Intimacy In John Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums'

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The short story “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck centers on Elisa Allen, a discontented wife living on a ranch with her husband Henry. Elisa is strong, smart, and a great gardener. But Elisa is unhappy because she is bound by the traditional gender role. Her unhappiness is also fueled by her insecurity, vulnerability, and lack of intimacy in her mundane life. The story begins with the description of the weather “grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world”. This set the stage to how Elisa feel about her life, sad and gloomy. She also feel trapped in her life and marriage just like the fog of the valley, “On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot”. But from a distance, she can see “across the Salinas River, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine” hope of a brighter future somewhere outside the valley that she is trapped in. She has a desire to escape the traditional female role and the boring life that brings her little joy. Elisa and Henry have a very traditional marriage. Henry is the breadwinner who works hard running the ranch and conducts business while Elisa takes care of the house and garden. While she takes great pride in her ability to grow big chrysanthemum; she also wants to work on the…show more content…
She spends most of her time working around the house and garden which she keeps in meticulous order: “a hard-swept looking little house with hard-polished windows, and a clean mud-mat on the front steps”. When she is not cleaning house, she is working in the garden which she is very good at. She planted “red geraniums…as high as windows” around the home. Though she has total control of her home and garden, she has little control over her own needs and the desire to escape the mundane

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