The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

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In "The Chrysanthemums," what is Elisa and Henry's marriage like?

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Elisa and Henry's marriage is a steady one, but it lacks intimacy and passion. Both are too absorbed in keeping up appearances with each other to engage in honest dialogue. In the story, Henry suggests that he and Elisa go out to celebrate after he manages to get a good price for thirty of his three-year-old steers.

Elisa's response is polite but lacking in enthusiasm. She says everything a wife is supposed to say. However, she is clearly unhappy. While her husband takes his bath, she lays out his clothes on the bed and deposits his polished shoes next to the bed. Then, she sits "primly and stiffly down" to wait for him on the porch. When Henry appears, he is surprised to see that his wife looks "different." Blindsided by the apparent change in her manner, he blurts out that she looks "strong and happy." However, Elisa is disturbed by his description of her. She demands to know what he means by his words.

For his part, Henry senses that he's said something amiss, but he doesn't know what...

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