The Chrysanthemums Essay

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In the following essay, McMahan explores Elisa's sexual / romantic frustration in "The Chrysanthemums."

Virtually every critic who has considered John Steinbeck's short story "The Chrysanthemums" has agreed that its basic theme is a woman's frustration, but none has yet adequately explained the emotional reasons underlying that frustration. In fact, Kenneth Kempton would consider such an explanation impossible. He professes his inability to find any consistent motivation for Elisa's behavior, and declares the work "annoyingly arty, muddy, and unreal." But most critics who have examined "The Chrysanthemums" admire the story and find it meaningful. Warren French, after identifying the theme of the story as frustration, suggests that the central action concerns "the manipulation of people's dreams for selfish purposes"—an interesting and valid idea but one which fails to incorporate the obvious sexual overtones of the story. Another critic who overlooks the sexuality is Joseph Warren Beach. He...

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This section contains 2,756 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Chrysanthemums Study Guide
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Short Stories for Students
The Chrysanthemums from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.