illustrated profile of a woman's head with cracks running through it set against a chrysanthemum background

The Chrysanthemums

by John Steinbeck

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Can you provide a quote from "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck?

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The story speaks of the dissatisfaction felt by Elisa, a young wife and mother. Elisa lives on a farm with her husband Henry, and she feels that his lack of fulfillment is mirrored by her own. Elisa is not fulfilled by her roles as wife or mother and feels this even more acutely when she wishes to spend time away from her husband at the town's fights. In the end, after being turned away from the fights due to her sex, Elisa has an epiphany where she realizes that rather than being satisfied with her life as it is, she must change it in order to achieve happiness. "Chrysanthemums" was published in "Collier's" magazine in October 25, 1936.

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Below, I provide some quotes that exhibit one of the main themes of the story: female sexuality.

Behind her stood the neat white farm house with red geraniums close-banked around it as high as the windows. It was a hard-swept looking little house, with hard-polished windows, and a clean mud-mat on the front steps.

This first quote highlights Elisa's inflexible attention to detail and order. The house is "hard-swept" and the windows are "hard-polished." An inordinate amount of energy seems to have been exerted on keeping up appearances. Elisa herself works with scissors in an "over-eager, over-powerful" manner. Yet, she is dressed curiously. Her figure looks "blocked and heavy in her gardening costume."

Elisa's clothes are functional and reveal little of her femininity. By all indications, however, she is a woman with a passionate nature.

"Do any women ever go to the fights?" she asked.

"Oh, sure, some. What's the matter, Elisa? Do you want to go? I don't think you'd like it, but I'll take you if you really want to go."

She relaxed limply in the seat. "Oh, no. No. I don't want to go. I'm sure I don't."

Her face was turned away from him. "It will be enough if we can have wine. It will be plenty." She turned up her coat collar so he could not see that she was crying weakly—like an old woman.

Here, we see that Elisa's curiosity over the fights is unnerving to her husband. Henry interprets Elisa's interest in such a masculine sport as uncharacteristic, and certainly unconventional for a woman. By all indications, Henry has failed to recognize his wife's true nature and desires. Meanwhile, Elisa feels that she must hide her true self from Henry. The lack of honesty on both Henry and Elisa's parts result in a sterile, deeply unsatisfying relationship.

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