In 'The Chysanthemums," what significance do the flowers have for Elisa?
The chysanthemums are a metaphor for the controlled beauty and passion of Elisa, the protagonist.
As Elisa talks to the tinker, she explains that the "budding takes the most care." Like her flowers, Eliza too longs to bloom. And like her beloved flowers, she knows that with proper care, she too can be "transplated."
However, her gift, (her beauty, like that of the cultured flowers) will be just as wasted on the traveling salesman as it has been on her husband. After accepting her offering (that of herself as well as the potted, perfect flowers), Elisa is crushed to learn that the man has discarded her gift (both the flower and her own hope for love and escape.)
Traveling with her husband, Henry, Elisa is pained to see her cherished gift tossed aside and broken in the middle of the road:
"He might have thrown them off the road. That wouldn't have been much trouble, not very much."