck Evaluation Essay, Research Paper

The Chrysanthemums, by John Steinbeck, is set in the beautiful valley of

Salinas, California, during a time when California was the land of plenty. A

place where dust storms and drought were unheard of, where water was plentiful

and the air sprinkled with the sweet smell of fruit blossoms. A time when simple

people farm the land and struggle to find a place for themselves in the world.

Elisa Allen is at a point in her life where she has begun to realize that her

energy and creative drive far exceed what life has offered her. Her husband,

Henry Allen, is a well meaning and essentially good man and is quite pleased to

be able to make a decent living. Her marriage is reasonably happy and there is

an easy banter between the two of them. While they have settled into a fairly

familiar and ordinary routine, they are still responsive to each other?s sense

of accomplishment and agree to celebrate with a night on the town. Elisa is

earthbound, rooted securely in her garden but also held down by her connection

to it. Their house is described as ?hard-swept? and ?hard-polished,? and

is the only outlet for her talents. However, Elisa needs something more in her

life than a neat house and a good garden. Their marriage is childless and

conventional and she has begun to sense that an important part of her is dying

and that her future will be predictable and mundane. Elisa is a barren woman who

has transferred her maternal impulses to her garden, a garden full of unborn

seedlings. On the other hand, Elisa would never consider a lurid affair, when a

dark mysterious stranger appears at their quiet farm dwelling looking for work.

A complete contrast from her husband, an adventurer who lives spontaneously, a

man of the road not bound by standard measures of time or place. Since mending

pots is a way of life, he has found it necessary to be able to charm potential

customers into giving him work, and is very skillful at calculating a person?s

emotional needs. The stranger is described as big, bearded, and graying man, who

knows something about life and people. A man with a captivating presence whose

eyes are dark and ?full of brooding.? Elisa is fascinated by his spontaneous

way of life. When she tries to get him to discuss his travels, he steers back to

the possibility of employment. When it is apparent that she has no work to give

him, he cleverly praises her flowers. Elisa is desperately eager to share in the

one thing she is actually proud of, and carefully gathers some shoots to share

with another customer down the road. As she disciplines the stranger on the

proper nurturing of the seedlings, her passionate involvement with the process

of planting becomes an expression of all the suppressed romance in her life. The

stranger senses this craving, and offers just enough encouragement to lead her

into a full-scale declaration of her profound love of what planting means to

her. Elisa would like this moment to continue, but the stranger reminds her that

hunger overcomes inspiration. Elisa, somewhat ashamed by her openness, finds

some useless old pots for him to mend. She believes that the man has given her

something of value and she feels obliged to give him something in return. As the

man leaves, Elisa looks away after him, whispering to herself, ?That?s a

bright direction. There?s a glowing there.? The purpose of the conversation

between Elisa and the stranger is very dramatic. Elisa feels energized and

appreciated, delighted by her moment to share her special skill and excited by

the chance to share, at least in her imagination, a totally different kind of

life. As she prepares for the evening, the effort she usually puts into

scrubbing the house is redirected into her transformation to make herself as

attractive as she now feels. Her husband is both surprised and pleased by her

appearance, and their conversation is mixed with pleasantries and unexpected

delight as they both enjoy the animating effect of Elisa?s encounter. Their

mood remains distinctly elevated as they head for town, but then Elisa sees a

small speck on the road in the distance. Instantly, she realizes that this is

the treasure she so tenderly prepared. The stranger has discarded the flowers on

the road to save the pot that contained them, the only object of value to him.

She weeps privately as they drive pass the stranger in the tiny covered wagon.

Elisa is shattered by the heartless manner in which he has drawn something from

her secret self and then completely betrayed her gift by not even taking the

trouble to hide the flowers. She attempts to override her disappointment, by

maintaining a mood of gaiety, suggesting that they have wine at dinner. This is

not sufficient to help her restore her feelings of confidence, so she asks her

husband if they might go to a prizefight. This request so completely out of

character that again her husband is totally baffled. She searches further for

that special feeling she held briefly, and asks if men ?hurt each other very

much.? This is part of an effort to focus her own violent and angry feelings,

but it is completely hollow as an attempt to sustain her sense of self-control.

