Literary Criticism of ³The Chrysanthemums´ by John Steinbeck The short story that I have chose for this assignment

is µThe Chrysanthemums¶ by John Steinbeck and my partner for this assignment is Mohamad Shahril bin Alim. Therefore, in this essay I will describe about the author¶s background, the synopsis of the story and the most important thing is the element of feminism in this story. Firstly, the short story ³ The Chrysanthemums´ was written by John Steinbeck. He was born in 1902 in Salinas, California. In 1930, Steinbeck married Carol Henning and divorced in 1942. Then, he remarried with Gwyndolyn Congor and had two sons with her. However, they got divorced in 1949 and his last marriage was with Elain Scott in 1950 until his death in 1968. Steinbeck was very popular with his novels of California and specifically in set in Salinas. Lots of Steinbeck¶s writings were concerned on politics because he spent time with labour-union leaders, communist, leftist and radicals. In 1948, Steinbeck was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and he also won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1962. Generally, the short story ³ The Chrysanthemums´ is about a thirty-five year old woman who was lean, strong, and attractive named Elisa Allen. She approached her gardening of the chrysanthemums with great energy. She was working on her chrysanthemums when five strangers came and met Henry, her husband to buy his steers. Henry praised her beautiful chrysanthemums. He then offered Elisa a dinner and movie in town. Later, there was a tinker came over to their house to give service in repairing the pots but Elisa refused. The man praised her chrysanthemums and he said that an old lady asked him to find a chrysanthemum for her. Elisa felt happy and gave him few of her chrysanthemums. When Elisa and her husband were on their journey for dinner, Elisa saw a dark speck and she knew it was her chrysanthemums. Elisa cried silently in the car to ensure Henry didn¶t see she was crying. There are lots of feminism elements in this short story. There is no single meaning of feminism. Virginia Woolf, a British feminist declared in 1919 that men have treated women, and continues to treat them as inferiors. Woolf also mentioned that it is the men who define what it means to be women and who controls the society such as in

the female psyche and its relationship to the writing process and culture. support the family and make business deals. She turned and looked over her shoulder at her back. For examples. barmaids. Bressler in his book . brainless housewives or old maids. Whereas Simone de Beavoir (1949).´ and ³When she had dried herself she stood in front of a mirror in her bedroom and looked at her body. Women find themselves as a second gender as they are not so important in their society compared to men. bitches. ³Literary Criticism´(1994) stated that there are four features of feminism theory which are images of the female body where the author highlights various parts of the body like breast and uterus. Therefore.terms of economic.´ This shows that Elisa¶s body image is highlighted by Steinbeck to describe Elisa. we can see there was a gender inequality and stereotyping of women¶s role on that era.´ Therefore. Besides the images of female body. She tightened her stomach and threw out her chest. Bressler also said that ³ Literature and society have frequently stereotyped women as angels. whores. Although Elisa seems to be more intelligent than Henry. However. ³ She was kneeling on the ground looking up at him. ³The Chrysanthemums´ was written in 1938. in other words. She also stated that it is the society who has made women become the object of men. Charles E. Her breast swelled passionately. a French writer stated that women become the object of men. social and literary structures. In term on the images of female body. and social. feminism can be referred as the belief of injustice against women. political. we can see Steinbeck describes clearly Elisa¶s physical body. political. female language. there are only two features of feminism that can be found in this story which is the images of woman¶s body and culture. but it is her husband who runs the ranch. in ³The Chrysanthemums´. Elisa¶s role is not more than a housewife. . So. The perception of society on that time was it was the men who supposed to control the economic. their existence is defined and interpreted by men. Steinbeck used the word ³breast´ that might be touched on women¶s sensitivity. She just accept what her husband¶s decision. there is also a culture feature of feminism in this story.

³ Far ahead on the road Elisa saw a dark speck. I could show you what a woman might do. Elisa Allen. in the story. The story starts out with the description of a grey fog over the place where the story is set. and big as well as Elisa who is energetic. However. The title ³The Chrysanthemums´ itself is very significant. And I can beat the dents out of little pots. Her face was lean and strong and her eyes were as clear as water´. It represents of how the main character of the story. ³ You might be surprised to have a rival some time. This shows that Steinbeck compares the beauty of chrysanthemums which is yellow. Bressler said that feminism¶s goal is to change the degrading view of women so that all women will realize that they are not an object. too. She knew. felt about her life. The tinker¶s rejection of the chrysanthemums symbolizes the way society has rejected women as nothing more than mothers. She is trying to find place for her in her society as well as establishing her sexuality. giant whites and yellows´ and ³She was thirty-five. but her eyes would not obey. I can sharpen scissors . . intelligent. ³Oh. the feminism element can also be seen through the description of the place setting which is in Salinas. The term µclosed pot¶ here shows how Elisa¶s life trapped in man¶s world. California.However. "He might have thrown them off the road.´ As we know. it is mentioned that Elisa saw the dark spot of her chrysanthemum on the road while she and her husband was on their way for dinner. µThe high gray flannel fog of winter closed off the Salina¶s valley from the sky and all over the world¶ and ³every side it sat like a lid on the mountain and made of great valley a closed pot´. in this story. and attractive.´ This shows that like the chrysanthemums. Elisa tried to show to the tinker that women can also do what men can do. feminism fights for gender equality. The chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa and her limited life. She tried not to look as they passed it. She whispered to herself sadly. and housekeepers on that time. Elisa¶s great ability was also underappreciated. but each woman is valuable person and should have same privileges and rights as men Other than that. lovely. The significance of this is to set the mood of the story. those are chrysanthemums.

