The Chrysanthemums Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums book cover
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Discuss the symbolism in the story "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck.

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Elisa Allen’s frustrations about her life dominate “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck. As the protagonist, Elisa wants more from life. She has a good husband who works hard to provide a good life. As in many marriages, the communication falls short between husband and wife,


Chrysanthemums and her children

Throughout the story, Steinbeck uses the chrysanthemums as a symbol. Elisa and Henry have no children. The beautiful flowers that she grows with tenderness and love have become her children. She shields them by placing a fence around them. Part of her care includes protecting them from insects:

No aphids, no sow bugs or snails or cutworms…her terrier fingers destroyed such pests before they could get started.

These vermin represent natural harm to the flowers; and, just as any good mother, she removes them before they can harm her children. 

Elisa longs for more in her life. She is sexually and emotionally unfulfilled. The chrysanthemums represent her desire for more. Her...

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