53 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1937

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“The Chrysanthemums”

  • Genre: Fiction; short story
  • Originally Published: 1937
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/Adult
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 33 pages
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: Thirty-five-year-old Elisa Allen tends to her chrysanthemums when a man shows up looking for work. Though she does not have work for him, they bond over her flowers, thus exposing her unhappy marriage.

John Steinbeck, Author

  • Bio: Born in 1902 in California; raised near the Pacific Coast; attended Stanford University to study literature but left before earning a degree; worked as a manual laborer and New York City reporter; met success with writing in 1935 with Tortilla Flat; traveled throughout the Western US during the Great Depression, which influenced his writing; known for his treatment of social and economic issues through the plights of his characters; earned the Nobel Prize for Literature (1962) for his body of work
  • Other Works: Of Mice and Men (1937); The Grapes of Wrath (1939); East of Eden (1952) 

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • Dissatisfaction
  • Gender Inequality and Repression of Women
  • Sexual Fulfillment

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the social and historical context regarding the role of women like Elisa.
  • Study paired texts and other brief resources to make connections via the text’s themes of Dissatisfaction and Gender Inequality and Repression of Women.