The Chrysanthemums

Symbolism in John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” College

In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums,” nature represents Elisa Allen’s confinement, the chrysanthemums symbolizes Elisa herself, and the tinker embodies Elisa’s wants. The narrator compares the Salinas Valley to “a closed pot” because “[a] high gray-flannel fog of winter closed off the [valley] from the sky and from all the rest of the world… [and] it sat like a lid on the mountains” (350). This imagery mirrors Elisa because she feels trapped and deprived as seen with her husband and the tinker. The narrator also mentions that “the foothill ranches across the Salinas River… bathed in… sunshine,” however “there was no sunshine in the valley” (350). The symbolism here suggests that happiness is within Elisa’s reach, but not in her presence. This essay discusses the many events in the story that are symbolic, including the weather and setting, the chrysanthemums and the tinker.

The narrator states that the “farmers were mildly hopeful of a good rain… but rain and fog do not go together” (350). Rain is a universal symbol that represents rebirth or sadness. This is seen when Elisa “[cried] weakly – like an old woman” (356). Elisa and Henry Allen also represent the rain and fog in that they do not belong together. He minimizes her...

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