53 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1937

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Character Analysis

Elisa Allen

The story’s protagonist is a 35-year-old housewife with a lean face, clear eyes, and dark, pretty hair. She is an intelligent, energetic, and capable woman trapped by the societal conventions of the United States in the 1930s, forced to live an uninteresting and under-stimulated life. She is childless and has no opportunity to pursue a career, so the only outlet for her energy and passion is growing flowers in her garden. When the Tinker enters the story, Elisa is thrilled to have mystery and intrigue in her dull daily life.

From the first scene, Elisa is interested in the man’s world she cannot be a part of. She is curious about the business arrangements her husband makes and wants to help in the orchards, yet her husband limits her to the flower garden. Similarly, she expresses a desire for the adventure and freedom of the Tinker’s lifestyle, but he shrugs it off saying it’s too scary and lonely for a woman (8).

Elisa’s internal conflict is the driving force of the story. She is at odds with herself, torn between being an outspoken, strongminded woman or a sedate, repressed housewife. In her interactions with the Tinker, Elisa is witty, flirty, and outgoing.