The Chrysanthemums

People’s Limitations in John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” 11th Grade

In his short story “The Chrysanthemums,” John Steinbeck portrays not just the restrictions placed upon the protagonist, Elisa Allen, in the male dominated society of her day, but the intellectual and emotional shortcomings of the men to understand and acknowledge such a fact. Through his text, Steinbeck examines people’s limitations.

The first lines of “The Chrysanthemums” not only set the scene of the story, winter in Salinas Valley, California, but also capture the idea of limitation. Steinbeck writes, “The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot” (Steinbeck 389). The “grey” color and the thick, warm, “flannel” texture of the fog limit visibility, effectively separating the valley and its residents from the rest of the world. The idea of enclosure continues when the author compares the fog attached to the mountains and the valley to a lid on a pot. Not only does the fog curtail visibility, but also, as the simile implies, the energy and spirit within it cannot express itself.

As if looking through a telescope the wrong way, Steinbeck moves from a panoramic view of the...

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