What are some of the concerns shown by Steinbeck in the story "The Chrysanthemums"? 

What are some of the concerns shown by Steinbeck in the story "The Chrysanthemums"?

 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elisa has a decent husband. He is steady and a good provider. So, Elisa has no real concerns about money or stability. However, as a result of her encounter with the stranger, she realizes that her life lacks any sense of romance or adventure. Her marriage and her role in that marriage are quite traditional. So, her desire for something more emerges as a feminist theme in that she dreams of something more than her limited role will allow. When the stranger says he will take some of her chrysanthemums to a woman down the road, Elisa is very excited. Even if she can not get away from her routine life, she takes some solace in the knowledge that her flowers will. 

Elisa actually divulges her desire to escape and live more adventurously. Speaking to the stranger, she says: 

I've never lived as you do, but I know what you mean. When the night is dark—why, the stars are sharp-pointed, and there's quiet. Why, you rise up and up! Every pointed star gets driven into your body. It's like that. Hot and sharp and—lovely. 

Her description is about life on the road, but the language is laden with sexual connotations. The phrase "driven into your body" is clearly sexual. So, here she is conflating sex, romance, and an adventurous life. Her main concern following the encounter with the stranger is how to address this urge for something more. When Henry takes her out, she sees the chrysanthemums along the side of the road and this symbolically suggests that she can not escape from her traditional role. The story ends with Elisa trying to hide the fact that she's crying. 

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The Chrysanthemums

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