Abstract

In the short story “The Chrysanthemums,” John Steinbeck creates in the main character Elisa an everywoman. While Elisa’s desires are never clearly stated, an examination of the psychology and circumstances of American women in the 1930’s still living in the fringes of the Victorian era suggests that women want more independence and adventure than society permits. Steinbeck, always ahead of his times, intimates that the idea of a woman’s being independent and assertive is an important part of being human, yet society at large denies these attributes to too many women, including Elisa. Restoring Roe vs. Wade, long the law of the land, would be an appropriate starting point to assure a woman’s liberty and freedom to choose. Equality in the workplace would be another forward step. Steinbeck’s story opens the door for gender equality by revealing the anguish of a woman who lives her life under the confines of gender role constructs. Thus, the reader may readily see the danger in the oppression of placing a woman in a role that doesn’t fulfill her needs and desires.

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