The Theme of Short Story "Flowers" by Alice Walker

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In Alice Walker’s short story ‘The Flowers,’ the author depicts the story of a ten-year-old girl named Myop growing up in a day. The story begins with Myop’s feelings of peace and happiness. Walker’s descriptions depict Myop skipping and happily exploring the forest behind her family’s sharecropper cabin. The sharecropper cabin is a symbol of poverty, subordination, and racism. Yet, Myop, at the start of the story, is oblivious to understanding the extent of her family’s suffering. Therefore, the image also foreshadows and symbolizes the suffering and racism she will soon come to understand as she leaves her childhood innocence behind.

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Her happiness is further depicted in her venture of picking wildflowers, a venture she becomes so absorbed in that it carries her a ‘mile or more from home.’ The farther she moves from the peace and security of home, the more she ventures into uncovering the harsh reality of the world. While she went off into the woods and made her path she stumbles over the body of a dead man, and her life will never be the same. The central theme the author left in this short story is that it is a coming of age story and it expresses how easily our innocence can be lost. The author uses symbols to convey her messages throughout the story.

The first symbol given in this story is the main character’s name, Myop, the root of the word “myopic” meaning nearsighted. This just comes to show how small her world is and she can only see and be affected by what is near to her, this has kept her innocent and ignorant of the real world outside of her childhood. Also, the woods symbolize the world surrounding Myop, which can be both violent and beautiful. The forest has compromised her whole world and has made her oblivious to the harsh realities of the real world, where snakes are the least of her worries. On this certain day, Myop decided to “make her path” and go farther into the forest. Myop had “explored the woods behind the house many times,” but, for the most part, she did it with her mother who was always nearby. That was the main reason why it felt like an adventure. However, on the day she goes alone she makes the terrifying discovery of the dead man, which symbolizes the harsh realities of her race, which her mother could not shield her from forever. His death represents the many African-Americans who died due to racial hatred in the period of this story. Myop has an awakening when she discovers a deceased man. At first, she remains innocent she even stoops to pick a wild rose growing near the body. However, her innocent gesture of picking the wild rose reveals to her the truth that the man had been hung. My notes are the remains of the noose used to hang him, and she lays down her flowers on the spot, and the author ends the story with “ And the summer was over.” The season of summer is used to symbolize Myop’s childhood. In spring and summer, she was innocent, happy, and as a result of her inexperience and ignorance of the world. Myop has undergone a tremendous transformation from an innocent child to a more mature person with a clear understanding of the world and its violence. Like the summer, her childhood is over now. Now that she has seen not only death but also racist cruelty, both her innocence and her ignorance vanish. She lost her innocence and her childhood, showing us the main theme is the loss of innocence. Reading this story makes me happy to know times have come a long way. We can learn from these stories that truly happened to so many. So many of our own. We are coming to realize we all deserve to live in freedom, just like that man that lay lifeless. The times we live in today make us appreciative of where we were and how far we’ve come. Living in this era makes us very comfortable speaking our minds. 

The story was published in 1973, just a few years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. That very year in 1973, mass racial violence broke out in the United States. The purpose of her writing was meant to touch the hearts of the citizens with events in our history that happened and affected the nation as well. The man found dead by Myop symbolizes many things, but the true reason is that African Americans(The dead mamanethnicity were victims of slavery, violence, and hatred.   

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