illustrated profile of a woman's head with cracks running through it set against a chrysanthemum background

The Chrysanthemums

by John Steinbeck

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Why did Elisa cry like an old woman in "The Chrysanthemums"?

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She cries like an old woman because she is defeated and she is weakened and powerless to go back and change it.  She is defeated in the sense that the man from the repair wagon manipulated her and she read into it erroneously, thinking that he actually related to her and...

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even took an interest in what was important to her, almost flirtatiously, when in the end, all he wanted was a sale.  In a sense it confirms that her husband is not the only man she has trouble understanding, and that the differences between men and women are universal.  This realization makes her feel more alone than ever way out on that farm with no one who understands her, like an old woman who has lived past her generation and who some may consider "obsolete." 

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Elisa "cries like an old woman" because she is absolutely crushed because she realizes that she has been duped by the tinker and that he was not interested in her chrysanthemums at all.  He had only pretended to be interested in Elisa talking about them in order to get some business from her (some pots to mend).  What had been an awakening of emotions for Elisa was now a huge disappointment.  Elisa realizes that she simply cannot be anyone different from who she is on her little farm with her husband.  She is "trapped" there and will never be able to get her husband to see the aesthetic beauty of her flowers that she loves so much.

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