Elisa is an artist with her flowers; however, she is unable to share this artistry with others. She thinks she recognizes an opportunity to do this when the tinker arrives, because he promises to take her chrysanthemum sprouts and give them to a woman who longs for chrysanthemums in her own garden, however, ironically, the tinker taking her flowers actually does the opposite. He literally dumps them at the side of the road, destroying her artistry (and her hopes). He invented the woman only to get Elisa's sympathy -- and, ultimately, her business. Although initially he made her feel very positive about herself and her work, he ironically winds up being the source of great disappointment for her.
Elisa's skill with and care for plants
There is something inherently ironic in Elisa's obvious skill with plants. Although she clearly has a "green thumb" and is a virtuoso when it comes to growing chrysanthemums, the futility of this skill, and the fact that she cannot share her artistry with anyone beyond the ranch, nor will her husband let her put it to practical use growing crops or otherwise contributing to their financial well-being means that her skill essentially comes to nothing.
Although she boasts throughout the story about how skilled she is, ironically, this skill actually contributes to her unhappiness, because she is unable to share her skills and artistry with the world, or alternately, use it for any practical utility.
The wine being enough
At the end of the story, Henry, baffled by his wife's strange questions about the boxing matches in town, offers to take her to them. She refuses, saying "It will be enough if we can have wine. It will be plenty" (348). Many critics have cited this as an example of irony in the text: although Elisa insists that wine is enough, her tears seem to suggest the exact opposite. Wine is a small risk, a miniature adventure compared to the freedom Elisa longs for. Although she insists to her husband that wine will be plenty, she actually needsmuch more than that to feel fulfilled.
Confused by Elisa's questions about the boxing matches, Henry finally offers: "I don't think you'd like it, but I'll take you if you really want to go" (348). The irony of this offer is that although Henry believes he's being generous and magnanimous by making this offer, the very nature of the offer itself is oppressive and unappealing to Elisa. What she truly wants is freedom and independence: while being at the fights might provide the illusion of independence, for her husband to have to take her there (because she lacks a means of getting there herself) is fundamentally in opposition to this desire, and ensures she remains subordinate to Henry.
The Chrysanthemums Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Chrysanthemums is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Elisa returns to her house, removes all of her clothes and bathes. When she's finished, she stands in front of her bedroom mirror and studies her body. She slowly gets dressed, taking her time to put on her nicest, prettiest clothes and carefully...
I think Elisa is guarded at first but the stranger's talk of flowers draws her femininity to the surface. She becomes less constrained. The stranger's feigned interest in her flowers draws Elisa's attention: