The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums book cover
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How do Elisa's feelings and actions toward the stranger change over the course of her conversation with him in "The Chrysanthemums"?

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Metaphorically linking Elisa with the "closed pot" of the fertile Salinas Valley, Steinbeck has both the land and Elisa existing in "a time of quiet and of waiting." After the stranger, who is "a big man," arrives with his dark and brooding eyes, he talks with Elisa about her chrysanthemums and draws her out by touching upon her passion for the flowers, causing womanly feelings in her that have been dormant to surface and become strongly aroused as she attains a new awareness of herself.

Throughout "The Chrysanthemums " there are many symbols of both sterility and fecundity. Certainly, the rich, black soil of the Salinas Valley suggests fertility. As Elisa digs in this earth with her "terrier fingers," she prepares the soil for her beloved flowers as she trims the old ones and places into the earth the green shoots. At this point, the "big, stubble-bearded man" rolls up in his wagon with "the...

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