Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Chrysanthemums: Why Can I Never Finish What I Start? or Mr Kenneally, Women Are Not Divided into Sluts and ManHaters

OK, so a couple of posts ago, I said I was going to go over these four short stories that I had to read for English class in CEGEP and that I thought were grossly misrepresented by my English Prof, Mr Kenneally. What I didn't take into account was how much I hate short stories.

I also didn't take into account the fact that I felt that this was some late-coming final exam and totally started to get anxiety over making sure I had covered all my bases and thought it all through before writing down my brilliant commentary.

Finally, I didn't take into account my ADD (undiagnosed...but everyone has ADD nowadays and all I'd need would be one frustrated teacher to point their diagnostic finger at me and PRESTO! I'd have some Ritalin in my hands and a good excuse for being messy in my pocket!). Where was I? Oh, right, my ADD. Yeah, so I lost interest in the short stories, but started to really dig "The Age of Innocence" and that made me start thinking of Gordimer and Camus and I wanted to write something about THAT. But I couldn't because of this damned short story exercise. What's worse is that I decided to finally read "Eva Luna" and "Pure Inventions", but "Pure Inventions" was pretentious, so I took out "Guns Germs and Steel", but I got mad at it within 35 pages. I desperately wanted to write about how the only reason "Guns Germs and Steel" won anything was because it fed into White Guilt but I couldn't because, hello!, stupid short story exercise.

Where does that leave me? It leaves me frustrated is where it leaves me! I have all these swishy ideas and I have to write them down somewhere so I won't do like I did with "The Grammar Architect" and come up with something utterly brilliant (OK, maybe not, but the author at least thought it was pretty insightful) and then forget all about it when I finally get around to writing it 6 months later.

And I'm also stuck trying to write something -- ANYTHING! -- about Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums".

Have I ever mentioned that I hate Steinbeck? No? Well, I hate Steinbeck.

Then again, it's not like anyone is reading I could totally just write something random and no one would notice:

Mr Kenneally said that scissors represent both women and castration in reference to Elisa in The Chrysanthemums, and that reminds me of the fact that many men are somehow intimidated by strong women because they feel emasculated by them. This influences their judgement when reading a story like The Chrysanthemums; they diminish Elisa by interpreting the dead flower on the road as her having given herself away to some random guy and now being discarded as the random sexual object she has become. So Elisa is given two options of who to be: Strong, manly and castrating, or a sexualized cheap slut. Great going guys! How about this: given that Steinbeck liked to write about how the Great Depression was full of deceit and treachery and how it made good people easy targets, maybe, just maybe, this is more about Elisa's good natured trust in people. She temporarily believed that these guys who she thought were swindlers were actually good folks because they wanted to help give people her flowers (i.e. spread beauty and love to everyone). Really, all they wanted was the pot she put the flowers in so they could sell it. So Elisa is temporarily happy and hopeful and full of joy and looking great and then she sees the dead flower on the road, realizes she's been swindled and feels crappy again; she retreats and becomes resigned. She is a metaphor for society as a whole (The US, if you will) during the depression: lost faith, broken hopes.

There. I hate Steinbeck. And I hate the fact that I had to be exposed to misogynistic, outdated notions of female gender roles as a student.

No comments:

Post a Comment