In the story "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck, Elisa and Henry Allen live on a ranch in the Salinas Valley where she raises chrysanthemums. Elisa's husband, Henry Allen, an honest, hard-working man, leaves the house for a couple of hours to retrieve some cows. While he is gone a drifter passing through stops to see if Elisa has any scissors to be sharpened or pots to mend. Elisa, a woman searching for some self-worth, begins to engage in a conversation with the drifter, and suddenly becomes excited that the drifter is taking an interest in her flowers. Elisa begins to feel aroused and joyful by his compliments, but the drifter is only hoping for some work. She gives him some pots and pans to be fixed, pays him, and sends him on his way with some of her chrysanthemums for the lady down the road. Elisa goes into the house excited about what she has done and begins to freshen up for her dinner date with her husband. Looking beautiful, she waits for the compliment from her husband she longed to hear "Why -why, Elisa. You look so nice!" Later on their way to dinner, Elisa and her husband pass up the drifter on the road. Elisa disappointed and upset when she realizes the drifter is not carrying her chrysanthemums anymore, she quickly brings up the subject about prize fights and how she read that they can be really bloody. She begins to cry, hiding the tears from her husband underneath her coat. Steinbeck reveals that the work of woman can be overlooked in society. .
The protagonist in this story is Elisa, whose character is round, has a love for raising chrysanthemums. She is a 35 year old attractive woman whose "face was lean and strong and her eyes were as clear as water". In her garden, the chrysanthemums grew with the work of her hands and the care of her heart. She works in the garden wearing "heavy leather gloves to protect her hands while she worked". When the drifter first approached her for some work, she became hesitant and irritable and exclaimed that "she hadn't anything for him to do".