The Chrysanthemums Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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Based on her reactions to both the fix-it man and her husband Henry, how do you think Elisa wants to be viewed by others in "The Chrysanthemums"? What do you think is Elisa's ideal conception of femininity?

Elisa wishes to be seen as soft and feminine by others in "The Chrysanthemums." Her conception of femininity is complex, and she believes that being feminine means to be both alluring and strong. Her husband is unable to see past Elisa's hard features, preventing him from acknowledging her femininity.

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When we first meet Elisa, she is working in her garden and tending to her chrysanthemums. It's important to note her physical appearance here. She has a "lean and strong" face which is mostly covered with a man's black hat. Her hands are covered in "heavy leather gloves" and her figure appears "blocked." She wears a printed dress, but it is almost completely covered with an apron that holds her tools. Elisa's feminine qualities are all but buried under her clothing.

Yet when the tinker appears, Elisa begins to uncover some of her more feminine qualities. She takes off those heavy gloves that cover her hands and touches her hair. She engages with him as an equal, transacting business and noting that she "could show [him] what a...

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