In this story, we encounter a woman who has led a systematic, slumbering farm existence until she unexpectedly encounters an unusual peddler. She is then transformed briefly into a vivacious young girl before she realizes that her fantasies and the stranger are both cruelly fraudulent. Meanwhile her husband is largely unaware of the deeply disturbing metamorphosis his wife has undergone as he sits beside her at the end of the story, steering their little roadster into town to share a rare night out together. The story opens peacefully.
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Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses. Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Log in or Sign up. When many of us think about California, we probably imagine lots of warm, sunny days, but it gets cold in the Golden State, too. In Steinbeck's short story, 'The Chrysanthemums,' winter has come to the Salinas Valley, bringing with it the sun-blocking 'grey-flannel fog' characteristic of the season in that area.
Nevertheless, some of the area's ranchers, including Henry Allen, are still able to do some business, even in December when most farm activities have completely stopped. Henry, who's negotiating the sale of thirty head of cattle, isn't the only one occupied on the ranch. Elisa Allen, his wife and the primary focus of the story, observes the haggling before returning to her own project: tending the chrysanthemums in her garden.
While she's dividing the new mum stems, Henry arrives with good news: he's sold the cattle. To celebrate, he proposes that the couple go into town for dinner and a movie. While Henry's off with his ranch hand gathering the steers, Elisa's gardening work is interrupted by the sound of a covered wagon coming down the road.
A sign crudely painted onto the wagon's canvas advertises maintenance and repair services for pots, knives, scissors, and other household utensils. When the unnamed tinker approaches, he first asks Elisa for directions to the main highway, having been turned around on his seasonal journey between Seattle and Los Angeles. The tinker asks Elisa if she would like her gardening scissors sharpened or if she has any other articles that might need mending. After repeated offers, she becomes agitated and tells the tinker she has nothing for him to fix.
However, their conversation quickly turns to Elisa's garden when he mentions a customer who's been looking for chrysanthemum starters. Caught up in the tinker's interest in her flowers and the way he makes her feel, Elisa almost reaches out to touch his legs as she busily prepares a pot of chrysanthemum stems for his customer. She eagerly goes through all the steps of proper planting and care of the new plants, while the tinker, hungry and eager for work, asks once more if Elisa has anything for him to fix.
Ashamed of her unintended advance, she hurries into the house to find something for him to do. Elisa returns with two battered old pans, which the tinker quickly fixes for fifty cents. After he leaves, Elisa bathes and dresses for her evening on the town; Henry returns shortly thereafter and does the same. On their way to town, Elisa spots the tinker's wagon and notices that he's thrown out the chrysanthemum stems but kept the pot.
As the story ends and the couple continue driving, Elisa pulls up her collar to hide the fact that she's crying.
Steinbeck published 'The Chrysanthemums' in as part of his collection, The Long Valley , a term often used in reference to the area drained by the Salinas River. The Salinas Valley is a farmer's paradise. Its rich, dark soil and location in central California, south of San Francisco, but north of L. John Steinbeck was intimately familiar with the valley; he was born in Salinas on February 27, Growing up in this area of California had a tremendous impact on Steinbeck's writing and provided him with inspiration for many of the people, places, and situations found in his numerous works.
For example, Steinbeck's earlier collection of short stories, The Pastures of Heaven , as well as several of his novels, including Tortilla Flat , Cannery Row , and East of Eden , are set in Salinas and the greater Monterey County area. Steinbeck's first-hand knowledge of the locale helps provide his stories with deep, haunting descriptions, such as this one of the winter scene from 'The Chrysanthemums':. The air was cold and tender. A light wind blew up from the southwest so that the farmers were mildly hopeful of a good rain before long; but fog and rain did not go together.
Passages like this are part of what makes this author's work so iconic in American literature, as well as what makes this part of the U. When her gardening is interrupted by the unnamed man, Elisa originally doesn't have anything for him to do, but is quickly pulled in by his sudden interest in her mums, and provides him with several stems.
Later, on her way into town with Henry, Elisa notices that the tinker has thrown out the mums she'd given him, but managed to keep the pot. To unlock this lesson you must be a Study. Create your account. Already a member?
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You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level. To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page. Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Log in. Sign Up. Explore over 4, video courses. Find a degree that fits your goals. Try it risk-free for 30 days. Instructor: Joshua Wimmer Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.
Save Save Save. Want to watch this again later? You might've read some of John Steinbeck's novels, but did you know you could visit many of the same places in his short stories?
Read on to take a trip to the Salinas Valley while learning about the plot and setting of Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums. The fertile rolling hills of the Salinas Valley in central California. Try it risk-free No obligation, cancel anytime. Want to learn more? Steinbeck's first-hand knowledge of the locale helps provide his stories with deep, haunting descriptions, such as this one of the winter scene from 'The Chrysanthemums': 'It was a time of quiet and of waiting.
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Browse Articles By Category Browse an area of study or degree level. Area of Study. Degree Level. You are viewing lesson Lesson 15 in chapter 7 of the course:. AP English - Interpreting Literature Rhetorical Devices in AP English AP English Literature - Poetry AP English - Prose: Homework American Literary Periods: Homework Help.
AP English - Examples of American Ch AP English - Examples of English Conventions in Essay Writing - AP Beginning the Writing Process in AP Writing Revision for AP English About the AP English Literature Browse by Lessons J. What is the setting of John Steinbeck's The Chrysanthemums? How does John Steinbeck open his short story The Chrysanthemums?
What is the theme of The Chrysanthemums? How does the setting at the beginning The Chrysanthemums foreshadow what happens? In The Chrysanthemums, what motivates the stranger to ask Elisa about her chrysanthemums? How does Elisa and Henry's relationship change over the course of The Chrysanthemums? Elisa lives in the Salinas Valley in The Chrysanthemums. Why did this make her more willing to talk to the man traveling in the caravan? Create an account to start this course today.
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The Chrysanthemums Summary and Analysis
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