Right of passage to manhood

Table of Content

While her husband works on the ranch, Elise tends to her chrysanthemum garden daily. One day while tending to her garden, a charming tinker man pulls up to her in his wagon and tries to make a business transaction with her. Seeing that she is not interested, the tinker strikes up a conversation with Elise about her chrysanthemums. In the end, the tinker takes advantage of Elijah’s naive nature and ends up crushing her spirits by throwing out her chrysanthemums she entrusted to him. In his other work “Flight” Pep Tortes is nineteen and the oldest in a family of four.

With his father dead he feels that it is time for him to be a man but his mother is very protective over him and constantly elites him with childish comments. One day Peps’ moms request him to go into town to get salt and medicine, this is when he feels his beginning passage to manhood. When he travels into town to get the supplies he ends up killing a man that provoked him. In his culture, this is a right of passage to manhood. When he returns his mother hears of this and knows it is his time to take his Journey out into the mountains.

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He goes through great trails in the mountains, testing his body limits, his character, and his survival skills. In the end the mountains over come Pep and he dies a man. Steinbeck uses similar themes and elements in his short stories such as contemporary writing, descriptive setting, finding your identity, not going down without a fight, and the main characters defeat. John Steinbeck did much of his short story writing during the sass’s, along with keeping his stories in that same time period.

He starts out “The Chrysanthemums” and “Flight” with very detailed descriptive settings. Both of these short stories are written and kept in the sass’s settings and time. Steinbeck gives clear and eminence setting detail like in The Chrysanthemums “The high gray-flannel fog of winter closed if the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot” (P. L) he also uses the same work in “Flight”.

Pertaining to the sass’s writing, Victoria Price writes in her critical analysis, “In a realistic style rich with symbolism, John Steinbeck captures a sense of the sass’s in the United States in his depiction of the relationship between Elise Allen and her husband, Henry’ (P. L). Steinbeck not only describes physical settings but also emotional settings of that period. The reoccurring emotional setting n both stories is the main characters self-empowerment, a powerful movement during that time. Steinbeck writes on Peps empowerment with having his fathers’ knife, “It was his inheritance, that knife, his father’s knife.

The long heavy blade folded back into the black handle”(P. 4). With his setting placement in the stories he make his main characters (Elise and Pep) feel lost, wanting to search for “oneself”. Steinbeck keeps a consistent literary element in his short stories, which is his detailed description of the setting. He gives great setting detail by describing places e has been around, “Salinas, California – a town positioned at the mouth of one of the great agricultural valleys of the state- which became the setting for much of his writing” (P. 2).

He begins both of these short stories with descriptive setting Steinbeck creates a detailed ranch farm setting in The Chrysanthemums, “Across the river, on Henry Allen’s foothill ranch there was little work to be done, for the hay was cut and stored and the orchards were plowed up to receive the rain deeply when it should come. The cattle on the higher slopes were becoming shaggy and rough-coated” (p. 3). Creating a descriptive image of what the Allen’s farm is like and even giving off some of the five senses while reading those few sentences.

Steinbeck in Flight creates the setting for the Toreros’ home, describing how “The little shack, the rattling, rotting barn were gray-bitten with sea salt, beaten by the damp wind until they had taken on the color of the granite hills” (p. L). He gives the reader a live image of the weather, the families’ home, and the nature setting of the story. He uses great detail in creating the setting in each of these stories because it sets the tone and atmosphere for each of them. Steinbeck uses his setting to set the theme and tone in his short stories, making the element crucial in each story.

In both Flight and The Chrysanthemums, Pep and Elise struggle with their identity and who they are. Pep is nineteen with a dead father, a mother, and two younger siblings. He wants his right to manhood but his mother wants to keep him under wing. This is where the two have conflict, his mother constantly makes him feel like a child and Pep Just wants to show himself and his family that he is ready to be a man. Steinbeck shows this by writing how “Mama thought him fine and brave, but he never told him so.

