Elisa Allen is the story's protagonist, a thirty-five-year-old woman who lives on a ranch in the Salinas Valley with her husband Henry. She is lean and strong, and wears shapeless, functional clothes. The couple have no children, no pets, no near neighbors, and Henry is busy doing chores on the ranch throughout the day. Elisa fills her hours by vigorously cleaning the "hard-swept looking little house, with hard-polished windows," and by tending her flower garden. She has "a gift" for growing things, and she is proud of it. For the most part, Elisa seems satisfied with her life. When the traveling tinker comes along and talks about his wandering habits, she begins to think about how limited her life is, and she longs for adventure. The idea that her chrysanthemums will be shared with a stranger who will appreciate them gratifies her, makes her think that in a small way she is part of a larger world. When the man betrays her by throwing away the chrysanthemums, he makes it clear that her world extends only as far as the boundaries of the ranch.
Given this, then, she is a victim of her circumstances and of the traveling tinker. He belittles her gift by throwing it away. She is also a victim of her own innocence and unworldliness. To her the flowers are precious, but to others who can have them any time they way them, they are nothing. She doesn't know this and had no way of knowing this.