What is the tone in John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrative focuses on Elisa Allen, and she is a woman who seems to feel that she is marginalized by the male forces that surround her. She is clearly energetic, strong, and capable, but her husband takes care of the business decisions concerning their farm, leaving her confined to domestic...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

The narrative focuses on Elisa Allen, and she is a woman who seems to feel that she is marginalized by the male forces that surround her. She is clearly energetic, strong, and capable, but her husband takes care of the business decisions concerning their farm, leaving her confined to domestic pursuits in the house and garden, fenced in not unlike their dog.

Words and phrases that describe Elisa's world such as "closed off," " a closed pot," and "a time of quiet and of waiting" suggest a tone of longing. Elisa's fascination with the tinker, even though he is not a particularly nice man, demonstrates her desire to see more of the world and curiosity about the itinerant life. She tells him "that sounds like a nice kind of a way to live" when he tells her of his life on the road. The tone here could be described as wistful or yearning.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tone is typically defined as the author's attitude towards the subject matter of his/her work.  The tone of "The Chrysanthemums" is one of oppression and confinement.  Elisa is very confined and isolated, both physically and emotionally, and this is revealed through Steinbeck's description of the Elisa and her husband's homestead.  It is not close to other houses and it isolated.  Her beloved garden is enclosed in fencing.  The homestead is surrounded by a low-lying fog.  Elisa's husband believes in practicality and doesn't see the aesthetic beauty of things in life.  Elisa longs to have her husband relate to her on an emotional level, but he isn't equipped to do so.  He loves her, but cannot relate to her need for emotional closeness.  Also adding to the tone is the tinker.  His visit simply reminds Elisa of how confined and isolated she is.  She points out how wonderful it must be to travel around to different places and meet new people, etc. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team