Wed. Jul 6th, 2022

Introduction

This essay will explore the complexities of Elisa, a conflicted protagonist in Katherine Mansfield’s The Chrysanthemums. Elisa is faced with a difficult decision. She must choose between her husband and her lover, as neither man can win her love. The men are philosophical opposites: one is logical and the other is emotional. She is torn between her heart and her head, but finally she chooses to be true to herself as a woman, not as a mother figure or an intellectual. Elisa’s decision leads her to realize that she has grown up and matured beyond the need for a mother or father figure.
Elisa is confronted with this choice by two men—her husband, who says “I won’t have anything [done] till I come back,” and Mr. Burnell, who says, “It’s better to get it over. . . . I’m a plain man and my advice is plain. You’re making yourself ill thinking of this.”

in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character
in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character

How Elisa’s Personality is a Reflection of Social Hierarchy And The Status Quo

The Chrysanthemums can be interpreted as a social commentary on the hierarchy of power in New Zealand’s small town. The lives of each character are affected by the status quo, consciously or subconsciously. Elisa is in a very fragile position. Her husband does not value her, and she is living with the guilt of having an affair with another man. She argues constantly with her husband, but she is also aware of the status quo’s power in her life. Elisa feels that she is unable to break the status quo and chart her own course. She is a victim of her environment and resorts to self-destructive behaviour when she feels that she has no other choice.
The Chrysanthemums is a parody on social anxiety and what it means to be on the bottom of the social hierarchy. It also reflects the women’s movement of the 1960s in New Zealand and Elisa’s anti-feminism. This is shown through her relationship with Maria and their arguments about their roles as wives. The characters of Elisa, Maria, and Carol all have a complex relationship with their husbands. Each has a strong connection to them, but also feels this connection is being crushed by the husband. In her avoidance of being mistreated again by her husband, Elisa constantly undermines and belittles him. This theme is more explicit in the novel than in the film, although the theme is present throughout. The novel also contains more explicit references to the women’s movement.

in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character
in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character

Elisa’s Complexity as a Result of Her Position and Intended Role

The Chrysanthemums as a single story is an exploration of Elisa’s psychology and the effect of social hierarchy on her interactions with her family. Elisa’s characters are portrayed as persons with similar problems, yet she is quite complex. Elisa’s persona is an example of how the novelists create complex characters through the exploration of different conflicts, which leads to the discussion of Mansfield’s feminist critique and her depiction of women.
The book is a story about characters from a country, and it has a teenage protagonist, Elisa. If the reader thinks that the main character only lives for her family, who are her two mothers and her two sisters and how they affect her life, the story would not be complete. When Mansfield tried to examine the lives of women in this novel she became even more interested in their psychology.
Mansfield was particularly interested in the causes of suffering and how people experienced suffering. She wanted her characters to have an inner life and to be intelligent. She wanted the reader to feel sympathy for them. Mansfield’s goal was that the reader would identify with the female characters in her work. This is not true for all of her characters, but it is true for Elisa.

in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character
in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character

Conclusion and Analysis

Elisa is a complex character with many layers of conflict. Her persona is created through her interactions with her husband, her son, and her lover. Elisa’s conflicts with each of these men help create an interesting personality for the protagonist. Mansfield’s feminist critique can be observed through Elisa’s position as a woman trying to find happiness in a society which is against her. However, the novel does not focus on Elisa’s rights as a woman. Rather, the novel shows that Elisa’s rights as a woman are intertwined with her desire to control her own destiny.
Elisa is first introduced as a young girl. She is innocent, naive, and self-confident. However, she quickly loses this image of happiness after she marries John Thornton. Her marriage to John causes her to lose any excessive happiness she once experienced. She doubts her decisions and is unsure how to act in her social surroundings. Elisa finds herself questioning the actions of both male and female friends alike. She questions why she must hide her pregnancy from John, why she should take on the role of housewife, and why she should marry John in the first place.
The novel ends with one last chance for Elisa to live a happy life. She can become involved with a new lover and do whatever she wishes. However, Elisa is afraid of this chance for happiness. She is afraid of being a single mother, she is afraid that her husband will be hurt when he learns of her affair, and she is afraid that everyone in the family may find out about her affair.

in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character
in the chrysanthemums why is elisa considered a complex character