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The Chrysanthemums Essay, Research Paper

On Henry Allen’s ranch east of Salinas

Elisa plants yellow chrysanthemums as

Henry is selling thirty head of cattle to

agents of the Western Meat Company.

After he and Scotty go to round up the

cattle, a tinker shows up. He asks for

work which Elisa says she hasn’t. He

asks for seeds for a lady on his route.

Elisa gives him seedlings with

instructions, and then she finds work for

him which he does professionally. To

celebrate the sale Henry drives her to

Salinas for dinner at the Cominos Hotel

and a movie; they drive past the tinker

on the road and she privately weeps.

2. The White Quail

Mary has her garden designed before

its lot is bought, before she’s married.

She picks Harry because she thinks the

garden will like him. After the house is

built and the garden established Harry

finds her perfect though untouchable.

She doesn’t care for his occupation

(making loans for cars); it’s unfair. She

routinely locks him from her tiny

bedroom on the garden. He tries the

lock and leaves quietly. She refuses to

let him have a setter pup since it might

damage her garden. After a white quail

visits the cement pond she fears a cat

will come and asks Harry to put out

poison fish. He refuses but will try to hit

such a cat with his new air rifle. Next

morning he shoots the white quail then

tells Mary it was the cat he buried.

3. Flight

Mama Torres makes Emilo and Rosy

fish when they can. Pep?, who is

beautiful but lazy, is sent to Monterey

for medicine and salt. At Mrs.

Rodriguez’s he kills a man with his

father’s black switchblade knife. He

returns before dawn, then rides into the

high hills as his family bids him, now a

man, adios. After a day’s riding he

sleeps and is awakened by a horse

down the trail. He rides another day

before his horse is shot out from under

him. He exchanges shots and receives a

granite splinter wound in his right hand.

He runs on for several days and is

finally shot dead.

4. The Snake

Young marine biologist Dr. Phillips

brings a sack of starfish from the tide

pool to his laboratory on the cannery

street in Monterey. The lab:

rattlesnakes, rats, cats; killing a cat.

Arrival of a tall, lean woman just as he

begins timed work making a starfish

embryo series. While she waits he

begins embalming the cat. She wants to

buy the male rattlesnake which she

wants to keep in the lab. Her snakish

behavior during the feeding annoys

Phillips. The starfish series is ruined.

She never comes back.

5. Breakfast

A cold pre-dawn, by a country road, I

see a tent with a lit campstove. A girl

nurses a baby while preparing coffee,

bread and bacon. A younger and an

older man came from the tent. I’m

asked to breakfast. They’re cotton

pickers, working twelve days already.

They go to work. I leave.

6. The Raid

Root and Dick head out of a packing

plant town on a dark night, stopping

finally at an abandoned store where

they put up posters. After an hour a

man warns them to leave, but they have

orders to hold it. Dick reminds Root: It

isn’t them hitting you, it’s the System; it

isn’t you being busted but the Principle.

And: when it comes, it won’t hurt. Root

greets the raiders as comrades and is hit

with a club. He stands again and passes

out. He wakes in a hospital cell. Dick

says they’ll probably get six months.

“Forgive them” vs. “opium of the


7. The Harness

Randall’s ranch east of Salinas and

across the river is an ideal blend of

bottomland and upland. After Peter’s

annual business trips Emma becomes

sick for several weeks and the

neighbors bring cakes and pies. When

she dies Peter becomes hysterical.

Alone with Ed, he removes his shoulder

brace and girdle, gets whiskey from the

barn, tells of his one week a year at San

Francisco fancy houses, of his dream of

filling the bottom land with sweet peas

and the house with fat women. DeWitt

says he’s crazy to plant sweet peas, but

they are so beautiful schoolbusses drive

out to see them. At the Ramona Hotel

in San Francisco, to meet his wife’s

cousin from Ohio, Ed sees Peter come

in drunk from a fancy house on Van

Ness Avenue. He says Emma kept him

worried all year about those peas: she

didn’t die dead.

8. The Vigilante

Mike watches the crowd depart after a

lynching. The bartender opened up

thinking the boys would be thristy but

only Mike comes in. Mike tells of the

raid on the jail, the beating, the lynching.

The bartender buys a swatch of the

dead man’s pants from Mike to hang up

at the bar. They walk to their homes.

Mike’s wife accuses him of being with a

woman. In the bathroom Mike realizes

that’s exactly how he feels.

9. Johnny Bear

I’m in Loma to drain the swamp north

of town. I’m at the Buffalo Bar with

Alex when Johnny Bear comes in. For

whiskey he imitates a dialogue between

me and Mae. Next he imitates the

Hawkins sisters, neighbors of Alex.

After Sunday chicken dinner at Alex’s

Johnny imitates the doctor asking

Emalin why Amy tried to hang herself.

After two weeks of trouble with the

dredging, we learn that Amy has killed

herself. Johnny’s imitation includes

Amy’s pregnancy. Alex punches Johnny

and explains later.

10. The Murder

Jim Moore visits the Three Star in

Monterey on Saturdays. He marries

Jelka Sepic who is obedient but quiet.

George tells Jim, on his way to the

Three Stars (he’s “hunting”) he’s seen a

calf of his dead. Jim investigates, then

returns home to find a horse in his barn.

He finds Jelka in bed with her grown

cousin. He shoots him, then brings out

the coroner and deputy sheriff, then

takes a bull whip to Jelka in the barn,

then ate the breakfast she made him,

then went to town for lumber to build a

new house down the hill.

11. Saint Katy the Virgin

In P- in the year 13- Brother

Clement drowned and Roark laughed.

Katy prevented Brigid and Rory from

sucking; later she ate them. Then she

ate chickens and possibly children.

Roark grew fonder of Katy. The boar

which mated with her became sterile,

and she ate all her babies. As he’s

about to kill her, two monks ask Roark

for a tithe so he gives them the pig.

Katy bites Colin; he and Paul climb a

tree. Paul waves a crucifix at her and

screams APAGE SATANAS! As he

dangles the cross in front of Katy she

falls to the ground making the sign of

the cross. Roark becomes a good man.

Paul recites the Sermon on the Mount

in Latin to the sobbing Katy. Fr.

Benedict is angry because Katy, being

a Christian, can’t be slaughtered. Kety

becomes a saint and, in the advice of a

barber, a “virgin by intent” (in spite of

her litter). Her relics cure female

troubles and ringworm.

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