ADVANTAGES

In the second part of the story, the chrysanthemums come to symbolize Elisa's femininity and sexuality. The portrait of Elisa caring for the flowers as though they are her children is clearly a feminine image, but her masculine image is also observed in her "hard-swept and hard-polished" home (240). This image is carried over into her relationship with her husband. Elisa feels that Henry doesn't recognize or appreciate her femininity, and this feeling causes her to be antagonistic towards him. There is an undercurrent of resentment towards her husband. Henry fails to see his short-comings, but Elisa fails to point them out to him. There is a distinct lack of harmony between them, which causes Elisa to become discontented with Henry. On observing her prize flowers, all Henry can say is, "I wish you'd work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big" (240). Henry's inability to understand Elisa's needs leaves her vulnerable in her encounter with the tinker. The meeting with the tinker renews Elisa's feelings of femininity and sexuality as a woman. Her resistance to his mundane matters disappears after the tinker romantically describes the chrysanthemums as a "quick puff of colored smoke"(243). By admiring the chrysanthemums, he figuratively admires her. The chrysanthemums symbolize her sexuality, and she "[tears] off the battered hat and [shakes] out her dark pretty hair"(243). With a few well-placed words from the tinker, her masculine image has been replaced with a feminine one. The tinker is a catalyst in Elisa's life. By giving him the red flower pot with the chrysanthemums, she gives him the symbol of her inner-self. She begins to feel hope for herself and her marriage as the tinker leaves. She sees a "bright direction" and a new beginning for her marriage. The encounter with the tinker gives Elisa hope and causes her to prepare for a more fulfilling life.

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