Chrysanthemums By Steinbeck Evaluation

The Chrysanthemums, by John Steinbeck, is set in the beautiful valley of

Salinas, California, during a time when California was the land of plenty. A
place where dust storms and drought were unheard of, where water was plentiful
and the air sprinkled with the sweet smell of fruit blossoms. A time when simple
people farm the land and struggle to find a place for themselves in the world.

Elisa Allen is at a point in her life where she has begun to realize that her
energy and creative drive far exceed what life has offered her. Her husband,

Henry Allen, is a well meaning and essentially good man and is quite pleased to
be able to make a decent living. Her marriage is reasonably happy and there is
an easy banter between the two of them. While they have settled into a fairly
familiar and ordinary routine, they are still responsive to each otherís sense
of accomplishment and agree to celebrate with a night on the town. Elisa is
earthbound, rooted securely in her garden but also held down by her connection
to it. Their house is described as "hard-swept" and "hard-polished," and
is the only outlet for her talents. However, Elisa needs something more in her
life than a neat house and a good garden. Their marriage is childless and
conventional and she has begun to sense that an important part of her is dying
and that her future will be predictable and mundane. Elisa is a barren woman who
has transferred her maternal impulses to her garden, a garden full of unborn
seedlings. On the other hand, Elisa would never consider a lurid affair, when a
dark mysterious stranger appears at their quiet farm dwelling looking for work.

A complete contrast from her husband, an adventurer who lives spontaneously, a
man of the road not bound by standard measures of time or place. Since mending
pots is a way of life, he has found it necessary to be able to charm potential
customers into giving him work, and is very skillful at calculating a personís
emotional needs. The stranger is described as big, bearded, and graying man, who
knows something about life and people. A man with a captivating presence whose
eyes are dark and "full of brooding." Elisa is fascinated by his spontaneous
way of life. When she tries to get him to discuss his travels, he steers back to
the possibility of employment. When it is apparent that she has no work to give
him, he cleverly praises her flowers. Elisa is desperately eager to share in the
one thing she is actually proud of, and carefully gathers some shoots to share
with another customer down the road. As she disciplines the stranger on the
proper nurturing of the seedlings, her passionate involvement with the process
of planting becomes an expression of all the suppressed romance in her life. The
stranger senses this craving, and offers just enough encouragement to lead her
into a full-scale declaration of her profound love of what planting means to
her. Elisa would like this moment to continue, but the stranger reminds her that
hunger overcomes inspiration. Elisa, somewhat ashamed by her openness, finds
some useless old pots for him to mend. She believes that the man has given her
something of value and she feels obliged to give him something in return. As the
man leaves, Elisa looks away after him, whispering to herself, "Thatís a
bright direction. Thereís a glowing there." The purpose of the conversation
between Elisa and the stranger is very dramatic. Elisa feels energized and
appreciated, delighted by her moment to share her special skill and excited by
the chance to share, at least in her imagination, a totally different kind of
life. As she prepares for the evening, the effort she usually puts into
scrubbing the house is redirected into her transformation to make herself as
attractive as she now feels. Her husband is both surprised and pleased by her
appearance, and their conversation is mixed with pleasantries and unexpected
delight as they both enjoy the animating effect of Elisaís encounter. Their
mood remains distinctly elevated as they head for town, but then Elisa sees a
small speck on the road in the distance. Instantly, she realizes that this is
the treasure she so tenderly prepared. The stranger has discarded the flowers on
the road to save the pot that contained them, the only object of value to him.

She weeps privately as they drive pass the stranger in the tiny covered