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“The Flowers” by Alice Walker

“The Flowers” is a short story written by Alice Walker. Walker is a black American writer, who is renowned around the world, especially because of the ‘book, turned movie’ The Colour purple. Walker is extremely interested in the history of human rights, particularly the history of black women in the United States. Her writings often reflect this interest and they usually have dual meanings. Walker interpretations the struggles of black women in her books, and The Flowers is no exception. It is about the end of innocence, of a young black child living in the 1930s. It reflects the unfairness of life and the circumstances of the black people during that period in time. “The Flowers” is about a girl named Myop, she is from an agricultural background (as most black Americans were in the 1930s). She is described as carefree and innocent.

“It seemed to Myop as she skipped lightly from hen house to pigpen…they days had never been as beautiful as these”. This suggests she is young and holds no major responsibilities, there are also connotations of lower-class roots. The story goes on to describe her mini- travels throughout the fields, picking flowers and singing songs. This suggests the innocence she possesses as a young child. ” She was ten, and nothing existed for her but her song”. This openly tells the reader her young age, thus her lack of responsibility, which allowed her to skip around the fields aimlessly.

The structure of the short story is basic. Each paragraph is more or less six lines long. It is set out in traditional short story style, each part coming in short bursts. The layout of the text makes it easier to read, and interpret. It allows the story to ‘flow’ at the correct pace. The structure adds to the build-up of the climax. The only anomaly is the very last line. The last line of the story is separate from the last paragraph and is a mere five words long. “And the summer was over”. The last line creates an impact and displays the finality of the end. It physically displays the end of Myop’s childhood/innocence.

The language used in ‘The Flowers’ is simple and usually consists of facts about nature. It describes Myop picking various flowers. There could be a double meaning, in which flowers symbolize purity and innocence. “By twelve o’clock, her arms laden with sprigs of her findings…” This shows Myop’s naivety and childhood prime, as picking flowers is considered a girlish and innocent type of thing to do. Weather references are also made in the story. There is also a change in mood between the first half and the second half of the story. “The air held a keenness that made her nose twitch”. As opposed to “…The air was damp, the silence close and deep”. It is clear the contrast between the two descriptions of the surroundings. This is why I think that the weather references symbolize unexpected change. As weather predictions aren’t always correct, and they can change at any given time.

There are also examples of alliteration. ” …now blending benignly into the soil”. The language used in the short story reflects and represents what is to come. It has a dual meaning and is used to set the atmosphere of the current time. There are running themes throughout the story. Many are highlighted in the background and some are straightforward. One of the first themes is that Black-Americans were at the lower part of the social scale, often earning their money through agriculture. They lived in the south, which was an agricultural area and low-key. Myopia is described as wandering around the field or farm and as a young child, the fact that she is by herself could maybe mean that her family is busy farming trying to make an earning. That is why she is unaccompanied and is probably brought up by her own means except for food and sleep which is allocated at home.

” Turning on her back on the rusty boards of her family’s sharecropper cabin, Myop walked along the fence till it ran into the stream…”. This shows that her family is probably not home and probably farming somewhere, as she is left to pass the day by herself. Other themes of unfairness where race is concerned. This can be picked up towards the end of the story when Myop finds the dead body of a black man who had been lynched. The word Lynched means ‘To execute without due process of law, especially to hang, as by a mob’. This is a clear example of how Black-Americans were treated. Without trial or question, they are accused and killed in front of an angry white mob. When Myop discovers the man, she is surprised to see how he has been left for dead.

“He had been a tall man…His head lay beside him…He’d had large white teeth…and very big bones. All his clothes had rotted away.” The quotation coveys the brutality directed at Black-Americans, without cause or fault they were always treated as worthless, and undeserving of common courtesies. “The Flowers” is one of the many short stories that discuss the struggles of black women in the 1930s written by Alice Walker. The story itself uses symbolism to show various aspects of what went on at the time. Such as flowers are used to prescribe innocence and purity within Myop. The wild pink flower used towards the end is used as symbolism. “Very near where she’d stepped into the head was a wild pink rose.”

The flower was a type of metaphor type factor, it symbolized the young and innocent Myop in the midst of a cold world full of brutal truths. Elements of weather are used to foreshadow what is coming. This was an effective tool that set the mood of the coming paragraphs. Walker also uses ongoing themes of racism, culture and struggle throughout the story, which is present in many of her writings. Alice Walker’s writing is beautifully written and urges the reader to read between the lines. There is a theme of duality throughout, which is tactfully used. ‘The Flowers’ is a thought-provoking story that highlights the struggles of black women that lived in the U.S.A during the 30s and onwards.

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"The Flowers" by Alice Walker. (2021, May 08). Retrieved September 1, 2021, from