How does her conversation with the stranger become meaningful for Elisa in "The Chrysanthemums"?
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The converation changes for Elisa the moment the stranger asks about her chrysanthemums. Once he expresses interest in the flowers she works so hard on, Elisa's personality changes and she becomes more more open to what the stranger has to say. Eventually they talk about his life on the road and his "friend" (who we later learn is made up) who also grows chrysanthemums. It is these flowers, and Elisa's love of working in the soil, that connects these two characters.
Elisa is alone on a ranch in a California valley when a tinker drives up to her farm to sell her his services and goods. Elisa is a bit put off by his forwardness and hesitates to converse with him, much less buy anything he has to sell.
The tinker is experienced in his profession and sets about to talk his way into a sale. He is quick to note her working with the flowers and to realize these have value for her. He gets her talking about the flowers and Elisa is sold.
The conversation becomes meaningful because no one has ever approached her about the flowers. Her husband is much too busy running the ranch to notice. There are no other women in the story who would notice such things. The flowers are an extravagance on a hard working ranch and so are unnecessary or unimportant. But, now, Elisa has found someone with whom to talk about her flowers. She loves being able to share the joy and sweetness of her success with the flowers. Her isolation and loneliness are assuaged and she finds herself even eager to partake in the conversation with the tinker.
When the tinker departs, Elisa experiences a resurgence of self-awareness. Being admired and appreciated by the tinker for her talents awakens a very basic need in her, one that has been very dormant in her busy ranch life. Her whole being vibrates with the moment of the shared conversation--one which we know will soon be tarnished and destroyed by the tinker's disdain and duplicity.
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