The Chrysanthemums

The Chrysanthemums Metaphors and Similes

A Closed Pot

"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" (337).

Steinbeck, known for his powerful descriptions of settings, begins the story by using a simile to descrbe the fog over the Salinas Valley closing it in like a pot. This serves not merely to anchor the reader in the physical world of the story, but also to establish a closed-in, almost oppressive environment which mirrors the spiritual and internal oppression Elisa feels because of her gender. 



Unwatered Flowers

"The horse and the donkey drooped like unwatered flowers" (340). 

Soon after the tinker arrives at the ranch, he stops his wagon; his horse and donkey, who have been pulling it, are described as "drooping like unwatered flowers", emphasizing their exhaustion, or perhaps their general weakness. This helps indicate the tinker's poverty and nomadic lifestyle - he has either been travelling for a while, looking for work, or is unable to afford quality animals that are able to pull his wagon competently. 

A fawning dog

"She crouched low like a fawning dog" (344)

As Elisa attempts to communicate her intuitive way with plants to the tinker, she becomes passionate, crouching on the ground and barely able to restrain herself from touching him. Here, the simile that she is crouched like a fawning dog helps emphasize how worked up she is, the extreme physical position she has put herself in through her excitement, and her willingness, in this moment, to submit physically to the tinker. 

Elisa's terrier fingers

"Her terrier fingers destroyed such pests before they could get started" (338)

Here, a metaphor is being used to compare Elisa's fingers to terriers. This creates a distinct, vivid image of how Elisa must garden, her fingers rooting out pests aggressively and thoroughly, not letting a single one go undisturbed. It also helps contribute to the image Steinbeck paints of Elisa as being "over-powerful" and excessively energetic. 

A forest of sprouts

"She took off a glove and put her strong fingers down into the forest of new green chrysanthemum sprouts that were growing around the old roots" (338) 

The metaphor of the chrysanthemum sprouts coming up as a forest helps paint a clear picture of the abundance the sprouts must be growing in. This helps emphasize Elisa's obvious skill with the flowers.