Gender In the Chrysanthemums By John Steinbeck

Gender in “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck

  • Introduction

    John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums focuses on the particular concept of the gender functions as well as the discrimination associated with women depending on their own gender. The writer informs the story associated with Elisa, who will be trapped in the girl roles and obligations of as being an ideal wife and housekeeper that is likely to take care associated with her as well as perform everything that the girl husband wishes. The particular wishes of the particular woman to have got a career like a tinker are instantly dismissed under the particular pretense that the girl is not the particular woman that can do such points (Steinbeck 344).

    Therefore, regardless of how keen Elisa would be to create as an person and pursue actions that are outdoors of her sex roles, the person managing her life will not allow the girl to do something of personal benefit for her (Sweet 211). Thus, the particular concept of the gender functions as well as the relationships among husbands and spouses is raised within the story, displaying an immense level of control that will men have more than the life associated with women.

    Diminishing Women’s Role

    Being controlled by the girl husband due in order to stereotypical gender best practice rules, Elisa feels separated within her obligations of as being a spouse (Schultz and Li 52). Living upon a farm not even close to social life, the girl rarely speaks along with other people, wishing that will her work would bring some degree of satisfaction: “Her eyes sharpened. “Maybe I could do it, too. I’ve a gift with things, all right” (Steinbeck 339). Despite her abilities, she is frustrated and lonely but still interacts with her husband civilly and politely, but only on a surface level.

    Despite the isolation and frustration, all feelings are kept quiet and to herself, which is a method that Steinbeck uses for encouraging readers to intuit the protagonist’s frustration and loneliness based on her actions and thoughts, instead of describing them directly. The issue of women not opening themselves to new life opportunities is something that many of them face even today. There are numerous instances of husbands controlling their wives under the pretense that women should stay at home and do everything to maintain the house and the entire family in perfect conditions. Thus, similar to Elisa, who understands her abilities but is afraid of breaking free from oppression, many women cannot live to their full potential because of doubt and fear.

    The sadness of Elisa’s story is associated with the fact that she is a smart and talented woman who can do much more than being just a wife (George 103). She is quick-witted, with a great degree of intellectual dexterity. This is shown in her conversation with the tinker regarding his dog: “The man in the wagon seat called out. ‘That’s a bad dog in a fight when he gets started. ’ Elisa laughed. ‘I see he is. How soon does he usually get started? ” (Steinbeck 340).

    When interacting along with the outside globe, Elisa is keen to possess a discussion and joke close to. However, when talking to her spouse, her conversations are usually predominantly mundane plus banal, which displays her lack associated with interest and enthusiasm for being with this man. The absence of passion with regard to interacting with the person with whom the girl lives suggests that will Elisa has simply no interest in the girl family life as it is. If her husband was more supportive of her beginnings and ambitions, she would interact with him differently. This shows that positive relationships within families depend on the support for each other’s ambitions and desires. The relationship between Elisa and her husband lacks compassion and understanding because they are based on mere housework.

    The final pages of the story are controversial regarding Elisa’s ultimate fate, as illustrated in the quote: “It will be enough if we can have wine. It will be plenty. ’ She turned up her collar so he could not see that she was crying weakly – like an old woman” (Steinbeck 348). While some believe that she was defeated by societal norms and expectations of her as a woman, others state that she will inevitably become a complete and fulfilled person. The request for wine from Elisa represents an increased sense of the woman’s independence that can facilitate her personal development and success in life. At the same time, such a way of speaking up may seem subdued, for Elisa, the direct request for having something so minor as wine is a way to break free from being continuously quiet and obedient.


    The theme of the dominance of men over women in family life is the issue that Steinbeck wanted to put to the general discussion. The oppression of women and their diminishing to the mere roles of child-bearers or housekeepers is rooted in the history of society, with Elisa’s example not being an exception. However, as the story progresses, the protagonist understands the importance of being her own woman and making small but effective steps toward reaching that goal. The protagonist eventually acknowledges the importance of being vocal in her interactions with the husband in order to live the life she wants to live.

    Works Cited

    George, Stephen. The Moral Philosophy of John Steinbeck. The Scarecrow Press, 2005.

    Schultz, Jeffrey, and Luchen Li. Critical Companion to John Steinbeck: A Literary Reference to His Wife and Work. Facts on File, 2005.

    Steinbeck, John. The Chrysanthemums and Other Stories. Penguin, 1995.

    Sweet, Charles A. Jr. “Ms. Elisa Allen and Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums. ” Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 20, no . 2, 1974, pp. 210-214.

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