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Feminist Perspective of John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums

A Feminist Perspective of John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums

John Steinbeck, in his short story “The Chrysanthemums” depicts the trials of a woman attempting to gain power in a man’s world. Elisa Allen tries to define the boundaries of her role as a woman in such a closed society. While her environment is portrayed as a tool for social repression, it is through nature in her garden where Elisa gains and shows off her power. As the story progresses, Elisa has trouble extending this power outside of the fence that surrounds her garden. In the end, Elisa learns but does not readily accept, that she possesses a feminine power weak for the time, not the masculine one she had tried so hard to achieve through its imitation.

The work begins with a look at the story’s setting. “The Chrysanthemums” was written in 1938, and the story takes place roughly around the same time. It is winter in Salinas Valley, California. The most prominent feature is the “gray-flannel fog” which hid the valley “from the rest of the world” (396). The mountains and valleys and sky and fog encapsulate everything inside as a “closed pot” (396). Inside this shut-off habitat the environment is trying to change. Just as the farmers are waiting for an unlikely rain, Elisa and all women are hopeful for a change in their enclosed lives. Steinbeck’s foreshadows, “It was a time of quiet and waiting” (396).

The action of the story opens with Elisa Allen working in her garden. She is surrounded by a wire fence, which physically is there to protect her flowers from the farm animals. This barrier symbolizes her life; she is fenced in from the real world, from a man’s world. It is a smaller, on-earth version of the environment in which they live. This man’s…

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…mean she couldn’t still be strong. The peddler’s business of selling his service of fixing pots closes women out of his world just as natural fog closes of the valley. Although we hope her tears can be compared to the pruning she does to her precious chrysanthemums, clipping them backed for future and stronger growth, Steinbeck leaves the reader questioning the future for women. Elisa’s tears will not rid the valley of the fog, for as Steinbeck tells us in the beginning, “fog and rain do not go together” (396). While Elisa will continue to dominate her immediate surrounding inside the fence using her power from nature, but she will not gain power outside of it, in a man’s world.

Work Cited

Steinbeck, John. “The Chrysanthemums.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 6th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

Use of Night and Darkness in Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Use of Night and Darkness in Macbeth

Shakespeare is known for his descriptively rich plays. He also ways does an excellent job of describing both the characters as well as the setting. One specific area of the play MacBeth is the use of night and darkness to show evil or happening that are not right. Examples of this are the many appearances of the witches, the murders that occur, and the conflicts that MacBeth faces with his mental health. The following three paragraphs will further discuss these topics.

The first example of Shakespeare’s use of night and darkness in the appearances of the three witches. The witch sisters are the main sources of evil within the play MacBeth. When the witches are in an act, storms or the darkness of the woods always accompanies them. This shows great evilness. ” Thunder and lightning. Enter three witches.” This is the opening scene description just before the introduction to the witches. This shows their evil nature as the are followed by rough storms in dark conditions. Another quote is ” Fair is fowl and fowl is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air.” This is another example of the disgusting and dirty, dark atmosphere around the witches. Then, towards the end of Hecate’s, queen of witches, speech, she says “Hark! I am called. My little spirit, see: Sits a foggy cloud and it stays for me.” This shows a clear mental picture of the fogy, ugly conditions, which are prominent, when the witches are around. So this is a very good example of Shakespeare being able to link darkness and stormy conditions with evil.

The second example of Shakespeare writing techniques to show evil as darkness is the number of murders and when it was that they occurred. When there was a murder, it was often committed at night or in the dark. This then also ties in with the entire connection of darkness with evil, murder being the source of evil.

The most known example of murder is when MacBeth kills Banquo. During his speech where he is proceeding to kill Banquo he says ” …Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse the curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates pale Hecate’s offerings , and withered Murder , alarumed by his sentiel , the wolf , who’s howl’s his watch…..” The references to the dreams, sleep, witches and the wolf’s howl all depict the nighttime as this is when most of those words are seen.

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