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Elisa Allen is a woman who seeks to escape from the reality of her sexual orientation. In a society that is male dominated, John Steinbeck uses his book titled, Chrysanthemums to bring out the situation as it was in the 1930s (Steinbeck 306). Various themes, symbols, metaphors and other figures of speech are used to give explanations on the short story. Women such as Elisa are portrayed as strong characters who are facing oppression just because she is a woman. Society prevents her from expressing her physical, social and sexual desires because women were not granted freedom they deserved at the time. As a result, she seeks to escape from reality by masquerading as a man. Judging from her speech, behavior, and habits, it is evident that she is letting out her frustrations as a woman that has no voice. She does not understand why men have to be above women by all means, yet both of them were equal in the eyes of God. This research paper gives a summary of the book that gives a description of how the struggle for equality in a male dominated society was difficult.

Total despair and loss of hope are depicted from her physical description. The author describes her as being “blocked and heavy” (Steinbeck 330). In fact, she is seen to be wearing heavy gloves, heavy shoes, a man’s hat and an apron that hides her printed dress. In addition, she attends to tendering of flowers since it gives her a sense of gratification as a strong character.  She does not find her husband as interesting as she is expected to since she is struggling to act in a masculine manner. Her husband feels threatened by her masculine behavior and can only hope that she changes one day. Steinbeck describes her house as being “hard polished” and “hard swept.” According to him, only men’s houses were supposed to fit this description. In the real sense, Elisa always felt trapped in a woman’s body. She is trying everything she can to fit think and act like a man so that she does not feel oppressed by the men themselves.  She even deserts the normal female roles to attend to more masculine jobs. Despite this, her husband does not lose hope in trying to remind her that she is a woman. He invites her out for dinner so that he can use the forum to talk to her. Instead of taking his advice as her husband, she ignores it completely and goes back to planting the flowers. However, the situation changes completely when the tinker makes an entry into the scene. To her, this is one of the meat buyers (Steinbeck 211). At first, she turns down his offer to date her by giving him hard duties so that he would eventually give up his pursuit of her. He knows that he must try as hard as he can to win her love. Therefore, he pretends that he is interested in the flowers (chrysanthemums) that she is planting and compares them to a “quick puff of smoke” (Steinbeck 333). As fate would have it, Elisa gets in touch with her femininity as soon as she realizes that the tinker is interested in her. She even takes off her gloves and hat to dispose of her masculine character. More so, she allows herself to be carried away by romantic emotions towards him. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

Steinbeck uses the chrysanthemums as a symbol to portray the struggle women go through in a male-dominated society. Up to now, people still feel intimidated by women who portray their femininity and strong characters as well. In some places, women are still being treated as the inferior sex. As a matter of fact, the word “strong” is used on several occasions to illustrate her physical and psychological attributes. He does a great job portraying ideas such as patriarchy, gender stereotyping and femininity. Gender stereotyping is also depicted since the couple does not have children. It becomes even more difficult for her as a woman since no sign of a child represents infertility as a woman. Initially, they were not allowed to voice their opinions nor were they allowed to discard their female roles. Extremely intelligent women such as Elisa are given the negative treatments and reminded to play their roles as women. The flowers that are planted by the roadside courtesy of the tinker symbolizes that she is getting in touch with her feminine side. The present day is filled with women like her. They have interesting ideas that they may want to incorporate into the modern day ideas. They owe their freedom to the women who fought for equality. As a woman, Elisa had no other option but to stay in her marriage even though she describes her husband as boring. Society does not allow her to walk out on her marriage nor seek satisfaction elsewhere. This action places her in a vulnerable situation as she gets to fall in love with another man. Sexual repression is one of the themes that is portrayed in the short story. It is illustrated through the tinker who shows interest in the flowers rather than other plants that were found in the rest of the ranch. If it were not for people like her, most women that are handling masculine duties would feel discouraged and give up in the process. This book is a source of inspiration for women that want to make the best out of strong personalities to make the world a better place. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]

Steinbeck, John. Chrysanthemums. 1937. Print. 4 September 2016.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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