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Flower Symbolism in John Steinbecks The Chrysanthemums - Essay Example

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The aim of this essay is to scrutinize layers of meaning attached to the symbol of chrysanthemums so that deeper messages in the story could be understood. The title and the main symbolism of the story deserve more attention and a closer reading than few remarks on the subject…
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Flower Symbolism in John Steinbecks The Chrysanthemums
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Download file to see previous pages The intention of this study is the chrysanthemum as the official flower of the city of Salinas and the story begins with the description of Salinas Valley. The first and literal meaning of the chrysanthemum denotes a specific geographic place and contributes to the atmosphere of the story. Although the chrysanthemums represent death and grief in many countries, it is considered as a positive and cheerful symbol in the USA (Wikipedia.com). Thus, the chrysanthemums evoke positive and cheerful associations with respect to the sunny California. The chrysanthemums are mostly yellow and their shape also resembles the sun. The chrysanthemums that Elisa raises are also yellow and white. Elisa notes that they are very big: “Oh, those are chrysanthemums, giant whites and yellows. I raise them every year, bigger than anybody around here." The narrator paints a very vibrant and sunny picture with the giant chrysanthemums. Right at the beginning of the story, Steinbeck describes the energetic activity of Elisa with her flowers: “Her face was eager and mature and handsome; even her work with the scissors was over-eager, over-powerful. The chrysanthemum stems seemed too small and easy for her energy.” Even though the chrysanthemums are giant and vibrant, Elisa is depicted as still bigger and more energetic than them. Steinbeck sets a vibrant tone and very dynamic atmosphere with the use of yellow and giant chrysanthemums and introduces a female character with overflowing energy. Nevertheless, the Salinas Valley is not energetic and sunny as it might seem at first sight. Although the narrator paints a very yellow and shiny picture with his descriptions, it lacks warmth since the sun does not shine in December. The narrator describes the cold sunshine of December as follows: “On the foothill ranches across the Salinas river, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine, but there was no sunshine in the valley now in December”. As it can be seen from the below quotation, the story is set on a cold December day, when the sunny days of summer had already been gone. Besides the setting, the chrysanthemums also indicate this time frame of the story. The chrysanthemums are late bloomers. Although they remind the sun and summer with their colors and shapes, they bloom in autumn. They also lack the warmth of sun. Furthermore, the chrysanthemums also refer to the time frame of Elisa, who is 35 and no longer a young woman. In a sense, her summer days had also been gone. Although she is a vibrant and energetic woman who’s very passionate about her flowers, she lacks the warmth of the sun. Like her flowers, she is a late bloomer. Her repressed sexuality blooms with her encounter with the visiting Tinker, who is not named in the story. However, she does not seem to have a child and she is cold towards his husband. Although she has an abundant energy, she is not warm and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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