having an attractive face and figure and ³Powerful´ is physically strong .Besides. over powerful. Women should be given the same rights like men and it is not relevant anymore in this era to stereotype them in their traditional roles as nowadays there are lots of women who are more excellent than men. ³her face was eager and mature and handsome. (1010 words) . the elements of feminism can be clearly seen in ³The Chrysanthemum´. the language used to describe Elisa is also related to feminism. To conclude. 5th edition) usually refer to men but in ³The Chrysanthemum´. ³Handsome´( of men) is large strong features.´ Steinbeck uses very positive and strong words to describe Elisa. even her work with the scissors was overeager.having great power ( Oxford Advanced Learner¶s Dictionary. the author gives it to a woman to show the strength of the character.

com Websites : http://www.suite101. C. Literary Criticism .org : http://nobelprize. E. 2011 from (2011). SparkNotes LLC. 2011 from Suite101. 2011. (1984). London: Macmillan Education LTD. Retrieved March 2. John .html John Steinbeck .org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1962/steinbeck-bio.( 2011) Retrieved March 2. (1994).References Bressler. Martin Coyle. Literary Terms and Criticism. An Introduction to Theory and Practice.Biography. New Jersey: Prentice.html John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" (2011) .sparknotes. Retrieved March 1. from Spark Notes Website: http://www.


and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). to In Dubious Battle (1936). moved to California where they became migratory workers. a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck that led him through forty American states. In 1925 he went to New York. the story of the imbecile giant Lennie. After publishing some novels and short stories. John Steinbeck died on December 20. 1968. came from a family of moderate means.html John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" . The Grapes of Wrath. He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations. Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952). After the rough and earthy humour of Tortilla Flat. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937). where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer. California. the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who. a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos. He died in New York City in 1968. he moved on to more serious fiction. born in Salinas. Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1962 http://nobelprize. In 1939 he published what is considered his best work. often aggressive in its social criticism. but there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books.The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962 John Steinbeck Biography John Steinbeck (1902-1968). The Winter of Our Discontent (1961). Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935). Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of rural labour. but he failed and returned to California. and Travels with Charley (1962). which does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological unable to earn a living from the land.

an act of heroism in her own eyes. affection. 2010 Laura Shrader John Steinbeck's short story "The Chrysanthemums" is a brief but profound glimpse into the inherent need a woman has for expressing her innermost emotions and desires. Her reaction is not for the welfare of the peddler. of her potential. and strength of which she is capable.who feels an unconscious need to display her usefulness in a way more meaningful than the simple farming life she leads will allow. The Chrysanthemums delineates the inner longings of Elisa Allen. however. Elisa gives the peddler some chrysanthemum bulbs to pass on to one of his customers. the wife of a rancher. Elisa and her husband are driving into town for an evening out. Steinbeck skillfully represents a universal dilemma throught the representation of a remarkably simple life. She is unable to balance what she perceives as strength. Before he leaves.The Art of Expressing Self-Giving Through Simplicity Jan 16. When he asks about her flowers. and her interest in his gypsy career escalates into jealousy. An Opportunity for Self-Expression The pivotal moment in the story where this need for self-recognition occurs is in Elisa's reaction to a traveling salesman. which would be to share her thoughts and . her last words in the story are directed at the welfare of her flowers. From Emotional Release to Extremism Elisa¶s interest takes on a new level. when she begins questioning the peddler on his lifestyle. The Final Inability to Find Beauty in Simplicity At the end of "The Chrysanthemums". she feels that the daily work and toil of a farmer¶s wife do not give her sufficient opportunity to display the depths of love. Profundity in Simplicity The insufficient outlets for her womanly affection are shown in her daily work and interaction with people she displays in the story. demonstrating her need for self-expression. She delves into an explanation of the delicate care they require. a peddler searching for business whose wanderings have led him to her farm. The fact that such a way of life is thrilling to her is demonstrative of how much she has let her own life deteriorate into something she feels is unworthy of her ability. She thinks he pulled over to keep the bulbs safe. She weeps. which is to hide weakness. and it is only when he shows appreciation for her art that she displays some level of interest in his craft. and included in this gift is a part of her own self. like an old woman. however. and she sees the peddler pulled off to the side of the road. She is dissatisfied. ³weakly.´ but tries to hide it. she sees an opportunity to demonstrate her area of expertise. and emotional release. no other reason. for fulfillment in a life that seems inadequate in her point of view.

and . In the end. affection.desires. she is as she was: unable to cope with this conflict of stoicism versus the need to express love. http://www.

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