The Chrysanthemums Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums book cover
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What do the chrysanthemums symbolize in Steinbeck's story "The Chrysanthemums?"

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"The Chrysanthemums" can be read in a feminist context as what Peter Lisca calls a "silent rebellion against the passive role required of her as a woman." This is a good starting point to contextualize the story but it is worth noting that it is not limited to a feminist interpretation. For example, it could be framed as Elisa's frustration with her under-appreciated sexuality; the flowers being a traditional symbol of feminine sexuality. 

But, sticking with the feminist idea, the chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa. They also symbolize beauty as well as potential strength and possibility. Given the right care and attention, the flowers can grow to be very beautiful and strong. Henry notes how strong, "ten inches across," they are and the tinker notes how beautiful they are. "Looks like a quick puff of...

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