This short story was published during the aftermath of the women’s rights movement and during WW2. John Steinbeck cared about the political and societal malpractices and portrayed his views in his writings. This short story belongs in a collection called The Long Valley.Elisa Allen is working on her garden and she sees her husband, Henry, speaking with two men about selling his steers. The garden bed and the house are called to attention and it is pointed out that they are very clean and organized. Once the strangers leave, Henry comes over to her and politely praises her on how lovely the garden looks and then wishes that she would attend to the orchards in the same way. She at first is egger to help but realizes that he was joking. Henry says they should celebrate by going to town and jokingly suggests seeing a fight, to which Elisa turns down. Henry leaves and a wagon pulls up with a charming, yet uneducated, tinker. They joke about the ferocity of the dogs. He asks for work to pay to feed his self and Elisa denies that there is work for him to do. He notices the chrysanthemums and tells her that he has a client that wants to raise some. She suddenly is excited and begins to ready some plants for him to take with him, and she instructs him on how to take care of them. She expresses her passion and her connection to the flowers in a seductive manner, even to the point of wanting to have physical contact with the tinker. She refrains from touching. The tinker points out that it’s hard to feel that way when hungry. Elisa gives in and finds something for him to work on. As the tinker works, Elisa expresses her opinion that women can do that same kind of work he does, to which he says it would be to lo…
…chilly or frigid. This description of the weather in the valley applies to Elisa. This lyrical description of the valley is a symbol of Elisa’s oppressive, unhappy, inner life.
The author wanted to provide a realistic view of life in this era and also wanted to bring to life what everyday women felt like then. The subject and writing style could be seen as plain but that is to let you (the reader) be able to feel yourself in the time and place and thus be able to feel the emotional context of the events that happen to the charcters.
Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto and William E. Cain. Literature for Composition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2014.
Editors, SparkNotes. SparkNote on The Chrysanthemums. 9 April 2007. SparkNotes LLC. 25 April 2014.
McMahan, Elizabeth. The Chrysanthemums: A Sudy of Women’s Sexuality. Modern Fiction Studies, 1964.