The Chrysanthemums

by: John Steinbeck

Henry Allen

Characters Henry Allen

Elisa’s husband, Henry, is a good, solid man who’s unable to please his wife. By the standards of his society, Henry is everything a woman should want in a husband: he provides for her, treats her with respect, and even takes her out every now and then. At the same time, however, Henry is also stolid and unimaginative. He praises his wife as he would a small child, without understanding the genuine interest she takes in business or realizing that she has the potential to do so much more with her life. A traditional man, Henry functions in the story as a stand-in for patriarchal society as a whole. He believes that a strict line separates the sexes, that women like dinner and movies, for example, and that men like fights and ranching. His benevolent, sometimes dismissive attitude toward his wife—who is undoubtedly smarter— highlights society’s inability to treat women as equals.