The Chrysanthemums Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums book cover
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Was Elisa in The Chrysanthemums a repressed woman or a feminist or both? She is quite a confusing character. 

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In John Steinbeck's story, "The Chrysanthemums," the character of Elisa is indeed a confusing character. She exhibits conflicting behavior throughout the story. At first she is seen wearing ambiguous clothing, tending her flowers. When the tinker arrives, she expresses interest--and maybe even envy--at his life on the road. She is drawn to the idea of being free like a man. When he asks about her flowers she gets excited as she talks about them. Later, when she realizes he did not care about the flower she gave him and threw it away, she feels foolish. Elisa asks her husband if she can go to a fight later--if the men hurt each other and if there will be blood. Her desire to see a masculine sport and witness violence, reflects her anger and frustration at being restricted in her role as a woman. Therefore, she is more of a repressed woman than a feminist, although she longs to be a strong woman.

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