Set in the 1930’s, the short story “The Chrysanthemums” explores the day to day life of a woman named Elisa. She is a successful gardener, who runs a farm with her husband. One day, a tinker pays a visit to Elisa and shows an interest in her beloved chrysanthemums.
After being given a job by Elisa for showing interest in her flowers, the tinker leaves with false pretences of giving a woman down the road some of her prized chrysanthemums. Later that night, Elisa and her husband are on their way to a date when Elisa discovers that her flowers have been discarded on the side of the road. This leads to Elisa being very upset and disturbed. In Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums,” he uses setting, imagery, and symbolism to support the theme of gender inequality and the perceived usefulness of women. The setting in Steinbeck’s story is very important for foreshadowing the theme. The story takes place in a rural area where it is customary for men to do most of the heavy lifting. “On the foothill ranches across the Salinas River” (Steinbeck 204). Elisa’s husband provides a great example of each of their roles when he tells her he is going “to get a couple horses” and she responds with “I’ll have plenty of time to transplant these flowers, I guess” (Steinbeck 205).
Also, another quote that strengthens this point is when the narrator describes just how few tasks Elisa truly has. “It was a time of quiet and waiting, which means there was probably less for Elisa to do than usual” (Steinbeck 204). This quote acts as strong evidence for the theme because it reiterates how little women had were able to do.
The only duties Elisa has in the story are the gardening and laying clothes out for her husband. (Steinbeck 208-10).When the tinker joins the story, he is a huge key in setting change. He arrives in a wagon that carries his entire life while Elisa tends to the extent of her joy, the chrysanthemums.
(Steinbeck 206). T…