Perception And Reality In The Chrysanthemums By John Steinbeck

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In the short story “The Chrysanthemums”, John Steinbeck uses setting, appearance, and highlights important scenes to contrast self-perception and reality. The setting is used to show how the protagonist, Elisa Allen, is trapped where she is. “The high bray-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world”(358) Elisa’s appearance is seen as “blocked and heavy”(358) to reveal key facts of her personality. Elisa’s self-perception is changed after she undergoes a cleansing of her old self in the bath scene; a change from masculine to feminine. Following the bath Elisa then feels and proclaims to be “strong”(363). 3 ways that Elisa’s perception and reality are contrasted throughout the story are…show more content…
In the beginning of the story, Elisa is in a fenced in garden, and her husband is working outside the fence. This shows the distance between the couple both literally and symbolically. “… and the mountains and made the valley a closed pot.” (358) this emphasizes the isolation and little contact that is in Elisa’s life. Elisa’s life is all about her passion for chrysanthemums and by surrounding herself by the garden and the garden being enclosed by the fence, it shows that Elisa, who is without children, is very nurturing. Elisa not being able to bear children may be a main cause for little intimacy in her marriage. The tinker is a character introduced to Elisa and the setting of his life differs from Elisa in that he travels all over the world, but Elisa is always at home. When the tinker leaves Elisa says “That’s a bright direction. There’s a glowing there.”(362) which shows Elisa’s desire for change and that the current self-perception of herself is…show more content…
Elisa’s clothing resembles her figure to be that of a man, she is seen to have a “blocked and heavy”(358) body figure and shape. Elisa’s clothing consists of a corduroy apron, leather gloves, a masculine hat, and clodhopper shoes, each item is masculine on its own and as one represents a man or man like figure. Elisa’s clothing changes as her self perception changes. After the bath scene Elisa’s clothing changes from masculine to feminine, she wears a dress instead of a corduroy apron, fancy undergarments and long hair instead of a masculine hat with clodhopper shoes. The clothing Elisa puts on after the bath is “…the symbol of her prettiness” (363) and brings about a confidence in Elisa that the audience never seen in her old self. As Elisa’s self-perception is changed the way that she feels and acts does as well; with these clothes on Elisa feels open and confident in the skin she is

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