Topics for Further Study
Many critics have found it useful to compare ‘‘The Chrysanthemums’’ with another Steinbeck short story from the same collection, ''The White Quail.’’ Read both stories. Do you agree, as some have suggested, that Elisa Allen and Mary Teller are similar characters in different situations? Or do you agree with other critics, who believe the two women are opposites?
Steinbeck was interested in plants and knew quite a lot about propagating them. Learn what you can about pollination, and about producing new plants by transplanting cuttings, as Elisa Allen does. What might Elisa's choice of methods say about her, in the context of the rest of the story?
Find out what you can about steer. What exactly are they? How are they created? What are they used for? How does the fact that Henry raises steer connect with important issues in the story?
Is Elisa Allen a victim of her circumstances? How might her situation be improved or made worse if she lived in our modern technological world?