In John Steinbeck's short story, "The Chrysanthemums," the author uses the flower to symbolize the main character, Elisa. Like the title flower, Elisa is soft and delicate with a tough, protective shell. She worries for herself and her flowers that an insensitive person will be able to get inside the gates and wreak havoc among her feelings and flowers. Both the woman and the chrysanthemums have a unique beauty. Both the woman and the flowers possess attractiveness, but in comparison to other woman and flowers, Elisa's beauty has become muted internally. Just like the flower, she needs to be pampered in order to bloom. As the story comes to a close, Elisa begins to blossom and show confidence, and allows the protective gates to be broken down around herself and her flowers.
Chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa by having sensitivity under a strong outer layer. Steinbeck describes Elisa's face as "lean and strong and her eyes were as clear as water" (246). When reading this passage, the reader pictures a hard working face, but a meek soul as one looks through Elisa's kind eyes. The author portrays Elisa as a sweet young woman afraid to show her true feelings out of fear of having her sensitive side trampled by a less caring human being. Her figure "looked blocked and heavy in her gardening costume, a man's hat pulled low down over her eyes, clod-hopper shoes, a figured print dress almost completely covered by a big corduroy apron" (246). Here one sees that Elisa hides her feminine form with manly apparel. Also, she "wore heavy leather gloves to protect her hands" (246). A feeling of fear comes from Elisa as if she is afraid to show her true self because she worries about being hurt. However, she wears a barely noticeable print dress because she enjoys being a woman. When a woman dresses up for .
an event she will almost always wear a dress because it symbolizes femininity. Elisa wears a dress, but covers it with manly clothing because she is afraid to let anyone inside her "gate.