In a few moments, she completely gives up and her whole body collapses into the

seat in a display of defeat. As the story concludes, Elisa is struggling to hide

her real feeling of pain from her husband. She is anticipating a dreadful future

in which she pictures herself ?crying weakly like an old woman.? Clearly

Steinbeck?s is particularly sensitive to the effect of landscape on a

person?s life. Because Elisa Allen?s sense of her own self-worth is so

closely tied to the land, Steinbeck has chosen to connect her psychical

existence to the season, the climate, and the terrain she inhibits. The mood of

the story is set by his description of a winter fog bordered valley, a

description that is also pertinent to Elisa?s mood. She is entering middle

age, and when the valley is compared to a ?closed pot? with ?no sunshine

in December.? There is a close parallel to the condition of her life, a sealed

vessel with little light available. Steinbeck referred to it as ?a time of

quiet and waiting,? and the land, Elisa?s only field of action, is dormant,

with ?little work to be done.? Elisa Allen is beginning to sense that not

everybody can be satisfied by bread alone. Henry?s concentration on his role

as provider and decision-maker have blinded him from Elisa?s need for someone

to understand the essential nature of her yearning. The question Steinbeck poses

is whether one should settle for security and comfort, or risk one?s dreams in

an attempt to live more completely and intensely. The retreat from action at the

conclusion suggests that the risks are great, but there is a possibility that

Elisa might not be permanently beaten by her pain. In this story Steinbeck

focuses more closely on character than on surroundings, though that is not to

say that the naturalistic setting has a non-existing role in the story. The

story develops from a dramatic point of view, as Steinbeck first describes the

entire valley in a panoramic view, then moves closer to focus Elisa working in

her garden. Throughout the story, the perspective shifts from Elisa?s narrow

and cramped domain, to the entire ranch, and to the world beyond. In a final

transformation, Elisa?s shock is thrown back by an image of multiple

confinement, as she is enclosed by a wagon, surrounded by her seat and hidden

within a coat that covers her face. It is not an image designed to create

confidence in Elisa?s prospects. Elisa is also seen alternately as a part of a

larger landscape and as a small figure in an enclosed area. Her warm,

three-dimensional character serves to show the human beauty beneath her rough

and somewhat masculine exterior. Elisa has certain needs of the spirit, the

abstract nature of which keeps happiness forever elusive. She feels trapped

between society?s definition of the masculine and the feminine. Elisa

generally wears bland, baggy clothes that tend to de-gender her. Her husband

Henry is more practical, with greater involvement in physical concern; but is

confronted by a woman whose depression is partially due to a confusion of sexual

identity. Henry withdraws from the masculine role of leadership, leaving Elisa

to flounder between aggression and submission. Here Steinbeck offers no solution

for the psychological conflicts that plague human interactions. He does not want

the readers to see Elisa change; he wants to leave it open, to make us wonder

about her character. Steinbeck?s short story focuses on the details of the

simple lives and hardships of men and women in the Salinas River Valley,

bringing the reader into the characters? most private lives and intimate

moments. In this story, something as simple and uneventful as a visit by a

traveling repairman reveals the tedious and monotonous lifestyle led by a

farmer?s wife. The reader is drawn into the tale and vicariously experiences

the suffering and longing of the lonely housewife. This story reflects the

unfulfilled longings of a country housewife, who compensates for her

disappointments in her life through her garden. Steinbeck’s use of simple themes

and his concern for common human values, stir the reader’s thoughts and

emotions, and leave them with an awareness of life. "This story has one

rare, creative thing: a directness of impression that makes it glow with

life."

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