Language/Tone Paper The Chrysanthemums Austin Community College Essay

1230 words - 5 pages

Perea 1
Fabian Perea
English Composition II 1302. 3 PM T/Th
Professor Caraway
April 9, 2019
“The Chrysanthemums”: Language & Tone Paper
In John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums," Elisa Allen embodies the idea that it is only
by revealing ourselves to another person that we are able to experience, and ultimately, develop
through our lives. Steinbeck explores this idea of human nature through the multiple aspects by
which he uses symbolism; such as, Elisa's clothing, her garden, and ultimately the environment
she has surrounded herself with. By portraying a young woman whose self-imposed walls hold
her back from experiencing the true meaning of what it means to be human. Through this
symbolism, Steinbeck reveals that it is only when these walls come down, one can live and grow
as a human, regardless of any situation.
At the beginning of "The Chrysanthemums," Elisa is a very self conscience woman who
does not like experiencing what she does not know. She has hidden herself from the outside
world so that she does not have to be open to its experiences. Elisa's walls are symbolized by her
clothing and fence. Steinbeck illustrates her as being "blocked and heavy,"(pg 750) wearing thick
gloves to protect her hands and a man's hat that shields her "clear eyes"(pg 750). These pieces of
clothing help her from being present in a physical aspect so that she is able to shield herself from
the outside, even in her own garden. Elisa's flowers, or her “happiness”, are also kept behind
walls. Her garden is enclosed by a wire fence behind which only Elisa enters. Even her husband,
Perea 2
Henry. This is shown when he, "leans over the wire fence."(pg 750) showing how Elisa does not
let anyone or anything into her life. Like her environment, Elisa is guarded by a "thick flannel
fog." But as Steinbeck suggests, what Elisa needs is growth, feeling, and change. This concept is
symbolized by rain. Just like rain does for plants by helping it grow, Elisa will grow too. But
Steinbeck tells us that "fog and rain do not go together."(pg 749) While Elisa is still guarded by
her heavy walls (the fog) she will never truly be able to experience life through feeling and
growth unless she has the “rain”.
Moreover as the tinker comes into Elisa's life, she was skeptical at first but then begins to
reveal herself to another person for the first time. It begins when the tinker and Elisa starts to
joke around and share secrets. As they continue to speak, Elisa "removes her gloves."(pg 752).
This was the first step to her growth. By doing this she begins to unravel herself and break down
the mental wall; she is allowing herself to be exposed, not only visually, but to the elements, to
all the feelings, and sensations of life. As Elisa and the tinker talk further, he begins to take note
of her chrysanthemums and as a result Elisa brightens up. Elisa has never let anyone into this
world of hers before from what the reader knows; however, Elisa is thrilled that someone should

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