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John Steinbeck and “The Chrysanthemums” (Essay Sample)


The purpose of this project is to strengthen students’ active reading skills as well as assist them with understanding the literature. Though this project is due toward the end of the semester, students are encouraged to work on the project throughout the semester and while they read to get the most benefit from the project with the least amount of burden. This project also has the added benefit of getting students ready for the final.For each of the five (5) works chosen, student should create a document, PowerPoint, video, or other creative means that contains the following information for each work:
Plot Summary: Provide a summary of the work
Important Vocabulary: Identify at least three (3) words and their definitions from each work that you had to look up in order to contribute to your understanding and a brief explanation on how the meaning of the word was important to understanding that work
Example of Life: An explanation of how the work illustrates the life of a particular group, such as women, Native Americans, share croppers, etc. Use at least two quotes from the work with appropriate in-text citation to help with the explanation
Relatable Moments: Choose at least two instances where you could relate to the work through personal experience. Use at least one quote per instance with appropriate in-text citation to help explain the connection
Relation to What We’re Learning: Explain how the work relates to the larger picture of American literature. You could focus on how the work might fit in with important historical events or how it relates to the genre that defines the work. These are only two examples of how this section could be interpreted. If quotes are used, please include appropriate in-text citation


Reading Journal Project
Title: John Steinbeck and “The Chrysanthemums”
Plot Summary
In the short tale "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck, the protagonist, Elisa Allen, is an independent and powerful woman who is dissatisfied with her current situation in life. Her disappointment derives from the fact that she does not have children and from the fact that her spouse does not appreciate her passionately as a woman.
Important Vocabulary
“Undertone” – this word helps to describe the discussion that Elise had with the handyman. “Chrysanthemums” – they are the flowers that Elise loved gardening so much. “Bewildered” – this is how Henry felt when he could not understand his wife – a major theme in this literary work.
Example of Life
The story illustrates the lives of women. Women have to contend with chauvinism.
““It must be nice," she said, ”It must be very nice. I wish women could do such things."
"It ain't the right kind of a life for a woman.””
(Steinbeck 5)
Women also revel in looking good.
“After a while she began to dress, slowly. She put on her newest underclothing and her nicest stockings and the dress which was the symbol of her prettiness.”`
(Steinbeck 8)
Relatable Moments
I could relate with Elise as she described her love for chrysanthemums with the handyman.
“The irritation and resistance melted from Elisa's face. "Oh, those are chrysanthemums, giant whites and yellows. I raise them every year, bigger than anybody around here.””
(Steinbeck 5)
I could relate with the handyman as he earnestly asked Elise for some work.
“”All right, then. Take a pot," he continued earnestly, "a bent pot, or a pot with a hole. I can make it like new so you don't have to buy no new ones. That's a saving for you. "No," she said shortly. "I tell you I have nothing like that for you to do.””
(Steinbeck 5)
Relation to What We’re Learning
The story speaks about a woman’s experience in a man’s world, how she felt misunderstood and how she desired that they would see her for who she was.
Title: Flannery O’Connor “Good Country People”
Plot Summary
In the short tale titled "Good Country People," the protagonist, a thirty-two-year-old lady with a prosthetic limb, receives a humbling education regarding her life at the hands of a guy who pretends to be a Bible salesman. This education is a difficult but necessary one. The heroine, or the main figure, is Hulga. In addition to this, she is a nihilist, which simply means that she does not trust in anything.
Important Vocabulary
“Nihilist” – this helps to understand the philosophical turnaround the protagonist experienced when she interacted with the fake Bible salesman. “Imperceptible” – this describes the eye movements of the protagonist, an essential part of understanding this character’s mannerisms. “Enlightenment” – this is the culmination of the encounter between the protagonist and the fake Bible salesman
Example of Life
Elderly ladies who also happen to be mothers are kindly and caring for those entrusted to them.
“Every morning Mrs. Hopewell got up at seven o’clock and lit her gas heater and Joy’s.”
(O’Connor 1)
“Mrs. Hopewell thought of her as a child though she was thirty-two years old and highly educated.”
(O’Connor 1)
Relatable Moments
I can relate with how Mrs. Hopewell would narrate truisms such as “Nothing is perfect” and “that is life!” (O’Connor 2)
I can identify with Mrs. Hopewell’s irritation at Mrs. Freeman’s frequent arrival during mealtimes and her watching Mrs. Hopewell eat, along with Mrs. Hopewell’s forbearance with this habit.
“Occasionally she would stand against the wall and roll her head from side to side. At no time was she in any hurry to leave. All this was very trying on Mrs. Hopewell but she was a woman of great patience.” (O’Connor 3)
Relation to What We’re Learning
We are learning about literature and symbolism, and the symbolism used by O’Connor in this story is clear, especially how the protagonist removed her eyeglasses and how it symbolized adopting a new worldview.
Title: Mark Twain and “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”
Plot Summary
Mark Twain's story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," is a folk tale about a guy who bets on everything and makes a gamble that his frog can out-jump a random person's frog, with unexpected outcomes. "
Important Vocabulary
“Roused up” – this is a quaint way of saying someone woke up or rose up, characteristic of the flowery language of the day. “Garrulous” – this means talkative, and it aptly describes the old man who narrated the story to the protagonist. “Infamous” – this describes Jim Smiley, largely in a jocular manner which sets the tone for the entire story.
Example of Life
The good-natured man, Simon Wheeler, was a talkative man, eager to show off his possessions and to enjoy the company of a friend, which is typical of many men who are already successful in their lives.
Relatable Moments
I could identify with Simon Wheeler’s strange way of telling a tale and with the protagonist’s incredulity at this method of telling tales.
“To me, the spectacle of a man drifting serenely along through such a queer yarn without ever smiling, was exquisitely absurd.” (Twain 6)
I could also identify with the protagonist’s hasty exit from the scene before Wheeler launched into another far-flung tale.
““Oh! hang Smiley and his afflicted cow!” I muttered, good-naturedly, and bidding the old gentleman good-day, I departed.”
Relation to What We’re Learning
This story talks about how life in the American South was in the nineteenth century, being a prime example of the literature of that period.
Title: William Faulkner “Barn Burning”
Plot Summary
In the short tale titled "Barn Burning" that was written by William Faulkner, the main characters are a little boy named Sarty Snopes with his dad, Abner, a poor lease farmer who engages in fights with the landlords and destroys their barns. In "Barn Burning," Sartoris is put in the position of having to determine whether it is more important to be loyal to his family or to his country. Loyalty to one's family is prioritized beyond all other obligations in the Snopes household, especially by Sartoris's father.
Important Vocabulary
“Hermetic” – this describes the smell of the meat the boy smelled, central to describing the boy’s experience in the courtroom. “Despair” – this describes how the boy felt in the Judge’s chambers, an integral element of understanding his character. “Enemy” – this is how the boy saw the judge .
Example of Life
The boy in the story believes that his father’s enemy is also his enemy because of their blood association.
“Our enemy, he thought in that despair; ourn! Mine and hisn both! He’s my father!” (Faulkner 1)
“The boy said nothing. Enemy! Enemy!” (Faulkner 2)
Relatable Moments
I could relate with how the judge was concerned for the young boy:
“… the Justice’s

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