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Essay on Elisa’s Unfulfilled Desire in John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums

Elisa’s Unfulfilled Desire in Chrysanthemums

The “Chrysanthemums” was written by John Steinbeck and introduced in 1937. In this story it is evident that Elisa has suppressed sexual desires that are awakened. At the ripe age of thirty-five, Elisa is at her sexual peak, but because of being betrayed by men, she is unable to fulfill those desires.

Elisa Allen is a strong woman. She is strong because of her manly qualities. Her masculinity shines through because of the way she covers up herself. There was a feminine part of her wanting to emerge as she wore the “print dress” (279) while working in her flower garden. However, the men’s clothing and accessories she wore covered this up. The “squatting” (281) position she engaged in to work in her garden was not the feminine kneeling that a true lady would have chosen. She “shoved the thick scissors in her apron pocket” (282), which was not the delicate way a woman would have done it. She was not able to cultivate her chrysanthemums in a way that was gentle and loving because of her masculine traits. She was not squeamish when it came to protecting her flowers. She would simply use her “fingers” (280) to eliminate any type of pest that was a threat to them. A true woman would have gagged at the very thought of using her bare hands to mash a bug. Elisa was a hard and successful laborer because her chrysanthemums “had ten-inch blooms” (283); however, she still had not succeeded in child bearing.

Elisa and her husband had no children; therefore, she had no one to give her love and attention. As a result, she channeled all her attention and nurturing into her beloved chrysanthemums. Like a mother making sure her child had a nurturing environment, Elisa, “[w]ith her trowel she t…

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…a wanted was to receive the kind of love and attention that she put into her chrysanthemums. She was a hard worker and a good woman; although, this did not compare to the fact that she wanted to be a desirable woman. Her brief experience of feeling sexually aroused made her feel pretty and desirable. After she realized that she had been used by the tinker, the emotion that was stirred within her went silently and tearfully away. The devastation she was experiencing will no doubt cause her to become more masculine and even less desirable to her husband. Resulting in the fact that she will never reach the ecstasy of her desires, and she will never know the joy of having a child to give all of her love and attention to.

Works Cited:

Steinbeck, John. “Chrysanthemums.” Forty Short Stories: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Beverly Lawn. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2001.

Essay on the Loneliness of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Loneliness of J. Alfred Prufrock

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, written by T. S. Elliot in 1917, J. Alfred Prufrock makes the reader privy to his innermost thoughts on an evening out. Prufrock wants to lead the reader to an overwhelming question, raising expectations, but he is a bitterly disappointing man; he never asks the question. He lacks self-esteem, women are intimidating to him, and he is too much of a coward to ever be successful with women. The title is “The Love Song,”, not “A Love Song.” So whenever Prufrock is around women, he behaves the same way. He always has and always will. Because of his inability to change he will die a lonely man.

Courting a woman includes trying to project a positive image of yourself. J. Alfred Prufrock’s low self-esteem projects only negative images. First of all, he does not value his life, even though he refers to it as “the universe” (46), for it can be “measured out …with coffee spoons” (51). Prufrock himself admits his love life is not leading anywhere. In the middle of trying to come up with the right words, to sweep a lady off her feet, he compares himself to a crab: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” (73-74). He moves sideways instead of forward. Prufrock’s image of himself is his justification for not asking the overwhelming question. Who in her right mind would say yes to a man who is “ridiculous– / Almost, at times, the Fool” (118-119). He is a man who thinks little of himself.

Those sides of Prufrock’s character are shown only to the reader. The ladies have to judge him on his appearance and his behavior during the evening out. He is an older man, his hair is growing thin, and he is skinny. Eve…

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… peace of fruit. J. Alfred Prufrock lacks the courage to undertake anything with an uncertain outcome, such as relationships.

At the end, J. Alfred Prufrock lets the reader in on a daydream of his:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown. (129-131)

His daydream is about mermaids, a sexual figment of imagination, and even in his daydream he is not successful; human voices wake him before anything happens. And J. Alfred Prufrock agrees:

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each

I do not think that they will sing to me. (124-125)

Works Cited

Elliot, T.S. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Compact 3rd ed. Eds. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1997. 781-785.

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