53 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1937

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Literary Devices


Conflict is the clash between two people or forces that creates drama in a story. Elisa deal with two conflicts in this story. First, she encounters an external force: a patriarchal society. The external conflict has become internalized, however, and the second conflict is between Elisa’s masculine and feminine desires. The society in which Elisa lives considers many of her characteristics, such as her strength, energy, and passion, to be suitable only for men. This fact leaves Elisa confused and conflicted, though the reader does not sense that tension until the Tinker appears.

As soon as the Tinker’s wagon enters Elisa’s line of sight, the tension increases. The Tinker represents a life of freedom and adventure that is off-limits to women. He represents passion, excitement, and fulfillment. Elisa, repressed as she is, is attracted to the man and his lifestyle, but this attraction conflicts with her place in society. This conflict is most obvious at the climax of the story when Elisa reaches out to touch the Tinker’s leg. She obviously wants to touch him, but she remembers her place as a woman and housewife and pulls her hand back. The conflict never resolves, and Elisa becomes emotional and unpredictable, eventually crying on her way into the city with her husband.