by John Steinbeck
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
They're not nearly as pretty and plentiful as chrysanthemums, but pots pop up a lot in this story. First, Elisa's home region, the Salinas Valley, is described as a "closed pot" (1). Then, when the man arrives, Elisa reads his sign, which mentions that he fixes pots (28). Elisa also gives the tinker two pots to fix (78), after giving him one of her own flower pots, with some chrysanthemum stems rooted in it (77). And finally, the tinker dumps Elisa's chrysanthemums right in the road, because "He had to keep the pot" (109) that Elisa gave him. Phew. That's a lot of pots to be sure.
Let's get literal for a moment. Pots contain things. Could it be that symbolically simple? Both Elisa and the chrysanthemums (which we've already connected), are contained in their own respective pots. Just as Elisa is contained by the Salinas Valley, the flower pot contains the chrysanthemums. And the tinker controls that pot, just as he controls the pots he fixes for his customers, and just as the world controls Elisa.