The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How is "The Chrysanthemums" an example of Naturalism?

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

As defined by

"Naturalism in literature was a literary movement that suggested the involvement of environment, heredity and social conditions in shaping the human character."

In the short story "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck, Elisa Allen is a woman who is strong and energetic. She is closely tied to the earth as a wonderful gardener who is able to work magic while creating beautiful flowers, and she is proud of her gift. (This shows a positive link to her environment.)

Eliza is married to a man who is successful and who provides for her and tries to do things he thinks will make her happy, but they are not connected emotionally. Here she is stifled by her environment.

While she works in the garden one day, a peddler comes by in his wagon to sell his services in repairing pots, tools, etc. Eliza is not interested until he begins to fuss over her chrysanthemums. He tells a story that someone he knows would love some of her plants, and so Eliza, engaged by this wanderer whose life she admires, offers young plants to take with him, and she has him do some work for her. At first it seems as if she is making a positive connection to society in this way.

Eliza takes pride in what she is able to create out of the dirt, and feels empowered for the way the plants respond to her. As the day wears on, she begins to develop a clearer sense of who she is—and her husband compliments her gift with growing things. Like a flower tended with care, she begins to blossom, and is further connected to her environment and the society of her husband's company.

As they travel into town, Eliza notices that the peddler has tossed the flowers onto the side of the road, though he keeps her pot, and she is devastated.


(The entire section contains 630 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial