Throughout the story, Elisa’s chrysanthemums symbolize Elisa herself, and particularly connote her latent, limited potential. Her direct association with the lovely, strong flowers implies her beauty along with her innate ability to create and sustain life. The garden plot is meticulously cared for and well-kept, much like everything else in Elisa’s small world. Not only does Elisa fuss over her chrysanthemums as if they were her children, cutting down spent stalks with her powerful scissors and encouraging new growth, but she directly equates herself with the flowers upon the arrival of the tinker: while talking about her “planter’s hands,” she passionately describes how she becomes one with the plants at the same time that she offers herself to the tinker sexually. Like her beautiful flowers, though, Elisa is penned in; however capable or extraordinary she may be, her life is distinctly limited in scope and she has few outlets beyond tending to a small garden. This is because, as a woman—and particularly a farmer’s wife—Elisa is restricted by society to the roles of caregiver and housewife. By offering some bulbs to the tinker, then, Elisa is symbolically giving part of herself to him, in the hopes of escaping the stifling monotony of her lot. That the tinker callously tosses the flowers aside represents his ultimate rejection of Elisa, as well as the broader, societal thwarting of her attempts to seek more out of life.
Chrysanthemums Quotes in The Chrysanthemums
“You’ve got a gift with things,” Henry observed. “Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across. I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big.”
She tried no to look as they passed it, but her eyes would not obey. She whispered to herself sadly, “He might have thrown them off the road. That wouldn’t have been much trouble, not very much. But he kept the pot,” she exclaimed. “He had to keep the pot. That’s why he couldn’t get them off the road.”