"I am strong? Yes, strong. what do you mean "strong??"  "Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck the quote  what makesit important to the story

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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After the tinker has left and Elisa bathes before she and her husband go out to celebrate his sale of thirty steer, she hears her husband enter.  When he comes "banging out of the door" after bathing and dressing--something like a steer himself--he stiffens and Elisa's face tightens.  "Why--why Elisa. You look so nice," her husband tells her.  When she asks him what he means, Henry Allen "blunders,"and replies,

"I don't know.  I mean you look different, strong and happy."

"I am strong?  Yes, strong.  What do you mean 'strong'"?

Unable to speak in anything but ranch language, Henry awkwardly tells her she is strong enough to "break a calf over [her]knee."  This is hardly what Elisa who has felt a near-erotic experience in her conversation with the tinker over her chrysanthemums wants to hear.  For, Elisa anticipates a romantic evening--"That's a bright direction.  There's a glowing there"--with her husband as they share a meal with wine.  But, Henry returns to his formal language with her, saying only that he will get the car out.  Like the "closed pot" of the Salinas Valley, Elisa and Henry Allan have a closed, reserved relationship in which Elisa's passionate nature cannot be released or satisfied.  It can only be "strong" on the ranch.

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