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The Chrysanthemums

The Chrysanthemums


by John Steinbeck

The Chrysanthemums Theme of Dissatisfaction

No character in the world of "The Chrysanthemums" seems perfectly content. In the story, a sense of dissatisfaction arises from two main sources: a failure to successfully express oneself, and a failure, on the part of others, to fulfill one's emotional needs. Of course this is connected to the theme of isolation, because the more dissatisfied the characters (to be honest, we're really talking mostly about Elisa) become with their circumstances, the more alone they feel.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. What is Elisa really dissatisfied with? Her place in the world as a woman? Henry's failure to understand her? Her ultimately fruitless encounter with the tinker? How do you know?
  2. Can Elisa do something to relieve her dissatisfaction? What might that something be?     
  3. In the beginning of the story, we get the sense that the land is unfulfilled by the current weather. Can we make a connection between the land and Elisa? Is she, like the plowed earth, just waiting for some rain?          
  4. Elisa concludes that wine with dinner will be enough for her. What does she mean by that? Is she lying to her husband?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Elisa's dissatisfaction is her own fault. Come on, people – she just needs a hobby.

Henry is the root cause for Elisa's lack of fulfillment. In all their interactions, he fails to give her what she needs to be happy.

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