“The Chrysanthemums” is a powerful piece of fiction by John Steinbeck, dealing a variety of themes in a very short format.
The plot of the story is so simple that it seems primitive: a woman is about to join her husband in trip to a restaurant, then a wandering workman stops by, she gives him some work to do and chrysanthemum seeds, and in the end goes with her husband to dinner.
I especially love the way that Steinbeck describes Elisa.
“Her face was lean and strong and her eyes were as clear as water.
The main characters in these stories are both women, similar in age and personality.
In Hills Like White Elephants, she is referred to as Jig, and in The Chrysanthemums, the girl’s name is Elisa.
The landscape is as dreary as Elisa’s life itself: “there was no sunshine in the valley now in December”.
The time on the ranch when most of the seasonal work is done gives the feeling that there is little opportunity for an individual to use one’s mind and hands in some meaningful activity.
The two short stories, The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck and Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway are similar in many ways, and are also different in several ways.
Though the settings and plots vary, both are sufficient in capturing the importance of women.