She said, ‘Some lazy cow must have got into thy father’s family, else how could I have a son like thee” (p. 7) showing the reader that his mother does not want him to grow up and be a man. But Pep needs to find himself and create his own identity, not the identity his mom has set out for him. The main characters in each story get little respect; for Pep, he has respect from his mom, but she Just refuses to show it to him. For Elise, she has no respect at all from her husband or the Tinker man. Steinbeck gives this example: ” ‘it must be nice,’ she said. It must be very nice. I wish women could do such thing. ‘ The Tinker man belittles Elise by telling her that “It anti the right kind of a life for a woman” (p. 52), essentially saying that there is no reason for a woman to be living a mans life. Jeffery Schultz also comments on the disrespect Elise like Pep receives in “The Chrysanthemums”, “Bridling, Elise retorts that she is stronger than Henry knows Henry, somewhat bewildered, goes out to start the car, and Elise makes him wait while she puts on her coat and hat” (Peg. 2).

This is when the reader sees that Elise has a little fight in her and desires to be an independent woman. Throughout each story, the main characters have to go through trials to discover themselves throughout the story. Elise has to fight off the controlling men in her life to gain independence. Pep has to find his manhood and his right to have that. The main characters trying to find their own identities are maim focal points that Steinbeck creates in each of the stories. Control is also another strong element Steinbeck creates in both of these stories.

Elise is under complete control by not only one man but two, her husband does not recognize her worth as a person, does not give her independence, and keeps her served on his ranch. The Tinker man, only knowing her for Just a few short minute gives Elise a new found confidence, sexually arouses her, and makes her feel like a new woman. Shortly after all that, he crushes her spirits and leaves her to pick up the pieces, “Far ahead on the road Elise saw a dark speck. She knew. She tried not to lo 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”(page). In Ernest W. Sullivan Sis’s critical analysis he rites, newcomer dog, feeling out-numbered, lowered his tail and retired under the wagon with raised hackles and bared teeth” showing the symbolism of Elise (the outnumbered dog), The tinker and her husband (the two shepherd dogs) on how the are controlling Elise and forcing her to step down. Pep has been kept under his moms wing for many years being kept under close watch; “A revolution took place in the relaxed figure of Epee. To Monterey, me? Alone? S’, Mama. ‘ She scowled at him. ‘Do not think, big sheep, that you will buy candy. No, I will give you only enough for the medicine and the salt”(p. L). Although this task for Pep is restrictive he sees HTH as the beginning of him becoming a man, and finally getting out from under his mothers wing. Elijah’s form of control is endless because she refuses to stand up for herself and take back control. Pep is a control out of love, his mother already lost their father and she does not want to loose Pep also.

Steinbeck gives two different examples of control on the main characters in his short stories, showing that they must stand up for their right for independence or remain controlled forever. To every story there must be an ending, unfortunately not every story has a happy ending. In “The Chrysanthemums” Elise Allen goes from a conservative ranch owner wife, to a sexually aroused mistress, to her final defeat of herself along with her self- esteem. The Tinker initiated her final defeat by his actions, “.. UT when she later see her ‘babies’ at the side of the road where the tinker has thrown them, she is catapulted into sadness… Like many women, she realizes that her partner in condition wanted only her body symbolized by the pot; thus, the product of their ‘love’ is merely cast aside”(p. 51). This crushes Elise. The tinker man takes everything from her, her dignity, her self-esteem, and her love. Pep like Elise goes through his final defeat in “Flight”. As Pep goes through Journey in the mountains, nature takes over “Pep swung forward arid toppled from the rock.

His body struck and rolled over and over, starting a little avalanche. And when at last he stopped against a bush, the avalanche slid slowly down and covered up his head” (p. 10). Nature took over and established Peps defeat, but unlike Elise he did not go down with out of fight. Elise took her defeat as a defenseless woman who cannot do anything for herself. Pep, however, did not go down without a fight, he was beaten, bruised, and taken down more than once, but he still never gave up. Pep was defeated a man but Elise was defeated a coward.

Elise and Pep do have their entail defeats but the way Steinbeck depicts the different outcomes for each character is enticing. John Steinbeck writings are not only enjoyable but an interesting read especially in these two stories. “The Chrysanthemums” and “Flight” have very similar literary elements, writing style, and plot summaries. He writes with a sass’s theme depicting the setting, lifestyle, and people of that time. He keeps his repetition of a descriptive setting at the beginning and throughout of each of the stories.

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Right of passage to manhood. (2018, Feb 09). Retrieved from


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