Living in the "closed pot" of the Salinas Valley, Elisa Allan is a strong woman who has much repressed desire. Her husband, a man who cannot speak in romantic words, "blunders" and is "bewildered" as to how to tap Elisa's passionate nature. For instance, when he notices Elisa's freshly revived femininity after the tinker has departed, Henry reacts by telling his wife that she looks "strong." He simply cannot fulfill her needs for romance and imagination.
In my opinion, Elisa realizes her limitations and cannot overcome them. This is why, for example, she "weeps like an old woman" at the end of the story when she discovers the tinker has thrown her flower in the road and kept only the pot. This reveals her resignation to her "place" as the wife of a man who cannot fulfill certain needs of hers, including her need for an emotional bond and the need for someone who can appreciate her love of beauty. She realizes that her life is limited to the farm she lives on and that she will be unable to travel and explore new places and fulfill that need in her life.
Women during this time period did have limitations due to the roles they were expected to have. They were expected to take care of their husbands, their homes, etc.
To me, the main theme of the story is how marriage limits a woman's potential during this period of time. When Elisa asks the stranger about his life on the road, she responds by saying, "It must be very nice. I wish women could do such things." Elisa dreams of adventure and excitement in her life. Her life is much the same from one day to the next, and she knows there's so much more to be experienced in the world. She wishes to express herself creatively and to expand her abilities to produce beautiful things. Her flowers are her only outlet for this expression. Her worst fear is to grow old and never have the opportunity to live out her dream. This is why the tinker is so appealing to her. Elisa sees his life as spontaneous, and she romanticizes it.
Elisa's husband is a good man who loves his wife and appreciates her. It never would occur to him, however, that Elisa might need more in her life. He provides her the security of a home and a husband, but for Elisa, that isn't enough. She's also lonely, having no children or anyone living nearby. She just needs the opportunity to go out in the world and experience new things. As a woman during this time, she probably will never have that chance.
What is the purpose of including of the dogs in "The chrysanthemums"?