Short Story The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck Literary Analysis

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‘The Chrysanthemums’ describes the story is a strong but frustrated woman, Elisa who tries to fit in the masculine world. Her efforts are washed down by the disappointments that give her stress, despite her efforts to be ‘like a man.’ Her experience with the tinker initially brings happiness to her as she feels like she was developing a connection with the tinker but in the end; she is disappointed by tinker act of dumping her flowers by the roadside. This paper will discuss the stress, familiarity concept of door-in-face effect and effect justification as portrayed in the short story.

Stress is brought about by the accumulation of day to day little events, major life events that bring sorrow and anxiety, or negative response to experiences that we face in our lives. Elisa is a farmer. From the conversation with her husband, she is pleased when the husband refers to the chrysanthemum crop as “strong” showing masculinity (Steinbeck, 2). She struggles to be like a man in vain. The husband constantly reminds her that she is a woman. For instance, when the husband invites her for a date night, he suggests that they go for a fight in a mocking tone but later says they would go for a simple movie (2).

This is a reminder to Elisa that she will never be a man. This experiences and disappointments bring stress to Elisa. After giving tinker the flowers, she sees them beside the road as they went out with the husband. This disappoints her as she learns that the tinker took her talks and the flowers for granted; hence stressing her (10). The door-in-face effect has a familiarity concept. This concept states that a person might like the other due to proximity distance between them or due to an exposure experience between them.

Elisa liked the tinker due to their proximity and exposure. The tinker bought the flowers and pretended to be interested in whatever Elisa was explaining about the flowers. Their proximity and the fact that they had a warm conversation triggered Elisa to like the man, Effect justification occurs when a person struggles to like something simply because he put touch efforts in doing that thing. Elisa put too much effort into being a man, As Steinbeck shows; Elisa likes to be regarded as strong and boasts to her husband of how strong she was (9). She likes gardening, wore a man’s hat and wore heavy leather gloves (1).

Her description shows that she likes to appear masculine. at the end of the story, Elisa shows that she actually did not like being a man. Her efforts prove futile as she goes back to being a woman. In the last sentence, Steinbeck states, “she was crying weakly—like an old woman” (11) to show that she was still a woman despite struggling to be a man. She also declines the offer from her husband to take her to women fights, meaning that she did not like the fighting aspect of masculinity. Her efforts to be a man show effect justification.

In conclusion, ‘The Chrysanthemums’ shows the elements of stress, effect justification and familiarity concept of door-in-face effect. Elisa struggles to be masculine despite not liking several aspects of masculinity. Her struggles and disappointments make her a frustrated woman in the end.


Cite this paper

Short Story The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck Literary Analysis. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/short-story-the-chrysanthemums-by-john-steinbeck/



What happened in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck?
In The Chrysanthemums, a woman named Elisa struggles with her unfulfilling life on a ranch with her husband, until she has a brief encounter with a tinker who offers her a glimpse of a different world.
What is the main idea of The Chrysanthemums?
The main idea of The Chrysanthemums is that a woman's true worth is not always recognized by her husband.
What is the point of view in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck?
The point of view in The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck is limited third person. The story is told from the point of view of Elisa Allen, and we only know what she knows and feels.
Where is John Steinbeck's short story The Chrysanthemums?
The narrator of The House on Mango Street is Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. Esperanza is a strong and determined young woman who is determined to leave Mango Street and have a better life.
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