He is alarmed at Elisa's pride in herself and he is uncomfortable at her suggestion that she too could be able of beating dents out of little pots and sharpening scissors. Elisa viewed it as letting herself be free and just getting hurt as an end result. It is seen periodically throughout the story by how Elisa cares for and protects her chrysanthemums. Although the two key men in the story are less interesting and talented than she, their lives are far more fulfilling and busy. Although some might read Elisa as a desperate woman, under present circumstances, only her personal strength has allowed her to retain any of her femininity. Henry is a kind man, if slightly dimwitted.
The Allen's farm dogs dash out toward the invading vehicle, protective of their mistress and their territory, and the dog belonging to the man on the wagon seat retreats. As an old woman, Elisa has lost her sexuality, and with it, all her chances of ever being known. Steinbeck uses many examples, such as the flowers to symbolize the thoughts and ideas of the main character, Elisa, in this story. Her sexuality, forced to lie dormant for so long, overwhelms her and crushes her spirit after springing to life so suddenly. In a moment of exuberant trust, she urges the stranger to enter her garden.
They continue to make small talk, and Elisa is charmed when the tinker says he simply follows good weather. He suggests they go to the town of Salinas for dinner and a movie to celebrate. Then she examines her naked body in the mirror, pulling in her stomach and pushing out her chest, then observing her back. She repeatedly tells him no, seeming downright annoyed. She responds eagerly to this suggestion, but it seems he was only joking.
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. As Henry takes a bath, Elisa sets his dark suit out on the bed, including his shirt, tie, and socks. She grabs up a pumice stone and begins to bathe herself until her thighs, and loins, chest and arms are scratched and red. These are feelings to which Elisa Allen, the protagonist of John Steinbeck's 'The Chrysanthemums', can certainly relate. It devastates her completely to have to settle for such an unfulfilling life.
Overcome with emotion, she almost reaches out to touch the man, who soon takes off, leaving Elisa all alone and flustered. Eventually, her husband Henry approaches. It is December, and the prevailing atmosphere in the valley is chilly and watchful but not yet devoid of hope. This causes her attraction to the tinker to progress so quickly that her description of the night sky seamlessly becomes a description of an orgasm. When she asks, he tells her that the men were from the Western Meat Company and bought thirty of his steers for a good price. Elisa quickly interrupts the tinker, insisting she knows how he feels, even though she has never lived the way he does. The sun is not shining, and fog covers the valley.
Plot Overview It is winter in Salinas Valley, California. She is looking forward to her evening with her husband. Elisa Allen is initially portrayed as a woman who overcompensates and whose tasks are far exceeded by her abilities. Elisa is disinterested as seen in her response to proposals made by her husband. She begins speaking passionately about her intuitive way with the buds, becoming quite moved as she compares the connection she has with the flowers to a spiritual or emotional experience one might have observing the stars at night. Elisa says she has read that at the fights the men beat each other until their boxing gloves are soaked with blood.
She gets all dolled up, dressing to the nines, and doing her hair and makeup. She also says she feels like an old woman. Just like Elisa, the flowers are of little importance and unobjectionable as they are only meant for decorations and add no value to the busy world of men Tamy 18. 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. These planting hands seem pretty important to her.
Elisa warmly welcomes the tinker with witty jokes about the state of his pulling team. She takes off her hat and gloves and fills a red pot with soil and the shoots. . Only later, after Elisa boasts that she could do his job just as competently as him, does he finally argue that it would be lonely and scary for her to live and travel on the wagon, as he does. Still on her knees in a submissive position, Elisa nearly touches the tinker before dropping her hands. These bring about an image of encouragement in the midst of depression.
Elisa again expresses the desire to live a free and exciting life like the tinker does, even going so far as to say that she shares his skillset in fixing household items. Henry fails to see his short-comings, but Elisa fails to point them out to him. With Henry off working, Elisa returns to her chrysanthemums. A traditional man, Henry functions in the story as a stand-in for patriarchal society as a whole. In the same way, Elisa has passively allowed the tinker to extort her out of fifty cents, and leave with her money in his pocket and her flowers in his wagon. She expresses an explicit longing to live an independent and free life just as he does; however, this is unheard of for a woman and the tinker reminds her of this. Her husband, Henry, has the ranch to give him a sense of accomplishment; however, Elisa has only her flower garden.
Elisa happily agrees, informing him that chrysanthemums are best grown with sprouts, not seeds. Thus, the chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa's role as a woman. Steinbeck read great literature when he was a young boy, including novels by Dostoevsky, Hardy, and Flaubert. She remarks that she feels strong. She answers that she doesn't want to go to the fights - wine will be enough. He tells her she looks nice, but when she presses him about what he means, he seems confused and repeats that she looks nice, and different.