Abstract

Through a detailed analysis of John Steinbeck's “The Chrysanthemums,” this article aims to open a new chapter in Freudian hysterical criticism of Steinbeck's works. “The Chrysanthemums” is unquestionably the literary version of Freudian views and observations of hysteria and hysterical patients, especially “Dora”—Freud's famous hysterical patient and “Anna O.”—Breuer's famous hysterical patient. This masterpiece of hysteria is an extremely complex and roundabout story in which Steinbeck artistically plays with symbols, colors, flora and fauna, protagonist's body language, clothing, pruning tools, and so forth, to represent how the social and emotional life of a hysterical woman in a patriarchal, procreation-orientated society is so horribly affected by hysteria and neurotic anxiety. The protagonist, Elisa Allen, is characterized by Steinbeck as being the severest case of hysteria. In the main, she is portrayed as a bisexual hysterical woman of perverse “infantile sexuality,” afflicted with persistent “masculinity complex” and constant “virginal anxiety,” two main factors that finally push her toward oral eroticism and lesbianism.

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