Friday, January 27, 2012

The Chrysanthemums symbols

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“The Chrysanthemums”


In “The Chrysanthemums,” Steinbeck shows the reader his ability to develop different meanings in his writing. It was a tendency for early critics to view him as “kind of naive natural genius who, having limited resources of techniques even more severely limited vocabulary, blundered occasionally into displays of impressive, if brutal, power”(Piwinski 11). It is quite impressive on the way Steinbeck writes. Steinbeck uses symbols to show readers something in a different viewpoint. In this essay, I plan to show how Steinbeck’s use of personal symbols, universal symbols, and the symbol of children.


John Steinbeck uses personal symbols impressively. The fog covers the valley like “a closed pot.” This “closed pot” symbolized Elisa’s isolation from the world. “Because the Allen’s live away from town, Elisa rarely encounters other people besides her husband, Henry Allen.”(Renner 0) “She scrubbed herself with a little block of pumice, legs and thighs, loins and chest and arms, until her skin was scratched and red.” This is symbolic of Elisa coming out of her old being, releasing a newness she had become and know. Steinbeck uses other symbols in his writing.


Steinbeck also used universal symbol with a great approach. In the story the word “strong” came up and introduced to Elisa. her first reaction to the tinker is similar to that of a man’s, “for she resists giving him work”(Sweet 1). She show strong qualities as she tells the tinker she has no work for him. Throughout “The Chrysanthemums,” Elisa Allen changes her actions from masculine to feminine and from feminine to masculine. This somewhat symbolizes her to be strong and also weak. Many other symbols are shown with his writing.


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The final symbol which Steinbeck uses is children. In the short story, the chrysanthemums are the most important symbol of all. “She took off a glove and put her strong fingers down into the forest of new green chrysanthemum sprouts that were growing around the old roots. she spread the leaves and looked down among the close-growing stems. No aphids were there, no sow-bugs or snails or cutworms. Her terrier fingers destroyed such pests before they could get started.” This shows something very important in the story. It shows her love and care for these flowers. This was “her pride and joy - her chrysanthemums.”(Sweet 14) As I view it, the chrysanthemums does not just symbolizes children to love and care for but it symbolizes her.


I have showed how Steinbeck uses symbols such as personal symbols, universal symbols, and symbols of children. The symbols in his writing are understood by few. Most symbols are not very well understood by many. The symbols are not first recognized in “The Chrysanthemums.” It is recognized more clearly after it has been well read. Steinbeck is a one of a kind who shows us his unbelievable style of writing.


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